CoE welcomes new faculty, staff

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Olive Goyle says, “Hello!”

Twelve new faculty members are joining the College of Education this fall, including a few familiar faces.

The roster includes Melanie Walski, who has been a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Jenn Jacobs, who has taught and served as a Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education while earning her NIU doctorate in Educational Psychology.

Fatih Demir and Dongho Kim, new assistant professors in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, were on campus in May as keynote speakers for the LEARN-IT conference.

Dan Oest, who taught Ed.S. courses last year as an adjunct professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, now has joined the faculty.

“A college is defined by the strength of its faculty, so I am thrilled to welcome so many amazing new faculty to the College of Education this year,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said.

“We were able to hire a large group of incredibly accomplished, motivated and productive faculty who will help us enhance our programs, expand our research productivity, build engaged learning opportunities and teach and mentor our students.”

Other new employees this fall include Alicia Anderson, who is administrator of Finance and Operations Analysis; Tony Calderala, academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education; Claire Duvall, online program support specialist in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Judy Schneider, director of Advancement.

Here is a closer look at this fall’s new members of the College of Education family.

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling comes to NIU by way of Memphis, Tenn. She completed her doctoral work in Counseling and Counselor Education in 2015 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Her primary research interests are focused on the intersections of work, mental health and meaning.

She has practiced professional counseling in higher education, community and private practice settings, and is a licensed clinical professional counselor in Illinois. She is a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of College Counseling and active in leadership for the National Career Development Association.

“Melissa has a wealth of professional experience that she will bring to the classroom: seven years of work in the Chicagoland area before she became a professor. Her research interest in the intersection of work and mental health is really a great help to our university because the clients our graduates work with in this area often are dealing with issues of underemployment or employment.” — Suzanne Degges-White, chair

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi holds a doctorate degree in counselor education and supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s degree in school counseling from Marymount University.

She has clinical experience in the school and community settings both in the United States and internationally. She has experience in intervention development, implementation and evaluation.

Her research and presentations focus on multicultural issues in counseling, play therapy and children, especially survivors of trauma and interventions to enhance career and college readiness of students. She has experience in teaching a variety of graduate courses in school counseling, mental health counseling and play therapy and filial therapy as well as supervising graduate students.

“Dana’s area of specialty is trauma, especially refugee traumatization. This is a growing area of interest and need because of what the current political climate is doing to people who are refugees or immigrants. She also has critical counseling experience mainly working with children as well as children from very diverse backgrounds, which is a very necessary piece for our students.” — Degges-White

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu obtained her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she served as a research fellow at the Institute of Higher Education. She also holds a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from Texas A&M University.

She teaches courses related to community college leadership; finance and policy; and higher education administration.

Her research typically employs quantitative methods to examine the impact of state policies and institutional initiatives on colleges and universities, focusing on educational equity issues of historically underserved students and non-traditional students. She also recently has written on the impact of performance-based funding, the pathway of upward transfer, and gender differences in STEM degree attainment.

“Xiaodan brings a depth of experience in community college leadership. While she was at the University of Florida, she was the program director of the Community College Futures Assembly, an organization devoted to enhancing the professional skills of community college executives. Finding someone with community college experience, combined with her quantitative research expertise, is needle-in-a-haystack.” — Degges-White

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski holds a Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction: Language, Literacy & Culture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.A.Ed. (Reading Specialist) from Dominican University.

She teaches courses in Elementary School Developmental Reading Programs, Emerging Literacy and Beginning Reading Instruction through Age 8 and Organizing for Effective Elementary Reading Instruction.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of literacy and policy at the elementary level. Her research centers on how literacy instructional practice is affected by policy, and what aspects of policy are most influential on teachers’ sense-making of literacy teaching and learning. She is also interested in emergent literacy curriculum development.

“The Department of Curriculum and Instruction is fortunate that Melanie Walski is joining us. As a former classroom teacher and certified reading specialist, Melanie brings both experience and valuable expertise to her role in many of our programs. Her research interests in policy and literacy will help to improve literacy education, policy and research at the local, state and national levels. Melanie also will help us offer our students superior content knowledge, methods development and theory-to-practice approach to prepare them to become outstanding educators.” — Donna Werderich, acting chair

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir graduated in 2009 from the University of Baltimore, earning the degree of Doctor of Communications Design. In August 2015, he joined to the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri as postdoctoral fellow.

Demir teaches courses in Human-Computer Interaction and User Experience Research and Design.

He has spent years teaching and researching Human Computer Interaction; Usability; Interaction Design; Social Media Analysis; and E-government Design. He has conducted research at the Information Experience Lab using remote and mobile eye tracking systems. He also worked with Mizzou faculty, staff and graduate assistants on various projects in the realm of journalism, education, medicine and computer science.

