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John Evar Strid

John Evar Strid

Achieving the unimaginable is no easy task, and doing so is something most people will never know.

John Evar Strid is not among them.

The associate professor in NIU’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education recently learned that the TESOL Journal accepted the first version of his manuscript, “The Myth of the Critical Period.”

He also was invited to join the top-tier journal’s editorial review board.

“Wow … you have done the almost impossible,” Joy Egbert, editor of the journal, wrote in an Aug. 25 email to Strid. “Nicely done.”

Strid’s article examines the “critical period hypothesis,” which holds that the learning of language becomes considerably harder following the “ideal time” to acquire that knowledge.

It was good news to one reviewer, who reported that “the article turned around my thinking. All this time, I believed that there was little use in trying to correct pronunciation with older learners.”

“The manuscript presents a seminal case that will motivate the full spectrum of (journal) readers, from TESOL researchers, teacher-educators (and) TESOL teachers,” the reviewer wrote. “Readers will concur that older learners can, and do, develop a new language efficiently or more efficiently than those acquiring a new language starting at a very young age.”

Strid, who joined the NIU College of Education in 2012, teaches applied linguistics, language development, multicultural education and bilingualism and reading.

His research interests include psycholinguistics, bilingualism, language processing, literacy, language acquisition and teaching English as second language. He earned his Ph.D. in linguistics from Northwestern University.



How to save a life

NIU receives grant to prevent suicides through awareness

mental-health-chalkA $300,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will work to decrease stigma around mental health and promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, awarded to collaborators from the NIU College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE) and NIU Counseling & Consultation Services, will fund various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“Like every other campus across the country, we’re seeing more and more students presenting with mental health issues than we have in the past,” said Brooke Ruxton, executive director of Counseling & Consultation Services and a licensed clinical psychologist, “and we’re doing something about that.”

Called “B-Safer” – an acronym for “Building Suicide Awareness and Fostering Enhanced Resilience” – the initiative officially begins Sept. 30. The B-Safer team also includes Suzanne Degges-White and Carrie Kortegast, chair and assistant professor in CAHE respectively.

Workshops will include “gatekeeper” training for faculty and staff, who will learn how to identify at-risk students and how to respond when they do.

The B-Safer program also will offer awareness training for peer leaders from student organizations on how to recognize signs of trouble in their friends and classmates.

Suzanne Degges-White, Carrie Kortegast and Brooke Ruxton

Suzanne Degges-White, Carrie Kortegast and Brooke Ruxton

Both scenarios will take into consideration NIU’s diversity; some populations on campus are culturally resistant to seeking out help for mental health issues, Ruxton said.

Participants also will learn from Kognito, an online program that, according to its website, “simulates the interactions and behaviors of practicing health professionals, patients, caregivers, students and educators in real-life situations” through “conversation simulations featuring virtual humans to drive measurable change in physical, emotional and social health.”

Kortegast hopes her colleagues across campus will participate – and find empowerment.

“Faculty are some of the people who are seeing students on an ongoing, regular basis. Sometimes there is a reluctance on the part of faculty to inquire with students on how they’re doing,” Kortegast said. “We can do this in a way of a community of care rather than, ‘It’s not my business. It’s not my concern. There are others who will intervene.’ ”

Such awareness “builds a community of care in which faculty and staff feel it’s OK to reach out to students and resources on campus, that it’s OK to talk about issues of mental health,” Ruxton added. “We’re creating a culture that this is something we’re doing with student organizations, this is something we’re talking about, that we’re watching out for our friends.”

Degges-White, Kortegast and Ruxton already have assembled a Mental Health Task Force made up of NIU faculty and staff as well as a representative from the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board.

“A big piece is connecting with the community,” Degges-White said. “We need to have community buy-in.”



Funding available for research, innovation, partnerships

Grants to help advance College of Education research, instructional innovation and partnerships are available again this year.

Financial support in research and innovation enables faculty and staff to prepare and improve submissions for external research funding or to design programs that enhance the college’s curriculum and instruction.

Money for partnerships, meanwhile, is offered to build or strengthen collaborations with P-12 schools that augment experiences for College of Education students.

Proposal submissions, including itemized budgets, are taken online.

All grant recipients are required to submit three-page reports that document their study findings; some or all might be asked to present their work to the COE Research Committee or at a Partnership Brown Bag during the 2017-18 school year.

Dean’s Research Grants

  • Four grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff complete pilot projects or small-scale studies in preparation of applications for external funding.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2017.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Instructional Innovation Grants

  • Two grants of up to $2,500 each are available to help faculty and staff improve teaching, curriculum and student academic success.
  • Dollars can assist in the design of innovative teaching strategies, including technology integration, curriculum development and/or other activities or programs that enhance those goals.
  • The deadline for online applications is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2017.
  • Apply online!

