Literacy & Elementary Education offers new reading cohort in Grayslake

Northern Illinois University’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education (LEED) will offer a new cohort leading to a Master of Science degree in literacy education with a focus on reading beginning in 2016 at University Center-Lake County (UC-LC) in Grayslake.

The program includes one or two classes per semester and is ideal for classroom teachers who are interested in earning either the Reading Teacher Endorsement (24 credits) or Reading Specialist Endorsement K-12 (33 credits).

Interested individuals can learn more about this program by attending an information session on Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the University Center-Lake County, 1200 University Center Drive, Grayslake, Ill. This event precedes an UC-LC open house and provides an opportunity for prospective students to learn about program requirements and ask questions. For information and reservations, contact Gail Schumacher, academic advisor, at gschumacher@niu.edu or 815-753-7948.

As a competency-based program, this master’s degree features a course sequence in which each course builds on the previous one, and all courses are aligned with the standards for reading professionals developed by the International Literacy Association. All courses are taught by skilled and knowledgeable faculty members, many with national recognition for their teaching, research and service to the field of reading. Full-time reading faculty members include Susan L’Allier, associate professor and reading program coordinator; Corrine Wickens, associate professor; and Michael Manderino, assistant professor. For information on the faculty, visit the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education website.

Northern Illinois University also plans to offers the Master of Science degree in literacy education with a focus on reading at the NIU-Naperville campus in 2016.

NIU also offers a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, a Master of Science in literacy education with a focus on ESL/bilingual education, a Master of Arts degree in teaching (initial elementary education license), and a Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and instruction with specialization in literacy education. In addition, classes are available for those interested in coursework toward ESL and bilingual endorsements, the Reading Teacher Endorsement and the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Postsecondary Developmental Literacy and Language Instruction. For more information visit the LEED website.



Meet a COE Northern Lights Ambassador: Bernadette Chatman

Bernadette 2

Bernadette Chatman

“I have two ultimate goals in life: the first, to stay content and the second, to inspire someone to be a better them,” says Bernadette Chatman. “Both of these goals lead me to want to be an educator, more specifically an educator for those who are differently abled.”

Bernadette is a senior in special education as well as one of four COE Northern Lights Ambassadors.

As a Northern Light Ambassador, Bernadette says she wants to serve as a voice for the students. She believes students should be aware of all of the great opportunities that Northern, as well as the College of Education, has to offer.

“Our college has provided me with a few opportunities that I never saw myself doing. Teaching in Houston for a week is an example. The program, Educate U.S., gave me and 19 other NIU students the opportunity to teach in the Aldine School district. Unlike other institutions that send their students to the same program, NIU paid for our flight, ensured we were satisfied with our placements as well as the environment in which we lived in, and even took us out to explore Houston. I left Texas with a job offer and a greater appreciation for my college.”



Panel discussion to address tough issues facing local schools, teachers and students

Douglas Moeller, Steven Koch, Erika Schlichter

The NIU College of Education’s ongoing Community Learning Series continues Thursday, Oct. 22 when the college welcomes back three distinguished alumni to share their experiences as educators and school administrators and provide insights into what it takes to be successful in today’s classrooms.

The guests will also provide an “on-the-ground” look at some of the pressing issues facing local schools and school districts, including the impact of the Illinois budget crisis, Common Core and student testing.

Dr. Brad Hawk, assistant professor in the COE’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Leadership as well as a former school superintendent himself, will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Douglas Moeller, superintendent, DeKalb School District 428
  • Erika Schlichter, chief academic officer, District 158
  • Steven Koch, principal, Prairie Ridge High School

“All of our guests have been highly successful teachers who have moved up through the system, through a variety of jobs at a variety of districts,” Hawk said. “Their comments will be valuable to anyone seeking a career as a teacher but also for teachers – prospective or veteran – who are interested in taking on administrative roles.”

The discussion will also appeal to parents and others who are interested in critical issues facing local schools and districts.

“The chance to talk with such highly placed and influential leaders in education will give us a clear view into what’s really happening in our schools,” he said.