“Fatih will enhance our curriculum and research in the area of user experience. Back in the old days, we talked about usability. Now we talk about user experience. For everything we design, we need to make sure that our users – our learners – accept it and are willing to enjoy it. It’s about understanding that designing is not just about designing something you like; it’s about designing something everyone likes while making sure that everyone can learn from it.” — Wei-Chen Hung, chair

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim earned his Ph.D. in Learning, Design and Technology in May from the University of Georgia-Athens, where he worked with Robert Branch on research related to student engagement and online learning. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Seoul National University.

Kim will continue to build his research at NIU while teaching courses in interaction design and “learning analytics.”

Published in a number of prestigious journals, he won first place for Outstanding Journal Article Award in the Distance Learning Division of the AECT 2016 conference for his most recent article in The Internet and Higher Education. He also received a two-year research fellowship grant (2016-18) from the Hewlett Foundation to continue his research.

“ ‘Learning analytics’ is one of the fields that is growing in instructional technology because it is important to make sense of data and to use that data to enhance learning and training. Technology and data are so widely available now that sometimes it is difficult to understand the data, and it is very challenging to interconnect all this data to find better solutions for learning and training. Dongho is the person who will help us address that need. He knows how to bring those different types of data together to design curriculum that improves learning.” —Hung

Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Clayton Camic

Clayton Camic

Clayton L. Camic earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Morehead State University (2001) and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Wyoming (2003).

Camic will teach courses in Applied Physiology of Exercise (KNPE 452), Neuromuscular Aspects of Performance (KNPE 514) and Bioenergetics (KNPE 652).

His main research interests include the evaluation of neuromuscular function and fatigue using electromyography as well as nutritional supplements as ergogenic aids.

“Clay has established a record over the last several years of becoming a leading scholar in the Exercise Physiology area, including more than 50 refereed publications in the last five years. He truly enhances the scholarship for students in our Kinesiology program.” — Chad McEvoy, chair

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs, who earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from NIU, also holds a master’s degree in Sport Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She has taught courses in psychological aspects of sport and exercise, measurement for evaluation, psychology of sport and exercise, psychology of coaching and the culture and society of sports.

Her research interests include sport-based youth development, transfer of life skills, sport for social change and social and emotional learning. In 2012, she received a fellowship from NIU’s Collaborative on Early Adolescence to support youth learning and development by working with Paul Wright on the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model.

“Jenn is someone who has been here at NIU for some time, working on her Ph.D. and collaborating on research with Paul Wright and other KNPE colleagues. She’s has begun to establish a record as a strong teacher and scholar with great potential in both of those areas.” — McEvoy

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter, who hails from Columbia, Mo., double-majored in Psychology and Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis. She received both her Master’s and PhD in Sport Management from the University of Kansas.

Schaeperkoetter has worked in the ticket office for the Miami Heat and the athletics compliance offices at the University of Miami and the University of Kansas. While pursuing her Ph.D., she served an instructor of record for several different Sport Management undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas.

Her research typically relies on the intersection of organizational behavior, organizational theory and sport finance to analyze decisions of sport leaders, sport employees and sport participants.

“Claire has already become nationally known for her scholarship during her doctoral studies at the University of Kansas, and she will really help to grow our Sport Management offerings. She is an excellent teacher with great research potential.” — McEvoy

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor, earned a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. He then received a fellowship from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to complete a post-doctoral training in Rehabilitation Sciences in the same institution.

He joined the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health of the University of Illinois as a visiting assistant professor in 2016, serving as the director of the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory and teaching courses related to exercise psychology and physical activity research methods.

Sebastião studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults and persons with multiple sclerosis.

“Emerson has outstanding training from the University of Illinois. His research is a great fit with our Kinesiology faculty, and he brings with him a lot of potential in terms of publication and grant activity.” — McEvoy

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Dan Oest

Dan Oest

Dan Oest, whose July 1 retirement closed the book on a 33-year career in K-12 education, comes to NIU from Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 and Nippersink School District 2.

Oest spent 29 years in school administration, the last 21 of those as a superintendent. For 10 of his 12 years in Richmond-Burton, he also served as a shared superintendent with Nippersink.

He holds two degrees from NIU – an M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. – as well as a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and an Ed.D. from National Louis University.

This fall, Oest will supervise the superintendent interns and teach LEAA 710: The Superintendency.

“Dan brings a wealth of experience, having been an educator for many years and superintendent in the region for the last 12 years. He is poised to provide excellent mentorship for our students, current knowledge of school policies to the classrooms and relationships with a variety of school districts in the area. He is the perfect fit for the position of coordinator of the Ed.S. program because of his background as a practitioner and his experience teaching in higher education. Most of our students intend to follow the same job trajectory that he did, making him an excellent role model.” — Teresa A. Wasonga, Presidential Engagement Professor and Fulbright Scholar, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Department of Special and Early Education

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, where she earned her degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She also obtained Board Certification in Behavior Analysis in 2012.

