Alumni Accomplishments

Peggy F. Bradford

Peggy F. Bradford

Congratulations to these College of Ed alums!

Peggy F. Bradford (Ed.D, ’00) was named president of Shawnee Community College. Bradford was previously provost and vice president of academic affairs at the State University of New York Westchester Community College. In returning to her alma mater, where she earned an associate of arts degree, she plans to advance the college by encompassing a student-centered approach to enrollment, retention and culture.

Sherry Eagle

Sherry Eagle

Sherry Eagle (Ed.D, ’94), was appointed in February to the Illinois Board of Higher Education by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Eagle is currently the executive director for the Institute for Collaboration Emerita at Aurora University, where she leads the collaboration work of the university between school districts, corporations, not-for-profits and the community at large. Eagle was previously superintendent of the West Aurora School District.

Heather Friziellie

Heather Friziellie

Heather Friziellie (Ed.S., ’11) became superintendent of Fox Lake School District 114 in July. Friziellie most recently served as director of educational services at Kildeer Countryside Elementary District 96 in Buffalo Grove and principal at Kildeer Countryside Elementary School and Twin Grove Middle School.

Todd Garzarelli

Todd Garzarelli

Todd Garzarelli (M.S. Sport Management, ’06), was named athletic director at UW-Whitewater in July. Garzarelli most recently served as senior associate athletic director for external affairs at State University of New York at Buffalo. From 2004 to 2008, he worked in NIU Athletics as associate athletic director for Marketing, Broadcast and Corporate Relations.

Rich Harvey

Rich Harvey

Rich Harvey (M.S.Ed., ’02) will join the Millikin Athletic Hall of Fame this fall for his accomplishments in football and wrestling. Harvey was a three-time CCIW Champion wrestler and a member of the 1989 CCIW Champion Big Blue football team. He currently serves as the assistant principal at Rochelle Township High School, where he also is the head wrestling coach and an assistant football coach.

Jamie Hooyman

Jamie Hooyman

Jamie Hooyman (M.S.Ed., ’86), was named interim provost of Northwest Missouri State University in June. She began serving as vice provost in 2016. Hooyman served in various roles during the last decade at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, where she spent the last two years as its vice president of institutional effectiveness

Kristen Mattson

Kristen Mattson

Three-time alumna Kristen Mattson (B.S.Ed., ’06; M.S.Ed. ’12; Ed.D, ’16) was awarded the John Laska Distinguished Dissertation Award in curriculum from the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum. Mattson has been invited to present her dissertation, “Moving Beyond Personal Responsibility: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Digital Citizenship Curricula,” at the October AATC annual conference in Denver. She is the High School Library Media Director in Indian Prairie School District 204.

Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson (B.S.Ed., ’06) was inducted in June to the Portage High School Hall of Fame in his native Wisconsin. Nelson, a two-time Wisconsin state champ with back-to-back Division I, 145-pound titles as a junior and senior, wrestled for the NIU Huskies. Nelson, a P.E. teacher at North Grove Elementary School in Sycamore, is the head wrestling coach and assistant football coach at Sycamore High School.

Renee Payne

Renee Payne

Renee Payne (B.S.Ed., ’81), was named principal of St. James and St. Bernadette schools in Rockford. Payne previously served as an elementary school principal at St. Alphonsus/St. Patrick School in Lemont from 2008 until 2017. She also taught at Durken Park Elementary School in Chicago and, from 1996 to 2006, she serve as principal at St. Cajetan School in Chicago.

Paula Sochacki

Paula Sochacki

Paula Sochacki (Ed.D. ’16) has joined the faculty at Benedictine University for the 2017-18 academic year. Sochacki is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and program director for the undergraduate Nutrition and Dietetics major. Before joining Benedictine, Sochacki was an assistant professor of Nutrition at Dominican University, an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University and a clinical dietitian.

Jim Suttie

Jim Suttie

Jim Suttie (B.S.Ed, M.S. ’70) has added Park City, Utah’s Jeremy Ranch Golf Course as one of three academy locations in the country where he offers golf lessons. Suttie, a native of DeKalb, is regarded as one of the world’s best and most respected golf instructors. He played and helped to coach golf at NIU, where he is a member of Huskie Hall of Fame.