“Dr. Moeller, for example, will discuss financial issues that are now affecting local districts here and around the state,” he said, adding that Schlichter is an expert on Common Core standards and high-stakes testing, while Koch’s Prairie Ridge High School has become the model for student performance in recent years. The discussion will include an extensive question and answer session.

What: Community Learning Series: Leadership in the Classroom

Where: Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb, IL

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015

Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Networking reception with light hors d’oeuvres; 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Panel discussion and Q&A

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available for all attendees in the lot adjacent to the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. Please RSVP to Paul Baker at pbaker@niu.edu or 815-753-8434.

 

Meet our distinguished panelists:

Dr. Steven Koch joined District 155 in 2001 as a Prairie Ridge English teacher. He served as English department chairman from 2005 until 2008, when he assumed his role as the district’s director of staff development. He returned to Prairie Ridge as the school’s fourth principal in July 2013. Dr. Koch received both a B.A. degree in secondary English education with a minor in rhetoric and a M.A. degree in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has both an Educational Specialist degree and a Type 75 certification from Northern Illinois University. Koch earned his Ed.D. degree from NIU for his work concentrating on public school officials’ authority over student cyberspeech. Koch’s wife, Katie, is a member of the District 155 math faculty, and together they have three children.

Dr. Douglas J. Moeller is the superintendent of schools for DeKalb Community Unit School District (CUSD) 428. The day after graduating from Elgin High School, in Elgin Ill., he left home to begin six years of service in the United States Marine Corps. Upon completing his military service, Dr. Moeller attended Northern Illinois University and earned a B.S. degree in mathematics and economics. He immediately found employment as a corporate actuary, and spent nine years working for both Kemper Corporation and Allstate Insurance Company’s International Reinsurance Division. Although this profession was monetarily rewarding, it was not personally fulfilling. His wife, Christine, was an elementary school teacher, and seeing the positive impact she was having on the lives of children, Dr. Moeller made a career change to teach.

He began his career in education as a mathematics teacher at Gifford Street High School, an alternative high school located in Elgin School District U-46. During this time, Dr. Moeller also worked as an adjunct instructor for Elgin Community College teaching Calculus, Differential Equations, and Probability & Statistics. He then served as a dean of students and chair of the special education department at Elgin High School. His last position in U-46 was as the school district’s director for mathematics and science.

Dr. Moeller joined DeKalb CUSD 428 in 2009 as the principal of DeKalb High School. While serving in this position he worked on the construction of, and opened, the new DeKalb High School in the fall of 2011. Before assuming his current position, Dr. Moeller was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services in DeKalb. He holds a Ph.D. degree in educational organization and leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Now in her 19th year as an educator, Dr. Erika Schlichter is beginning her second year as the chief academic officer for Huntley Community School District 158, a large unit district in McHenry County. In this role she collaborates to provide leadership in all aspects of teaching and learning for the district. She comes to this position having served in curriculum leadership, human resources leadership, high school building administration, and high school teaching roles in several large unit districts in the greater Chicago area.

Dr. Schlichter is a graduate of NIU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving a B.A. degree in history and Spanish from UW-Madison, she went on to a career in education and simultaneously pursued graduate work at NIU. She holds multiple degrees from NIU, including an M.S.Ed. degree in curriculum and instruction-secondary education, an M.S.Ed. degree in education administration, and an Ed.D. degree in education administration.



College of Education welcomes high school students from Taiwan

 

Open Imagination participants

Open Imagination participants

In early September, Northern Illinois University and DeKalb High School, as well as high schools in St. Charles and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, welcomed nine high school students from western Taiwan, who spent three weeks immersed in American-style education and culture.

The 11th- and 12th-graders lived with DeKalb High School families during their stay. They are the second group of students from Taiwan’s Miaoli County to visit NIU and DeKalb in the past two years as part of a program called Open Imagination.

“Open Imagination was really a team effort,” said Terry Borg, director of the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs, which helped plan the visit. “The Education Bureau of Miaoli came to us with this grand idea about opening their students’ minds to a different way of learning.”