Andzik’s passion for helping students with severe disabilities started as a special education teacher in California, where she taught for eight years.

Her current research is focused on supporting the communication independence of students with disabilities by ensuring practitioners use the most effective evidence-based practices. She has published articles related to special education and applied behavior analysis in a variety of journals, including Exceptional Children, Teaching Exceptional Children and TASH.

She will teach several sections of Collaboration for Inclusive Teaching and Learning this fall.

“Natalie brings with her experience teaching children with disabilities; experience teaching undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates in higher education; successful internal grants; and numerous publications. Teacher education candidates will appreciate her real-world experience, her positive energy and enthusiasm, her sense of humor and her collaborative nature.” — Greg Conderman, chair



Elementary Ed major honored for internship in Streamwood

Kelsi Spain

Kelsi Spain

Kelsi Spain began her college career studying business, but she soon realized that her heart longed instead to major in Elementary Education.

“I don’t want just to teach academic subjects,” says Spain, an NIU College of Education senior from Pingree Grove, Ill. “I want to change my students’ lives.”

Spain is already doing exactly that.

During her professional teaching placement semester this spring, she spent half of her time in an elementary school classroom and the rest of her hours as an AVID tutor in U-46’s Streamwood High School.

The AVID program encourages teachers not to simply feed facts but to empower students to learn on their own, a method she followed while tutoring high school students in whatever topics or homework they brought with them.

“We kind of guide our students through collaborating together so they can figure it out for themselves,” Spain says. “I’m just there to facilitate, and if they’re really stuck, I’ll step in.”

Although she plans to teach in the elementary grades, she is confident that her immersion in AVID has prepared her to provide “a unique, challenging and engaging education” to her future students: “The two worlds are not so different.”

Her exemplary work, which she continued daily even after NIU’s semester ended May 12, has resulted in an “Intern of the Month” award for Spring 2017 from NIU Career Services. Seven recipients are chosen throughout the calendar year; three of those will receive Intern of the Year scholarships.

spain-kelsi-2She is excited for the distinction but more grateful for the opportunities to practice her teaching.

“You get to see those students every day, and it’s amazing to see how they change. They’re about to embark on this next chapter of their lives – and, with me being a college student, I can give them that first-hand experience,” she says.

“Being in the classroom with students so close to me in age gave me a confidence boost to recognize that I can be viewed as a young professional,” she adds, “and that I have what it takes to relate to students of all ages.”

Jennifer Johnson, director of Teacher Preparation and Development for the College of Education, supported Spain’s application. Johnson has observed Spain’s “professionalism and leadership in multiple contexts and settings.”

“Ms. Spain has been characterized by her integrity, dependability and strong interpersonal skills,” Johnson wrote. “I am confident that she will continue to excel at meeting the academic expectations of her coursework while making meaningful contributions to the campus community and in our partner school districts.”

Patricia Maynard, AVID coordinator at Streamwood High School, also endorsed Spain’s work.

“Kelsi did a great job in providing the structure and facilitating the questioning that goes with this type of tutorial process. It helps to have a strong base knowledge in difficult subject areas – i.e., calculus, trigonometry and physics – and Kelsi had that,” Maynard wrote.

“There is also an expectation that our college students act as role models for our students. Again, Kelsi’s ability to connect to her students was an asset,” she continued. “I think she will do a great job as an educator- she has the right combination of intelligence, confidence and attitude.”



Annie Glidden Heritage Garden continues to bloom outside CoE

Gary Swick

Gary Swick

Gary Swick views gardening as fundamental to the future.

“We live in a society that thinks that food comes from a drive-up window or, at best, a refrigerator,” says Swick, an adjunct instructor of Foundations of Education in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“I think that people growing their own food, or being involved in growing food, is really going to be a key thing for us in getting our culture back,” he adds. “Part of that is connecting to the natural environment, and we can’t really expect people to protect something they don’t care about.”

As a longtime educator, Swick knows that the most effective way to change a culture’s deeply ingrained mindset is through young children who are still learning about their world.

Planting those seeds is the mission of the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden, a plot of four raised beds tilled two years ago near the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

Swick assigns his College of Education students to create and plan lessons in math, science, social studies and language arts based on the garden.

They realize through that process that gardens are powerful teaching tools as well as valuable resources for schools, he says, and become more likely to carry that back-to-the-earth philosophy into their eventual classrooms.

He credits NIU’s Communiversity Gardens as his inspiration. “I was in the right place at the right time. I am one of the faculty co-advisers, with Melissa Burlingame,” Swick says.