Vatthana Thammavongsa

Vatthana Thammavongsa

Vatthana Thammavongsa (B.S.Ed., ’06; M.S.Ed., ’10) was installed with his wife, Donna, as leaders of the Salvation Army chapter in Wausau, Wis. Both are teachers and immigrants from Laos, Vatthana arriving in 1989 and Donna in 1986. Thammavongsa previously served in a full-time ministry position in the Salvation Army Tabernacle Corps in Rockford and most recently worked as an elementary school teacher.

Litesa Wallace

Litesa Wallace

Litesa Wallace (Ed.D., ’13) is running for lieutenant governor of Illinois alongside gubernatorial candidate and Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss. Wallace, of Rockford, has represented the 67th District in the Illinois General Assembly since 2014. Before becoming chief of staff in 2011 for former State Rep. Chuck Jefferson, whom she replaced in office, she spent more than a decade counseling children and adults in need of mental health services, including child abuse victims and families in crisis.

Douglas Wildes

Douglas Wildes

Douglas Wildes (M.S.Ed., ’07) is the new principal at Elmwood Park High School. His career with DuPage High School District 88 began as a student teacher at Addison Trail High School in 2002, followed by department chair and assistant principal positions at Addison Trail and Willowbrook. He is currently working on his doctorate in the NIU College of Education.

If you’re a COE grad with news to share, please let us know – and send a photo! Our email address is ceduednews@niu.edu.



Community Learning Series will explore awareness, prevention of ‘taboo’ subject of suicide

cls-poster-newLegendary grunge rocker Chris Cornell committed suicide May 18 in his hotel room following a concert in Detroit.

Only two months later, on July 20, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington took his own life at home in California. Bennington had performed at Cornell’s memorial service. The two had been friends. Between them, they left nine children, some as young as 6.

Members of the media – the music media, especially – scrambled for answers. Why? Why now? Were there signs? Could anyone have helped? In the end, their reporting took the shape of rise-and-fall stories that shed little light on what caused the tragedies of May 18 and July 20.

The all-too-real deaths of Cornell and Bennington exist alongside the pop-culture sphere of the fictional TV series, “13 Reasons Why,” which has renewed intense scrutiny, conversation and controversy throughout the nation for its stark depiction of teen suicide.

But conversation on uncomfortable topics is important, says Suzanne Degges-White, chair of the NIU Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education.

And conversation is the goal of “Suicide Prevention: Sharing Strategies of Care,” the latest installment in the College of Education’s Community Learning Series.

“Suicide is a topic a lot of people are afraid to address,” Degges-White says. “They’re afraid that if they talk about it, they might make someone commit suicide or want to commit suicide. They think that if they bring it up, they might be planting seeds of an idea – and that’s not true.”

Suzanne Degges-White

Suzanne Degges-White

Beyond those fears, she adds, “suicide is still a taboo subject. It’s something we don’t mention, and there’s a lot of shame and stigma for people who’ve lost someone to suicide. It’s a fear that they’ll be looked down upon.”

Five panelists will explore topics of suicide from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road. The event is free and open to the public; a reception will take place from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Panelists include Adam Carter, an assistant professor of trauma counseling in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education; and Brooke Ruxton, director of Counseling and Consulting Services at NIU.

Others on the panel are Laura Bartosik, co-founder of Project SethStephanie Weber, executive director, Suicide Prevention Services of America; and Vince Walsh-Rock, assistant principal for Counseling and Student Support Services at Downers Grove South High School.

Degges-White will moderate the discussion, leading the panelists through questions that identify ways in which the average person can recognize the warning signs and feel prepared to speak up.

Her colleagues also will explore topics of self-injury and supportive services provided by schools.

Members of the audience who are mourning the suicides of friends and loved ones will hear valuable tips for working through their grief, Degges-White says. Counselors will attend the event, she adds, and will make themselves available for anyone in need that evening.

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

“If you’ve lost someone to suicide, this is a safe place – and a good opportunity to hear the stories of others,” Degges-White says. “Laura Bartosik lost her son to suicide, and she has turned her grief into positive action. She created Project Seth, a foundation where they promote suicide awareness.”