The students spent four days at DeKalb High School, three in St. Charles and another two days at IMSA shadowing students and attending classes. They also spent a week at NIU participating in classes that align with their career goals — law, science and medicine, diplomacy, and marketing, to name just a few.

According to Borg, the Taiwanese students are not the only ones to benefit from the experience. “Open Imagination is just as important to our host students,” he said. “This has provided them one-on-one personal experiences with their peers from halfway around the world. It makes the world a little smaller.”

“Open Imagination is extremely important to our students,” said Tamra Ropeter, principal at DeKalb High School. “Getting to know other cultures, what other countries’ educational systems are like – it’s invaluable.”

 

The students’ experiences were not confined to the classroom. Another Open Imagination supporter, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago, feted the Taiwanese students and their DeKalb hosts to a day of Chinese and American culture on Sept. 12 with a reception featuring an orientation to Chicago, lunch and a song and dance program that evening at the Taipei Cultural Center.

The students visited the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum. They also toured Wheaton’s Cantigny Park, home to both a museum that documents the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division and the Robert R. McCormick Museum.

Borg said he hopes that this year’s Open Imagination Project can be expanded to include a reciprocal visit from DeKalb High School students this spring.



Alumni profile: Meet Mina Blazy

mina-blazy

Mina Blazy

If you had asked Mina Blazy if she aspired to be a teacher back while she was a student at Proviso East High School, she would have told you “no.”

But the fond memories of a 10th grade chemistry teacher at that high school continue to inspire her hands-on approach to teaching – teaching science especially — today.
“You’d go by his class and he’d be lighting something on fire,” she said. “We made candy from a chemical equation in his class. I had the most fun in that classroom. He made science come alive.”

When that teacher retired and learned that Blazy (B.S. Ed. Elementary Education ’99) was teaching, he sent her all of his lessons.

Earlier this year Blazy opened the Gus Franklin Jr. STEM Academy, in Victorville, Calif., where she is currently principal.

“The academy is a huge success,” she said of its launch. “We have students from kindergarten through sixth grade learning and exploring engineering concepts through project-based learning.”

Blazy’s passion for teaching and learning through science is infused into every aspect of the school. Her students are learning about flight in space in third grade, and how to use software in fifth and sixth grades, plus the elementary school has engineering and science labs. This year, the school will launch a new project where students will manipulate a radio telescope as part of the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Program. The project is a partnership between the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Lewis Center for Educational Research. In addition, they will look at space for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The data they study will be part of the Juno Project, which is named for a satellite that was launched towards Jupiter and will go live next summer.

“It’s another hands-on science project, where they will get to manipulate it from the school site,” she said.

Blazy’s path to becoming a classroom innovator didn’t happen overnight. After growing up in Broadview, Ill., she attended the University of Dubuque and learned to be a pilot.

“I flew planes for a while, got married, had kids, and just decided to go into education,” she said. “My husband was actually the one who pointed out to me that I had a natural ability to teach.”

Blazy’s mother – a registered nurse – and uncle had attended NIU, so she applied. A counselor told her that she should focus on teaching science or math, so she minored in biology.

After graduation, she taught high school science in the Chicago suburbs for a few years, before moving to Ohio and then California to continue her career. Soon, Blazy will begin pursuing her doctoral degree in STEM education.

“Science helps you think about your thinking,” she said. “That’s why I decided I wanted to focus on STEM.”

Throughout her career, Blazy said she has worked with and observed educators at all skill levels.

“What I have learned is that NIU gave me a true foundation in the education arena, and the necessary skills to help guide teachers to become extremely successful,” she said.



Supporter of literacy program receives two prestigious awards

award

As the author or co-author of approximately 300 articles, research studies and professional books, Jerry L. Johns, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus in the College of Education’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education (LEED), is known in the field of reading education for more than his significant scholarship. Johns has not only been recognized as an outstanding teacher educator, scholar, professional development speaker and leader, he was recently inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame and awarded the William S. Gray Citation of Merit by the International Literacy Association.