Dan Kenney, a key player in the Communiversity Gardens initiative, later helped Swick to construct the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden. “I told Dan that I wanted this teaching garden, and he made it happen. We wrote a dean’s grant, and I received it,” he says.

annie-glidden-1“I got it in my mind that gardening is a skill that every teacher from Northern Illinois University should walk away with if they’re not afraid to put their hands in the soil,” adds Swick, a retired environmental sciences teacher from Dundee-Crown High School.

“You can experience the magic of a child planting a seed, and being able to see that something they can eat comes from it later.”

Connecting that sense of awe and wonder to academics can bear great fruit, he says.

If students are excited over the miracle of seeds turning into plants, he says, imagine the poetry they might write! Imagine their curiosity to know where vegetables came from, how people used those crops over the centuries and their cultural significance to their countries of origin!

Lessons aren’t restricted to vegetable gardens, he adds, mentioning flower gardens and even rock gardens.

“This is really limitless,” he says. “The only limit is people’s imaginations.”

Equally limitless are the possibilities for society if today’s children embrace gardening in a way that matches Swick’s vision.

First, he says, naturally grown foods promote good nutrition, improve health and challenge business.

“You can grow food for way cheaper than you can buy it,” he says. “I’m a believer that consumers control the marketplace. That’s how capitalism works. If people understand their food better, if we start rejecting certain kinds of food, if we can start liking the crunch of carrots and celery instead of potato chips – then the food companies are not going to make it.”

annie-glidden-2Second, he foresees greater civility among humanity.

“Our human culture is not on a sustainable path. We’ve got all of this violence and squabbling. But everybody eats. Everybody has to have food,” he says.

“If you look at a supermarket, people are independent. They’re rushing through, loading up carts, not interacting, being controlled by the marketing on the packages,” he says.

“At a farmers market,” he adds, “it’s a community experience. Conversations take place. Relationships are developed. People are willing to pay more money for something than they would in the supermarket because they know who’s producing it, they know what they’re getting and, in some cases, they can have some control over it.”

Next on Swick’s wish list is a pair of aeroponic gardens, indoor tower-shaped gardens that spray water onto the roots rather than immersing the roots.

He wrote a dean’s grant to obtain one model for the classroom and another for the Learning Center in Gabel Hall; the towers demonstrate the ability of year-round, indoor food production.

Meanwhile, he’s already doing his part to put gardens into tiny hands. First-graders from NIU’s Campus Child Care are watering and weeding the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden while their college-age counterparts are home for the summer.



Visual Impairments grad student hopes to improve lives, system

Lizzy Koster

Lizzy Koster

When Lizzy Koster graduated from Hendrix College in Arkansas, she took a job as an assistant at a political consulting firm. It didn’t last long.

“Politics wasn’t what I imagined it would be,” says Koster, an NIU College of Education graduate student with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology.

Because she had always nurtured an interest in health care, she soon found herself working at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Her skillset quickly grew to include the processing of medical paperwork, knowledge she deemed valuable for future endeavors.

Yet another career – one woven into her DNA – beckoned.

“Education is a family business of ours,” says Koster, a native of Elmhurst, Ill. “My aunt went through the NIU Vision Program, and she went on to work in the Chicago Public Schools. She called me and said it would be a great fit for me. Kapperman actually called me, too.”

Kapperman is Gaylen Kapperman, who joined NIU’s program in visual impairments in 1974 and remains active in the Department of Special and Early Education as a Professor Emeritus. He and colleague Stacy Kelly are relentless recruiters for the graduate programs, which offer free tuition, fees and health insurance along with stipends to woo more professionals into a critically understaffed field.

Gaylen Kapperman

Gaylen Kapperman

Now Koster is on her way to a career as a teacher of the visually impaired and as a specialist in assistive technology as well as orientation and mobility. She also has joined Kapperman in conducting research and writing several manuscripts, one of which has been accepted for publication in a referred journal.

“Vision is a good fit for me,” says Koster, 27. “I love working with people and with different cultures, and when you work in special education, it’s kind of inevitable. You come in contact with kids from different backgrounds, and you have to come at them with an understanding approach.”

Gaining early experience through substitute-teaching at the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County has provided confirmation of her new direction.

“I feel like educators, in public schools specifically, are so pressed to get the right test scores,” she says.

“But with vision, although our students might participate in that statewide or national testing, their benchmarks are so different. Vision is not so much about grades but in giving them life skills and even social skills. Seeing them make a friend is such a big deal,” she adds. “Their goals might not translate to academic grades but to really improving their quality of life, and being able to watch them achieve their personal goals is so exciting.”

She also is eager to exercise her love of languages.

Her interest in learning Spanish began at age 3, when her grandfather gave her a book about Mexico. Her fluency blossomed as she studied Spanish from second-grade through high school.

koster-lizzy-3As an undergrad at Hendrix, she enrolled in a course on social justice and human rights in Argentina, traveled throughout the region and spent her junior year as a study abroad student in Brazil. Before embarking, of course, she taught herself Portuguese.