Dean’s Grants for Partnership

  • Multiple grants of varying levels of financial support are available throughout the year.
  • Grants will not exceed $2,500.
  • The dollars should help faculty and staff connect and work with partnership districts and schools through professional development, research or value-added enrichment experiences for College of Education students.
  • Apply online!

For more information on the research and innovation grants, contact Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, at wpitney@niu.edu. For more information on the partnership grants, contact Portia Downey, coordinator of professional development, at pdowney@niu.edu.



Singing NIU’s praises overseas

College of Ed alumna values, imparts NIU lessons

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits Altgeld Hall in August.

NIU alumna Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits
Altgeld Hall in August.

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa was teaching children with special needs through a spiritual organization in her native India when she came to an important realization.

“I didn’t have enough knowledge to teach them,” Lalitha says. “I wanted to learn more skills and how to be an effective teacher so I could really teach them better.”

That mission brought her to the United States – sponsored by her uncle – to enroll at the College of DuPage and, eventually, at NIU. She graduated from the NIU College of Education in December of 1993 with a master’s degree in special education.

Returning to India, Lalitha began volunteering at a school called Vivekananda Kendra, located in a rural area.

While there, she began applying her NIU training and evangelizing for the College of Education.

“I thank NIU for giving me such a nice education. I applied all of those skills in my school. I learned how to give them feedback, how to assist their skills and their intelligence, how to motivate them to learn,” she says.

She also taught English to the children, saying that many earned better grades in English than in Hindi. Her lessons also taught the children “good values” and “how to be happy.”

Her NIU experience similarly persuaded her to eschew a homeland tradition. “In behavior modification back home, we used harsh punishments to make them learn,” she says.

vive-logoAbandoning that practice, she says, allowed “the children to come out to be better human beings – that’s what I felt – and to value their education also.”

During her seventh year at Vivekananda Kendra, the school won a “best school award” at the district level and “best academic results” in the State of Assam for the year 2000.

Lalitha left teaching in 2004, moving to a cave in the Himalayas where she has lived since.

In the cave, located near the town of Gangotri, she enjoys “peace of mind and happiness” as she spends her days in prayer and living off the land.

Wild animals, including bears and leopards, are occasional visitors. “Sometimes they will come and sit next to me,” she says, “but they never harm me.” Telephone messages are delivered second-hand (and in person, obviously) by villagers in Gangotri who are aware of her home in the cave.

Anonymous strangers also leave food outside the cave, even though she asks for nothing, and somehow provide exactly what she might lack on that certain day.

“It is strange,” she says. “I don’t know how it works. I don’t have any explanation.”

Despite her Spartan lifestyle, and her departure from the classroom, she says her passion still burns for teaching.



Gold medals are not the only reason to get youth involved in sport

Written by Paul Wright, Lane/Zimmerman Endowed Professor

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil have given us the opportunity to marvel at the heights of human potential. We have been able to watch amazing displays of athleticism and skill from the most elite competitors on the planet. As inspiring as these athletes and their performances are, they represent an extremely small fraction of the number of people involved in sport around the world.

The vast majority of youth who get involved in sport will never compete for Olympic gold. In fact, many will never compete outside of their surrounding community. So what other reasons are there for youth to become involved in sport? The benefits are too numerous to mention, but include physical fitness, motor skill development, positive social interaction, mental toughness, communication skills, and confidence.

Dr. Paul Wright and his colleagues in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) are interested in ways that youth sport programs can be intentionally designed to promote positive youth development and social change. In particular, how can sport be used to teach life skills (such as leadership and goal setting) that youth can use in other areas of their lives? Research shows sport programs that have this sort of focus help youth to reach their potential in life and to develop a greater sense of social responsibility.

In addition to supporting youth programs locally (including Chicago), Dr. Wright and his colleagues are involved at the international level with youth sport research and program development. For example, in early August, Dr. Wright was in Finland working with collaborators to design a training program for coaches who run after-school sport programs. In June, Drs. Steve Howell, Jenn Jacobs, and Jim Ressler, were in Belize consulting on a three-year project the KNPE team has been operating with funding from the US Department of State. This project has involved training coaches and administrators from over 20 youth sport programs and the formation of the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition (BYSC). Also this summer, Dr. Wright was featured in the British Council’s online magazine, Voices. The British Council supports sport for development programming around the globe and invited Dr. Wright to contribute a piece discussing the importance of social and emotional learning, highlighting ways it can be fostered through sport.

The collaborations noted above and related activities are organized under the Physical Activity and Life Skills (PALS) Group that Dr. Wright and his colleagues operate through the KNPE department. Through research, outreach and academic programming, the PALS Group is committed to bridging the gap between theory and practice to make sure youth sport programs live up to their potential in terms of supporting the positive, healthy development of youth and their communities. While this aspect of youth sport does not receive the same level of media attention as the Olympics, the impact it can have on individuals and communities around the globe is felt every day.