“In the field of reading education, the William S. Gray Citation of Merit is by far the most prestigious award given. For Jerry to receive this award on the same day as he was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame demonstrates the scope and magnitude of his contributions to the field as well as the high regard in which he is held,” said Laurie Elish-Piper, acting dean of NIU’s College of Education. “With these two honors, Jerry has truly been elevated to the status of living legend in reading.”

Jerry Johns 8-24-15

Jerry Johns (and one of his favorite books) at the opening of the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic at NIU.

Johns has had a long, highly respected career at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and has maintained close ties to the university’s literacy clinic, which carries his name. He also has a local, national and international reputation for serving in numerous leadership positions, and has been the recipient of several professional and civic awards. For example, he has served as president of the International Literacy Association, the Illinois Reading Council, the Northern Illinois Reading Council, and the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (formerly the College Reading Association). When he was not a president for one of these organizations he was busy serving on the board of directors for each of these organizations.

Johns, who taught undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, said he enjoyed working with students on publications and seeing students graduate and succeed as leaders in the field.

In addition to the positive effect Johns had on helping NIU students achieve success in their careers, he made time to contribute his colleagues’ careers as well. Elish-Piper spoke about the impact Johns’ mentorship had on her career since she started working at NIU in 1995.

“Jerry was already an internationally known and respected scholar, yet he made time to meet with me and to collaborate on projects with me,” Elish-Piper said. “In fact, he continues to serve as a mentor and advisor, and most importantly a friend, and I can honestly say that my development as a scholar, teacher and leader is due in great part to the mentoring that Jerry has provided.”

Currently Johns serves on editorial advisory boards for Reading Psychology and the Illinois Reading Council Journal. In his free time, Johns enjoys traveling, walking, reading, and driving his sports car.



New book examines impact of rubrics on education

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

The College of Education’s Joseph Flynn, associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF), has a new book out which he co-edited with his colleague Michelle Tenam-Zemach, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Abraham Fischler School of Education in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Their book, “Rubric Nation: Critical Inquiries on the Impact of Rubrics in Education,” examines the impact rubrics* have on professionals and students across the educational spectrum as well as on modern society and culture.

The idea for the book came up a few years ago at an American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC) conference when Flynn and Tenam-Zemach were talking about how ubiquitous rubrics have become.

“Reflecting on our own teacher preparation experience, Michelle and I realized that we did not use rubrics in college, so the question became when did rubrics start appearing everywhere in teacher education?” Flynn recalled.

“Rubrics are not good or bad in and of themselves,” he said. “On one hand effectively designed rubrics can be very useful for educators in structuring assignments and conveying expectations; yet on the other hand rubrics can also have unintended consequences. For example, rubrics can ultimately minimize students’ willingness to take risks in their learning because they become so focused on what they need to do to get an A.”

Flynn added that their research also found that students using rubrics might be less willing to engage in productive conversations with peers or teachers about their assignments.

Rubrics have also become an issue for practicing teachers as well, according to Flynn. “The use of rubrics in high stakes teacher assessment is also seeing some problems,” he said. “Many states and districts are adopting rubrics for assessing teachers, but they are using them improperly. Rubrics like the Charlotte Danielson rubric were designed to encourage discussions between teachers and administrators, not evaluations that could cause a teacher to lose her job.” These trends encouraged Flynn and Tenam-Zemach to seek out research and scholarship critically examining rubrics.

Flynn said the conversations he had at AATC were key in the development of the manuscript, and — because rubrics are used for almost everything in education from high-stakes testing to tenure promotion and teacher evaluations — he hopes that more research will be done on rubrics in the future.

“We think it is really important that more research is dedicated to critically examining rubrics. Rubrics may have noble intentions, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not have negative consequences.”

* A rubric is a tool used by teachers to define how a particular assignment or activity will be graded; rubrics describe, in writing, not only what a student needs to include in the assignment, it also describes the quality of each of the inputs. If one of the criteria for grading an essay is spelling, for example, then the rubric might state that to receive an “Excellent” the essay must contain no spelling errors; to receive a “Good” it can contain up to two spelling errors. Three or more misspelled words would result in a “Needs Improvement” in the spelling criteria.