During the summer after her junior year of high school, she studied in Spain.

One summer later after her graduation, she volunteered in Paraguay, where she learned the indigenous language of Guarani.

True to form, she also learned Braille on her own before coming to NIU in August 2016.

Language, naturally, is the focus of research Koster has conducted and presented with Kapperman at the conference of the Illinois Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Kapperman is interested in a research project using a screen-reading technology for those who are completely blind or who need that vocal feedback,” she says. “We’re also working on figuring out Google Translate and other means of using screen-readers for those who are learning a foreign language or for whom English is not a first language.”

Following her graduation in August 2018, Koster won’t close the book on college just yet.

koster-lizzy-2She plans to earn a doctoral degree that will prepare her for administrative roles in special education – that’s where her experience in processing medical paperwork will come in handy – or to serve as an advocate for teachers.

“My biggest interest is in benefiting the system, helping all of the working parts – students, teachers, aides and assistants, families – to operate a bit more smoothly,” she says.

But the advocacy role might tackle an even greater concern, she says: teacher burnout.

“If there’s a way to make people stay in the field, that’s ultimately helping the students, too. They need that longevity and consistency,” Koster says. “If I could help people to achieve that, then that would be great.”



Paul Wright begins second term of KNPE endowed professorship

Paul Wright

Paul Wright

When Paul Wright first acquired the title of EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Publish research. Secure grants. Forge international partnerships. Serve as an ambassador for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Promote the concept of Physical Education’s unique role in social and emotional learning.

Three years later, with all of those goals accomplished and his endowed professorship recently renewed for another term, Wright finds himself at another threshold.

“Reflecting on what I’ve been able to accomplish with this additional support in the past few years is prompting me to think, ‘OK, what am I going to do now?’ ” says Wright, who joined NIU in 2011.

“I’m very pleased with what I’ve done. I’ve got wind under my wings,” he adds. “As I think what I can aspire to, it’s next-level things. I can reach for something I couldn’t reach for otherwise, and this additional support is going to make the difference. It’s really exciting. What an opportunity!”

Building on the foundation established during the first term of his professorship, Wright seeks to make his mark – and his department’s – in the field.

He hopes to publish research that impacts and influences peers who are reading the top journals.

Paul M. WrightData collected in his recent study in Scotland, combined with parallel data collected by his team in the United States and colleagues in New Zealand, will provide a good start. “This project will be the largest one of its type exploring social and emotional learning in physical education,” Wright says. “It will pack a wallop.”

Meanwhile, he wants to continue his steady stream of external funding by going after even larger prizes.

For example, the U.S. Department of State supplied $225,000 for Wright’s Belizean Youth Sport Coalition project in 2014. He’s now in pursuit of a $600,000 grant from the State Department, and believes he’s in good standing to obtain highly competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Next year already will see the launch of an externally funded project in Sri Lanka, similar to the one in Belize, that promotes positive youth development and social change through sport.

Wright’s global initiatives also caught the attention of UNESCO, the leaders of which have asked the NIU professor to serve as a consultant and voice at the table to guide the planning of international policy conferences.

Closer to home, he’s working to convince the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning to nationally recognize as a best practice the pedagogy model he researches.

“If I can get this endorsement of the work we specialize in, that will bring credibility and high-profile, external validation,” he says. “We’ll have very esteemed organizations giving us the nod, and promoting our work.”

Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, believes Wright already is an “international leader in his field” who perfectly matches the description of the EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor framework.

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

“In creating this professorship, Drs. Lane and Zimmerman expressed a passion for enabling NIU students able to study under the very best faculty. That’s a powerful thing with an endowed professorship: the ability and the resources to go out and secure a truly elite and nationally recognized faculty member and scholar,” McEvoy says. “Certainly, Paul Wright fits that bill.”

The benefits extend beyond students, he adds.

“One of Paul’s real strengths is his ability to collaborate,” McEvoy says, “and what he’s been able to accomplish with the professorship is not just exceptional work on his part but in getting a number of his colleagues involved in that work.”

For Wright, that’s the point.

“An individual holds an endowed professorship, but the idea is to build the reputation of the whole department,” he says. “Personally, with these high-profile activities, if they’re good for me, then they’re good for the department. It’s wins across the board. We want KNPE on the radar.”



Alumna Alexandra Wulbecker shares wisdom with KNPE 583

Alexandra Wulbecker

Alexandra Wulbecker

Just two years after Alexandra Wulbecker completed her days in Anderson Hall, she returned to the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education with an unexpected message for the students who are following her.

It’s OK to not know where you’re going, as long as you’re passionate about what you do and prepared to do it well.