The Oct. 12 event fits well with a $300,000 grant received last fall from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to decrease stigma around mental health and to promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, which is shared by the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and Counseling and Consultation Services, funds various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“The connections that we’re making through the grant really indicated that this topic needs to be addressed in multiple areas and not just to our campus,” Degges-White says. “It’s important to talk about this topic. Suicide should never be perceived as an acceptable option to solve a problem.”

For more information, call (815) 753-1448 or email cahe@niu.edu.



College welcomes 2017 group of Dean’s Achievement Scholars

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper greets Alivia Hansen.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper greets Alivia Hansen.

Some have known forever.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” says Halley Fogerty, a pre-Elementary Education major from Wheaton. “I like the consistency of school. I like going to classes, taking notes, doing homework. It’s not just learning; it’s a lot of fun.”

As someone who vividly remembers rushing home from school as a young child to make PowerPoint presentations for her family, Fogerty holds dear the elementary years.

“You learn a lot about yourself. You learn to be resilient and to push through things that are hard,” she says. “I think this is the critical point in life. If you have a bad educator at an earlier age, you’re less likely to apply yourself when you’re older.”

Karli Tillema, a fellow pre-Elementary Education major, shares those sentiments.

“I’ve always wanted to teach since I was in kindergarten myself. I’ve never thought of anything else,” says the Belvidere native.

“Elementary school is a really big thing in how kids grow up and learn in the older levels – middle school and high school. It’s the start of their education,” she adds. “To know that I’m helping kids learn about things they will need to know in the future makes me happy.”

Alexis Safstrom

Alexis Safstrom

For some, the dream to teach is new.

Huntley native Samantha Panek, a percussionist, originally planned on a career in music. Thinking about her own years in middle school, however, convinced her of another path as an English teacher.

“Middle school is when kids are going through puberty and hard times. In middle school, I was still figuring myself out. I was kind of a quiet loner kid, but when I hit eighth-grade, I made friends. I had teachers who were supportive of me, and that I would talk to every day,” says Panek, a Middle Level Teaching and Learning major.

Now, Panek says, “I want to be that role model for students. I want to be one of the people they come to when they need to talk. I want to make sure they come to me when they need help.”

Others cite a personal connection.

Lauren Brooks, a Special Education-Learning Behavior Specialist I major, is a cousin to a young woman with special needs.

“I just want to give kids an opportunity to succeed and to take their learning seriously,” says Brooks, who is from Aurora.

“They have tons of opportunities and potential, and I want to open their eyes to that and give them those opportunities. I’ve seen how my cousin has been kind of limited because of that, and how people treat her because of that, and I want to change that.”

Margee Myles chats with (from left) Adina Buetow, Cameron Clark and Lauren Brooks.

Margee Myles chats with (from left) Adina Buetow, Cameron Clark and Lauren Brooks.


Emily Wines
, also a Special Education-Learning Behavior Specialist I major, discovered her calling thanks to an inclusive Physical Education program built on open minds and big hearts.

“When I was in high school, we had a combined P.E. class, and this one girl I was paired with came every day with a smile,” says Wines, from Ladd, Ill.

Her former classmate has Down syndrome and hearing issues, Wines says. “She inspired me,” says Wines, who plans to focus on severe disabilities as opposed to learning disabilities. “If she can do this every single day with a smile on her face, I want to do anything I can do to help.”

These five future teachers are among the 2017-18 class of Dean’s Achievement Scholarship recipients in the NIU College of Education.

Chosen for stellar academic performance in high school, each receives a $2,000 scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year with the possibility of renewal for the next year based on grade point average.

das-1

David Walker learns more about Adina Buetow (left).

Rounding out the group are, from the Department of Special and Early Education, Adina Buetow (Vision Impairments), Cameron Clark (Learning Behavior Specialist I), Lisbet Firman (pre-Early Childhood Studies) and Abby Howard (pre-Early Childhood Studies).