College of Ed names Walker Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

David WalkerDavid Walker has been named associate dean for Academic Affairs at the NIU College of Education.

Currently a professor in the Educational Research and Evaluation program within the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), Walker’s research interests include statistical code and algorithms, effect sizes, structural analyses, predictive analyses and the general linear model.

As such, he has experience teaching undergraduate assessment and graduate statistical and research methodology courses as well as mentoring and serving on master’s and doctoral student thesis and dissertation committees.

His administrative background includes five years of experience as the College of Education’s Coordinator of Assessment, including areas of program accreditation and licensure. Also, he has served on numerous departmental, college and university-level committees pertaining to assessment and curricular initiatives.

In his new role, Walker will champion all curricular activities, work to strengthen and align assessment practices, and oversee student recruitment and retention efforts college-wide.

“I am so pleased to have David take on the associate dean of Academic Affairs position,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said. “He brings a great deal of expertise with assessment, accreditation and curriculum to the position, as well as his strong commitment to collaboration, mentoring and innovation.”

Prior to NIU, Walker worked as an assistant professor of educational research at Florida Atlantic University. He has since spent 14 years as a faculty member at NIU where he has had a consistent record of productivity including 101 refereed journal publications, one textbook and 144 peer-reviewed presentations.

Moreover, he has held professional leadership posts as the chair of the College of Education’s College Council, editor of the General Linear Model Journal, board member with the Illinois Education Research Council and president of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Walker’s role as an educator and scholar has earned him many recognitions, including recipient of the NIU College of Education Research Award, recipient of the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award and recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award via the Consortium of State and Regional Educational Research Associations.

“I am extremely honored to be selected and serve as the College of Education’s associate dean for Academic Affairs,” Walker said.

“The College of Education has been a very special place for me, and am I really excited to collaborate with the great faculty, professional staff, leaders and students on initiatives such as assessment, recruitment, retention and curricular innovations,” he added. “I hope to actively engage and learn with colleagues and continue the excellence of the college as a premier place to teach, research and provide service to our collective programs and students.”

Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College; a master’s degree from Iowa State University of Science and Technology University; and a doctorate from Iowa State University of Science and Technology.



College of Ed names Pitney Associate Dean for Research, Resources and Innovation

William PitneyWilliam A. Pitney has been named Associate Dean of Research, Resources and Innovation at the NIU College of Education, effective July 1st.

Currently a professor in the Athletic Training Program within the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, (KNPE), Pitney’s research focuses on employment issues experienced by athletic trainers in various practice settings. As such he has investigated professional socialization, role strain, work-family conflict, mentoring, and professional development. His administrative experience includes director of resources and planning in KNPE, athletic training program director, president of the faculty senate, and executive secretary of the university council.

“I am so pleased that Bill will be taking on the role of Associate Dean for Research, Resources and Innovation,” Dean Elish-Piper commented.  “Because he approaches his work with a trustee mentality and his leadership from a servant-leader perspective, and I am confident that he will be able to make many meaningful contributions to help lead the College into the future.”

In his new role, Pitney will lead several initiatives on behalf of the college, to include: leading the development of a research cluster focused on innovation in teacher education; developing and overseeing professional development, mentoring, and job coaching for faculty and staff and creating new innovative faculty initiatives related to e-learning and other methods of delivery for courses, conferences, and symposia.

Prior to NIU, Pitney worked as an athletic trainer at the clinical, high school, and intercollegiate settings. He has since spent 21 years as a faculty member at NIU where he has had a consistent record of productivity including over 60 refereed journal publications, four textbooks and dozens of presentations. Moreover, he has held professional leadership posts as the Editor-in-Chief of the Athletic Training Education Journal, section editor of the Journal of Athletic Training, chair of the Board of Certification’s Task Force on Continuing Professional Education. Pitney’s role as an educator and scholar has earned him many recognitions including the 2013 Outstanding Educator Award from the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association, the 2013 Dedicated Service Award from the Illinois Athletic Trainers’ Association, the 2015 Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), and, later this month, he will received the 2016 Sayers “Bud” Miller Distinguished Educator Award from the NATA’s Executive Committee on Education.

Regarding this new appointment, Pitney shared, “our college has exceptional faculty and staff. I am honored and excited to be in this leadership position to work collaboratively with such great individuals. I look forward to playing a role in fulfilling the vision of making the College of Education the best place to study, teach, work, serve, and conduct research. I will strive, therefore, to create an environment that promotes research and scholarly activity, supports professional development, and encourages innovation. ”

He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education (with specialization in athletic training) from Indiana State University; a master’s degree in physical education from Eastern Michigan University; and a doctorate in adult continuing education from Northern Illinois University.