Wulbecker, who earned an M.S.Ed. in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2015, found employment at alma mater Hoffman Estates High School as a special education teacher’s assistant. She then began to coach volleyball, girls basketball and softball, a sport in which she also offers private lessons.

Speaking July 20 to graduate students in Jenn Jacobs’ KNPE 583 class – Psychology of Coaching – Wulbecker explained how her passion for helping athletes boost their mental game put her NIU education to work while also illuminating a different career direction.

“There is no real clear path in sports psychology. It is what you make it,” said Wulbecker, who played for the NIU Huskies softball team. “There is no right or wrong, but just what works for you.”

For Wulbecker, that has meant striving to develop a new position as a “mental training consultant” for high school athletes.

wulbecker-alexandra-softball

Alexandra Wulbecker waits for the pitch
during her NIU Huskie softball days.

Drawing from her six undergraduate and graduate years at NIU, two of which were spent guiding and comforting new Huskies and their parents as part of the Student Orientation Staff, she combined her interests and talents in counseling, psychology and sports.

Next, Wulbecker began to replicate a graduate school project in which she collaborated with athletes one-on-one for a year. Three Hoffman Estates High School student-athletes – two girls and one boy – took part.

Athletes define what they want to accomplish. They list the things they most respect. Each determines a motivational “power word” for inscription and placement somewhere frequently visible – maybe on a locker door, she said, or maybe on a shoe.

They rate themselves, complete online surveys for further personal reflection and seek the feedback of family and friends. They then examine a list of their top 24 strengths, answering questions of whether they agree, what surprised them and what they think of the input of others.

Customization is crucial, Wulbecker told the KNPE students, and organization is key.

“If the athletes don’t believe in it,” she said, “they’re not going to want to participate or put their time and energy into it.”

Volunteers for the counseling are more interested and more willing to open up than are those students who are referred, Wulbecker said, but providers who are flexible, patient and good listeners are likely to succeed with anyone.

wulbecker-alexandra-2She also offered good advice.

Make each session a conversation. Use “relatable examples” and activities suited to individual learning styles. Change things up with meeting locations and agendas. Allow athletes to vent.

“What I ultimately realized is that these teenagers just wanted to be heard,” said Wulbecker, who is about to begin study in Chicago toward a master’s degree in Counseling with a specialization in Sport and Health Psychology.

Wulbecker’s presentation also focused on her professional endeavors as a coach, including her motivational philosophies and strategies, something valuable to many of the graduate students who already are working as physical education teachers and coaches.

After earning her next degree, she will become a licensed professional counselor.

She plans to continue working with athletes, including those at the professional and collegiate levels, and hopes to complete post-graduate training that would qualify her to counsel Olympians.



New Student Welcome event set Aug. 27 outside Anderson

helloThe CoE New Student Welcome event is a great time for all of us to connect with the college’s new freshmen and transfer students, and we encourage you to be a part of the fun!

Plan to join us from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, to meet and mingle with our newest students on the west lawn of Anderson Hall along Garden Road (rain location inside Anderson).

One of the most critical factors in retention is for students to feel connected to the institution; you can help students feel at home in the CoE by introducing yourself, describing your role in the college and why you enjoy what you do, and asking the students about their hometowns, career aspirations and extracurricular interests, etc.

We look forward to seeing you Aug. 27, and appreciate your efforts in making our new students feel that the CoE is definitely the place to be!

Please contact Student Services at (815) 753-8352 or cedustudentservices@niu.edu if you have questions.



Reading Hall of Fame taps Stahl

Norman A. Stahl

Norman A. Stahl

Norman A. Stahl, Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Literacy Education Department, was inducted July 16 into the Reading Hall of Fame.

The honor – one of the highest the literacy field can grant an individual – came during the annual convention of the International Literacy Association.

Established in 1973, the Reading Hall of Fame contributes, from the collective experiences of its members, to further improvement in reading instruction. Stahl’s colleague, Jerry Johns, was inducted in 2015.

Stahl received his Ph.D. from the Program in Language Communications at the University of Pittsburgh.

Previous to his doctoral work he earned degrees at San Francisco State University (M.A.-Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and B.A.-History), and the City College of San Francisco (A.A.-History).

Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus of Literacy Education at NIU, where he served for more than a decade as chair of the Department of Literacy Education. He also served as chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, director of the College Reading and Learning Program and director of the Learning Research Laboratory. He is an affiliate of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy.

He has authored or co-authored more than 125 publications, has served on several editorial advisory boards and has been active in a number of professional organizations.

Along with his colleagues, Stahl was the recipient of the Distinguished Research Award from the College Reading and Learning Association. The team also was recognized for authoring the Outstanding Article for Volume 16 of the Journal of Developmental Education. In addition, this team was awarded the Outstanding Publication Award from the National Association of Developmental Education as well as the award for the outstanding article to appear in Research and Teaching in Developmental Education by the New York College Learning Skills Association.