Other scholarship recipients, from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, are Alivia Hansen (Elementary Education-Reading), Tirza Lisle (Elementary Education), Hailey Pezdek (pre-Elementary Education), Alexis Safstrom (pre-Elementary Education) and Peytonn Weaver (pre-Elementary Education).

The scholars met Sept. 12 with Dean Laurie-Elish Piper, associate deans Bill Pitney and David Walker and leadership from three academic departments and College of Education Student Services.

“You are the top new incoming freshmen,” Kristin Rinehart, coordinator of Recruitment for College of Education Student Services, told the group. “You’re at the top of the list.”

Margee Myles, director of College of Education Student Services, then raised the bar: “We truly are expecting great things from all of you.”

From Elish-Piper and the associate deans, the freshmen heard about the need to enhance their experience outside the classroom through the college’s Educate and Engage Program, the University Honors Program, undergraduate research and student organizations.

Peytonn Weaver (left) and Halley Fogerty

Peytonn Weaver (left) and Halley Fogerty

Beyond the networking and leadership development opportunities, Elish-Piper told the students, embracing all the college has to offer will enable them to grow as individuals as they gain more experience, more qualifications and more confidence.

“We know that you are all academic superstars,” Elish-Piper said, “and you have made a fabulous choice in NIU.”

Brooks, like the others, calls herself honored, surprised and grateful to receive a scholarship.

“I feel a lot of doors opened for me. I feel I have a better connection with the College of Education now,” she says. “I really want to try my hardest to get good grades all of my semesters here.”



New Morgridge Chair visits CoE

Yanghee Kim

Yanghee Kim

As a teacher in South Korea, Yanghee Kim gradually realized that her daily work in the classroom was robbing her of her joy of teaching.

Day in and day out, month after month and year after year, she recited the same information to her students, and her classroom time was so busy she didn’t have time to actually interact with the students in a meaningful way.

“I was lecturing at the kids all of the class hours, and thinking, ‘I could do better than this,’ ” Kim says. “I didn’t know if the students were listening to me or not.”

She turned to computers as a possible solution to this problem, designing software to do some of the recitation of classroom material.

“I have found that using a computer is so humanistic because I was able to talk to my students personally. Now I can walk around and observe,” she says. “I saw that a computer can change our classrooms, and, since that time, I have become a technology advocate.”

Currently an associate professor of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University, Kim has been named the NIU College of Education’s new LD and Ruth G. Morgridge Endowed Chair in Teacher Education and Preparation. She starts in January.

Founded in 1995, the Morgridge Chair emphasizes innovation and advancement in teacher education, particularly in relation to the integration of technology in classroom practice.

“My responsibilities here at NIU are what I have dreamed about,” Kim says. “My research agenda is important, but I love to promote research collaboration between diverse research interests and to be a catalyst for collaborative education research, which should be, by nature, interdisciplinary.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, heralds Kim’s “innovative, creative forward-thinking” approach.

“We’re thrilled to have Yanghee join us because of her research to understand how cutting-edge technologies can be used to make education equalized and inclusive,” Elish-Piper says.

“The Morgridge Endowed Chair position focuses on moving the field of teacher education forward, and we believe that Yanghee is uniquely positioned to leverage this opportunity to benefit not only NIU but our school district partners,” Elish-Piper adds. “Her work is extremely innovative and interdisciplinary, which will allow her to work collaboratively with students and faculty in the College of Education as well as around campus and with faculty and students at other universities.”

Kim came to the United States in 2000 to pursue graduate studies in instructional technology at Florida State University, where she earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Learning Systems and a M.S. in Instructional Systems Design.

She joined the Utah State faculty in 2004, and in January of the same year, was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for a project designing avatar-based instructional teaching tools. More recently, she was awarded a 2016 grant titled, “Inclusive Design for Engaging all Learners (IDEAL): Designing Technology for Cultural Brokering.” IDEAL explores another cutting-edge technology: the use of robots as teaching tools.

As principal investigator, that NSF grant comes with her to NIU until its conclusion in 2019. She will tap the NIU faculty to serve as co-principal investigators; she also is planning a related workshop on campus in January.

Her passion for the use of classroom technology is strong.