NIU teacher candidates spend time in Chicago and Texas classrooms

Teacher candidates visit Altus Academy

Educate Local LogoOn April 28th a group of Elementary Education teacher candidates traveled to Altus Academy in Chicago. Altus Academy provides college preparatory education to 2nd-8th grade students from historical minority groups, low-income families, and first generation college graduate households.

The NIU teacher candidates were paired with Altus Academy 2nd and 3rd grade students and spent the day mentoring, encouraging and providing one-on-one academic support. Each of the academy students were assigned a character from the Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, titled “Little House in the Big Woods”. Together the NIU teacher candidate and Altus scholar prepared a tri fold presentation board, oral presentation, costume and props to be presented and shared with otCharacter Cafeher students, administrators, parents, and guests during the culminating activity – the “Character Café”.

“It was such a great experience visiting this school because all of the kids had such high spirits and smiles on their faces. Seeing how proud all of the parents were when they came to see the projects was so heartwarming,” said participant Katie Krewer.

 

Teacher candidates gain classroom experience in Texas

Educate US LogoThe week after concluding their NIU classes in May, a group of 20 teacher licensure candidates departed for Houston Texas to teach alongside mentor teachers in the Aldine Independent School District (AISD).

Students observed in classrooms, prepared for and instructed lessons, tutored small groups, and engaged in co-teaching strategies and skills development. NIU teacher candidates further enriched their experiences participating with students, host families and community members in a variety of extracurricular and community events.

Educate USThis clinical experience in an out-of-state urban school setting is funded by the College of Education through generous gifts by our donors.

Elementary Education student Emily Svec reflected on her recent experience, “…it is so valuable. I am already learning so much. I can feel my perspective growing – I Know that I will carry this forward with me as I become a teacher.”

Veronica Riva, Early Childhood major, also was thankful for the experience, “During this time I really felt like a teacher, and I loved it!”



College of Ed names Conderman chair of the Department of Special and Early Education

Greg Conderman

Greg Conderman

Greg Conderman has been named chair of the Department of Special and Early Education (SEED) in the College of Education effective July 1st.  Conderman has been serving as acting chair for SEED since last June.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper offered her congratulations, stating “Dr. Greg Conderman has done a remarkable job as Acting Chair of the Special and Early Education Department this past year. The faculty and staff have rated his performance as excellent, and I am thrilled to have him take on the role as Chair for the next four years.  He brings a depth of knowledge, collaborative approach, and problem-solving stance to his leadership which will allow him to effectively lead SEED into the future.”

Before entering higher education, Conderman taught special education for seven years, and worked as an educational consultant for two years. His previous faculty positions were at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and St. Ambrose University.  He joined the NIU faculty in 2003. At NIU, he has worked as faculty adviser for the Student Council for Exceptional Children and a faculty sponsor for T.E.A.C.H. House.

“I’ve learned a great deal this past year serving as acting chair,” Conderman stated. “I continue to be impressed with the SEED faculty and staff regarding their excellent work ethic, their collaborative spirit, and their willingness to support students. I am looking forward to facilitating new initiatives within the department that will further advance our undergraduate and graduate programs in early childhood and special education.  I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with a great team at both the College and department levels.”

He is the author of two books and more than 90 peer-reviewed manuscripts. His areas of interest are co-teaching, strategy instruction and instructional methods for inclusive classrooms. To that end, he serves on several review boards, is a frequent presenter at state and national conferences and conducts faculty development on co-teaching in school districts in Illinois.

Conderman’s dedication to his field have garnered him awards and recognition, such as the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s University Excellence in Teaching Award, the Wisconsin Teacher Educator of the Year, the Illinois Special Education Excellence in Teaching Award, and the NIU College of Education Exceptional Contributions to Teaching Award.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from the University of Northern Iowa; a master’s degree in special education from the University of Northern Iowa; and a doctorate in special education with an emphasis in learning disabilities and college teaching from the University of Northern Colorado.



Mary F. English Technology Award recipients attend Learn-IT Conference

Mary F. English award winners

Mary F. English award winners

The Mary F. English Technology Award was established at Northern Illinois University in September of 2000 by donors Dr. Robert and Mrs. Mary English.  The Award assists and supports undergraduate students in the College of Education through professional development opportunities supporting technology in the classroom.  Award recipients receive current technology equipment for their academic, personal, and professional use.  Recipients develop technical skills and gain experience utilizing technology as learning and informational tools.

The current Mary F. English Technology Award recipients attended the 10th annual Learn- IT Conference, hosted by the College of Education ETRA department on May 7th, 2016.  The 2016 Learn-IT Conference provided in-service teachers from the northern Illinois area P-12 school districts and NIU students a day full of workshops and training activities to help them use technology to enhance learning in the classroom. MFE scholars attended lecture and hands-on sessions exploring topics such as internet security, 3D augmented reality, planning virtual field trips using Google Earth, among many others.