Stahl’s current scholarly work includes an analysis of the role reading plays in the academic (general education) culture and CTE programs of community colleges, an academic life history of Francis P. Robinson, a content analysis of IRW texts and the historical study of the Golden Age of College Reading Instruction (1929-1946).



College of Ed continues to post nearly perfect edTPA pass rates

Nicollette Wlodek

Nicollette Wlodek

Nicollette Wlodek knew that the video camera was rolling, but she didn’t mind.

Wlodek, an Elementary Education major from NIU, stood confidently before a classroom of Huntley School District fifth-graders to teach a literacy lesson on comparing and contrasting characters in a fictional story.

She changed nothing in her delivery, even though she was keenly aware that this one demonstration of her teaching would become part of her mandatory edTPA submission. Passage of the edTPA, which measures a teacher-candidate’s abilities in planning, instruction and assessment, is required to obtain teacher licensure in Illinois and several other states.

Despite the high stakes, Wlodek says, “the edTPA did not change my personality, or the way I was acting, when they were videotaping me.”

But the edTPA will make her “a better teacher,” she says.

“I am already a very reflective teacher, but the edTPA taught me to do that in a more formal setting where I am documenting my thoughts,” she says. “It really forces you to sit down and analyze what it is you taught your students and how well they understood it. What problems did they get right? How does that compare to the rest of the class? What can I do to make these skills more understandable? I will take the time to really analyze my teaching.”

One hundred percent of the 52 Elementary Education majors who submitted edTPA materials this spring passed. So did 100 percent of NIU College of Education graduate students in teacher licensure programs.

All but one student in each of the college’s other licensure programs (Early Childhood Education, Physical Education and Special Education) also passed the edTPA, maintaining the college’s 98 percent pass rate.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson, the College of Education’s director of teacher preparation and development, credits some of the success to assistance and preparation provided by professors and the university’s Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation.

Faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, for example, integrate aspects of the edTPA throughout their coursework. Help is also available from Judy Boisen, the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation’s full-time edTPA coordinator.

However, Johnson says, it’s the students who truly deserve the applause for meeting and exceeding the demanding standards of the edTPA.

“Because the edTPA is a performance-based assessment, our candidates are being asked to demonstrate more than what they have learned in their teacher-training programs,” Johnson says. “They are being asked to demonstrate an understanding of teaching and learning within their own context of the student-teaching experience.”

Thanks to the edTPA, she adds, prospective employers know that NIU graduates “are prepared to be contributing members of academic teams.”

Meanwhile, she says, passage boosts morale and confidence: “I believe the successful completion of the edTPA reinforces for our candidates that they are ready.”

Wlodek is ready.

Raised in Streamwood, she is breaking new ground in her family by becoming a teacher. She is also fulfilling a longtime ambition that matches her personality: Even at family gatherings, she says, she spends more time playing with children than socializing with other adults.

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Wlodek teaches a math lesson to Huntley fifth-graders.

“I have such a caring heart, and I think kids are just amazing. They don’t get enough credit for what they can do, and they can do so much,” she says. “Ideally, I’d like to teach third- through fifth-grade. I really like those ages. They’re fun, and they come in at the beginning of the school year shy. I like seeing them grow as individuals, not just academically but personally.”

Juggling her edTPA submission with her student-teaching and her part-time job proved challenging and time-consuming, she says, but the May graduate believes that her hard work was worthwhile.

“Children will benefit from teachers who have gone through the edTPA,” Wlodek says. “Teachers are taking more time, really looking into the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and when teachers are doing that deeper analysis, children are getting that much more individualized attention.”

She also has advice for current College of Education students following her footsteps.

“Listen to the NIU professors when they say, ‘Try to get ahead,’ ” she says, “and form strong, genuine bonds with your students; it makes for a strong will to learn.”



Social Justice Summer Camp offers educators ideas to reach students in ‘a different way’

sjsc-5Long lines in the lunchroom. Climbing the gymnasium rope. Nagging parents. The quadratic formula.

Anxieties like these are the stuff of high school.

For LGBTQ teens, though, they take a backseat to the issues of sexual orientation.

Changing clothes not in a locker room but in a nurse’s office on the other side of the building, a welcome accommodation that also comes with isolation. Never knowing whom to trust with their feelings. Bullying not just from classmates but also from fathers who threaten disownment and siblings who heartlessly mock them and their friends.

Such overwhelming concerns can impede learning; require understanding and sensitivity from teachers, most of whom probably can’t relate. Students from diverse ethnic and racial populations, also confronted by generations of oppression, equally yearn for that kind of support. Again, it’s often in vain.

But K-12 teachers and other educators from DeKalb and Elgin who attended June’s inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp at the NIU College of Education will return to their classrooms and schools this fall with eyes wide open to students from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds.