“These advanced technologies can help us address some needs we human instructors have,” Kim says. “These robots and computers never get tired of repeating information over and over. The robot is social bias-free. The robot can talk in English or in the children’s own language – say, Spanish – and the children know it’s OK for them to not be fluent in another language. It places different groups in equal status.”

Kim presents her work Aug. 22 after the All-College Meeting.

Kim presents her work Aug. 22 after the All-College Meeting.

Children who “pretend to understand” to stop a teacher’s questions do not fool a robot, she says. Meanwhile, she adds, the robots can film facial expressions and record voices to provide teachers with video and audio evidence of how children are reacting to and absorbing the lessons.

Now that she is shifting gears, Kim is eager to work with NIU’s partner school districts and teachers “to identify their needs and to drive research to address their needs.”

She also expects to foster cross-disciplinary research across the NIU campus, and to secure more external funding to support that scholarship, all of which will advance her goal of teaching each new generation.

“Education is about nurturing life. I was born in South Korea, and in Asian countries, they value education a lot,” she says, adding that she plans to build up the educational capacity in Illinois classrooms to nurture a new generation of students.

“In my teen years, I thought to myself, ‘Where do I want to commit my capacity?’ It was nurturing life,” she adds. “I vacillated between doctor and teacher. I decided that education is more about working people’s intellect – working people’s minds – and I thought that might be more important for them.”



KNPE helps student-athletes prepare for mentoring positions at District 428’s Clinton Rosette

Paul Wright

Paul Wright

Ask an athlete to talk about a coach, Paul Wright says, and the stories will flow naturally.

Expect the anecdotes to overflow with loving examples of the positive and lasting effects of an additional, caring adult in a young person’s life. Their appreciation is genuine – and touching.

Consequently, athletes make good mentors.

“If they’ve been playing sports for a long time, they’ve developed a love for it and they have a passion for it,” says Wright, NIU’s EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“That also means they’ve had coaches or parents who’ve focused on them, developed them as individuals, supported them, picked them up when they were down,” Wright adds. “Relationships like that are at the heart of mentoring. It’s really an easy connection to make – or a slam dunk, to use a sports analogy.”

NIU’s world-class student-athletes are no exception, of course.

Several volunteer each year to mentor students at DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School through The Huskie Experience program of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Student-Athlete Academic Support Services.

“Our mission is to develop our student-athletes personally and professionally while engaging in the community and the campus community,” says Rachel Steward, an academic coordinator with SAASS. “I see a lot of tangible skills that our athletes are building. Time management is huge. Patience is a big one. Ultimately, though, I think they like the satisfaction of knowing that they’re making an impact on that next generation that really aspires to be like them.”

crms-signRobin Enders, a counselor at Clinton Rosette and the liaison between the school at NIU, says that her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders receive wisdom and assistance on homework, arriving on time to class, locker organization, how to approach teachers with questions, the value of higher education and more.

Mentees are chosen through recommendations from parents or teacher, Enders says; sometimes the students ask on their own if they’ve had mentors before or see friends with mentors. If she sees that the Huskie athletes are early in their education, she pairs them with younger children to extend the length of the relationship.

“It’s become a part of the fabric of our school,” Enders says.

“Parents appreciate the opportunity to have another caring adult in their children’s lives,” she adds. “For the NIU student-athletes – and I’ve served as references for them – it’s also been very beneficial. They see that what you put into something is what you get out of it.”

Wright saw another opportunity.

He enjoys a long relationship with Clinton Rosette, where he ran an after-school program focused on youth development and social change through sport. He also frequently connects with staff at Huskie Athletics, who appreciate his 20-year scholarly focus on youth development and social change through sport.

“The Huskie Experience is a great concept; it serves the mission of Athletics to develop their athletes and their social responsibility, and there’s an obvious benefit to the Clinton Rosette kids,” Wright says.

huskie-flag“But Athletics didn’t have a structured approach on the philosophy of mentoring or the best practices to share with their athletes. This is where I was able to offer my support,” he adds. “I talked with Melissa Dawson, the director of SAASS, and she was open to it. She said, ‘We would love to get your insights and recommendations. We built this thing, but how do we improve it?’ ”

Wright created an orientation program to prepare the athletes in “what mentoring is; the do’s and don’ts; the youth development; how to build relationships with kids.” His third annual presentation took place Sept. 11 at Anderson Hall, home of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Meanwhile, the professor hopes to evaluate the program through data collection and analysis. He encourages graduate students in his KNPE 596: Sport-based Youth Development course to assess the Clinton Rosette program for their class projects, independent studies or theses.

His students attended and observed the Sept. 11 orientation for a close-up look at how mentoring promotes the development of middle-schoolers and college students alike as well as for how to grow and improve such programs.

“It’s an all-around win,” Wright says. “Collaboration creates opportunities.”

Steward and Enders agree.

“NIU is obviously a main focus in the DeKalb community, and I believe that the more we can engage with the community is a benefit for both sides,” Steward says.

“Our student-athletes continually work with youth through camps, clinics and those type of experiences, and they yearn to get more of that on a consistent basis during the school year,” she adds. “For others, it’s leaving their mark on the DeKalb community. When they spend four or five years here, DeKalb is giving a lot to them, and they want to give back.”

Rachel Steward

Rachel Steward

Middle school students offer a perfect avenue: When the Huskies encounter adolescents who “might be hard to get to know,” Steward says, the athletes “keep pulling back the layers” until they uncover something that yields the reward of a breakthrough moment.

“For us, it might be the smallest thing, but for that kid to open up in that way is huge,” she says. “Just to see the relationships evolve over the years is pretty remarkable. Middle-schoolers might not necessarily say that they really enjoy the time they have with their mentors, but secretly on the inside, they do – and the more our student-athletes see that, the better.”

Staff at Clinton Rosette, meanwhile, love to see the smiles on children blessed with mentors.

“It’s just another positive person, like an older brother or sister, someone who reinforces the message of how important school is,” Enders says.

“Whenever I talk to them, they’re usually very excited,” she adds. “They’ll say if they did an art project with their mentor, or if they played a game of basketball. They’ll say, ‘Look what we did!’ and ‘We had so much fun – when’s my mentor coming again?’ It’s really a fun thing to see the kids get so excited.”



New juvenile justice course explores ways to lower number of youth entering ‘the system’

Teresa Fisher

Teresa Fisher

Teens who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are nothing new – such stories have flickered on movie screens for a century – but the need to identify new strategies to support them never ends.

A new course in the NIU Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education this fall is providing specific preparation for counselors to understand the family, societal and institutional factors that can contribute to pre-adjudication, adjudication and acclimation back to communities.

“Juvenile Justice: Education, Preventions, Interventions and Counseling Strategies” is offered by the College of Education to graduate students, advanced undergraduate students and counselors in the field.

Professor Teresa Fisher conceived the course when she realized that many of her doctoral students shared her research interest in the concept of resiliency.

Some of those students worked with juveniles as counselors and probation officers; others spent time in the “juvie” system themselves. All of her co-instructors bring experience with the criminal justice system.

“Making one wrong decision can create a very negative cycle for youth. They can get caught up in the system, and start a path with gang involvement and recidivism,” says Fisher, a professor of counseling in the College of Education. “I want students in the course to get a comprehensive view of young people becoming involved with juvenile justice.”

Unfortunately, it’s a complex picture.

juvenile-justiceCommon factors include trauma, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, a lack of positive role models and family environments and histories that tend to perpetuate life outside the law, she says.

Detention centers are rife with issues. “They often get a bad rap for not being very effective,” she says. “They don’t always have counselors who can address the specific needs of youth offenders, and gang behavior is often maintained.

Schools pose multiple challenges.

Students dealing with chronic tardiness or truancy can easily end up in the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This is primarily due to the increase of police officers in the schools, Fisher says, adding that minor infractions that were previously resolved by school officials now lead to records in the juvenile justice system.

Students in Fisher’s course will learn how to identify those teens who are on destructive paths as well as preventive measures to steer those teens toward more productive lives.

Instructors also will teach effective counseling strategies that can help put teens already in the system on a positive footing when they return to their communities.

Field trips are planned to juvenile detention centers for students to better comprehend teens, their needs and the programming provided to assist them. These encounters will prove mutually beneficial to the teens and the college students, Fisher says.