That progress starts with the recognition that educational disparities exist although they likely are invisible to those not impacted.

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Campers talk after a LGBTQ panel discussion.

Joseph Flynn, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the camp’s organizers, said the participants had “a wonderful time, intellectually and socially.”

“People left on a high note, invigorated to get back to their schools and districts and to get to work. Some were talking about addressing the climate within their schools. Some were looking at specific policies as well as the practices and curriculum in general,” Flynn said.

“Overall, the comments we had from campers were largely positive,” he added. “That doesn’t mean that some folks didn’t struggle with some of the issues, and we anticipated that. Learning about issues of oppression in all forms can be challenging because it’s speaking against the status quo.”

NIU’s camp, organized by Flynn and colleagues James Cohen and Mike Manderino, the three-day camp featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, film screenings, experiential activities, reflective conversations and the development of social justice action plans for schools.

Themes of the days included “Building from the Beginning: Understanding Multicultural and Social Justice Education Historically and Currently,” “Pieces of a Whole: Recognizing the Relationships among Systems, the Collective and the Individual” and “Now What? Considerations on the Practice of Social Justice Education.”

Mike Manderino

Mike Manderino

History lessons of how various forms of oppression emerged, along with the thought-provoking content of the films, spawned many side discussions.

“The film series was especially powerful,” Flynn said. “We would finish a film, and an hour of conversation would go by – and we still weren’t done talking.”

During a June 13 panel discussion featuring three DeKalb High School students who are LGBTQ, however, the language was plain and the message clear.

“We’re just trying to make it through, like the rest of you,” one teenager said to the audience. “School should not be a place you fear or dislike.”

Members of the audience, meanwhile, were able to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The three students spoke of bullying in the hallways, observing that teachers often “won’t step in until it gets physical and someone gets hurt.” They talked of academic lessons illustrated only with “white, hetero families” and history curriculum that ignores the contributions of LGBTQ individuals. They discussed sexual education that covers sex and abstinence but not asexuality.

They expressed hurt over hearing the attendance called with their birth names and of being addressed by the wrong pronouns – situations that are not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous if the teachers inadvertently “out” students.

Yet they also smiled camaraderie available through school, especially when groups such DeKalb High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance are active. Meeting other LBGTQ students means “I’m not broken,” one said. “There is nothing wrong or strange about this, and I don’t have to be ashamed. This is something other people have experienced. I’m not alone.”

sjsc-1

James Cohen (left) was one of the camp’s organizers.

Educators in the room stood and applauded.

“I’m in awe of your courage,” one told the panel. “Thank you for being who you are.”

The teens also provided advice for the teachers who might have LGBTQ students – or parents – in their classrooms.

  • “Normalize your curriculum.”
  • “Give students someone to talk to. Let your students know you are available and open to them. If a student comes to you and tells you about their parents not accepting them, be there for them.”
  • “Respect every one for who they are – or who they want to be.”

Andria Mitchell, principal of DeKalb’s Tyler Elementary School, came to the Social Justice Summer Camp to reinforce the work of District 428’s diversity planning.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Mitchell said.

“It has been liberating and emotionally draining. It’s been an eye-opener with big moments of aha. I even had to catch myself a couple times, and say, ‘Oh! I have that bias,’ or, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way.’ ”

Mitchell believes teachers must respect diversity with the same level of importance they assign to knowledge and content.

“When you’re able to have this social justice lens, along with the latest knowledge, you reach your students in a different way,” she said, “and you reach all of your students.”

Jackie Jagielski, a sixth-grade gifted program teacher at Glenbrook Elementary School in U-46, wants to ensure that all children are provided with “opportunities to use their voices” and safe spaces.

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Campers came from the DeKalb and Elgin school districts.

NIU’s camp offered “concrete ways” to do just that, she said.

“I’ve always had an interest in social justice issues, particularly now in the political climate we find ourselves in. It’s harder for people to find common ground,” Jagielski said. “We need to celebrate and humanize all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds and in all the ways that they can be diverse.”

Roy Kim, a social worker in District 428, appreciated the camp’s “wealth of historical context” and “hearing the experiences of the other attendees.”

“Social justice is half of my job description,” he said. “Nothing could be more relevant for me in doing my job effectively.”

Ana Arroyo is principal of Elgin’s Parkwood Elementary School, a Title I school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most are Hispanic.

She attended NIU’s camp to help her teachers advance their “understanding of where our children are coming from,” something already in progress. Parkwood, nominated for PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) “Gold” recognition, is one of the Top 5 safest schools in U-46.

“I’m planning to deliver professional development to my staff on teaching to our population. It’s about listening to students, and giving students a platform to speak, share and engage in their learning,” Arroyo said. “If we can impact change at such an early level, that’s going to continue through middle school and high school.”