“We will have an opportunity to present directly to small groups that are detained – personal development skills, anger management, conflict resolution, goal-setting,” she says.

chairsStudents can use some of that time to conduct focus-group sessions to learn directly from the youth: Have they been detained before? If so, why are they back again? What do they like or dislike about the facility? What will help them get out of the juvenile justice system?

“Frequently, people who’ve not been in detention will think, ‘Oh, these youth are not approachable,’ or, ‘They’re so much different than I am,’ ” Fisher says. “I want students to understand, ‘These are young people who didn’t have the same opportunities that I had, or didn’t have the skills I had. However, we’re more similar than different.’ ”

The course also will discuss ways to work with parents of youth in – or close to – becoming involved in the system.

Fisher will encourage students to teach parents about effective communication, how to set ground rules, how to understand behavioral change and how to create age-appropriate consequences as well as reward systems to support positive behavior.

Students will learn the importance of a youth advocate: “It’s possible that even if my students touch just one youth, they may help them re-direct their path from the criminal justice system.”



College of Ed alumna shares KNPE instructional philosophies with P.E. teachers in Chicago

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan traded her sneakers for high heels, her gym for a cubicle and her whistle for a smartphone.

What the new coordinator of Physical Education for the Chicago Public Schools hasn’t given up is her drive and ambition to make a positive difference for children through sport.

“I look at my own personal experience,” says Santillan, a two-time alumna of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “I’ve always noticed that, in the times when I’ve really needed something, sport has always been there. It’s always been there for me. Sport kept me out of trouble.”

Growing up in suburban Aurora during the 1990s – she was born in Mexico but moved with her family to Kane County at the age of 18 months – Santillan glimpsed the danger lurking on the streets but wisely chose kickball and basketball over “the wrong crowd.”

Her decision to stay on the straight path, along with her K-12 academic success, resulted in a scholarship to attend NIU. Without a clear career path in mind, however, Santillan couldn’t find her footing in DeKalb and soon left for home.

One year later, she returned as a commuter student, earning straight A’s. Her unease lingered, however, and she became “a two-time college dropout.”

“I knew that college was important, and I was trying to get myself through school,” she says, “but I hadn’t found something I was truly passionate about. I was out of school for the next seven years.”

During that time, she worked at a restaurant. In 2009, she donned the Huskie red-and-black again – and the third time was, of course, the charm.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, she secured a position as a graduate assistant and began work toward her master’s in Exercise Physiology.

cps-logoSantillan crossed the NIU Graduate School commencement stage on a Friday evening in May of 2014. Less than 72 hours later, on a Monday, she sat for an interview with the Chicago Public Schools. Hired on the spot, she began work immediately to complete the school year for a P.E. teacher who’d taken a leave of absence.

By the end of her temporary gig in June, a full-time position with CPS was hers.

“What I love the most is getting kids to set goals. When we work on a skill, a lot of kids think immediately that they can’t do it, or they try not to do it, but then they get very excited when they see they can do something,” Santillan says. “And when they do that in P.E., they’re going to be able to transfer that and do it another part of their life.”

Part of that philosophy – life lessons through P.E. – is a gospel evangelized by Paul Wright, NIU’s EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“When I supervised Yara’s secondary clinical placements for the P.E. licensure program, I found out she decided to teach because she had a deep belief in the potential of physical education and sport to have a positive influence on children,” Wright says. “In particular, she said she had a passion for reaching children and youth who might be struggling due to circumstances in their lives and their communities.”

Following the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model on which Wright focuses his scholarship, Santillan worked alongside her professor for several semesters in an after-school program for “at-risk” youth in a DeKalb middle school.

Her hands-on learning included promoting responsibility and tailoring programs to youth with more social and emotional challenges

Paul M. Wright

Paul Wright

“This approach really fit her existing values and commitments, but gave her some new strategies, structures and concepts to integrate into her teaching. She went on to apply these ideas, while making them her own, in her very successful career in CPS,” Wright says. “She is proof that the best theories and ideas are ones that can be put into practice.”

In her new role with CPS – leaving the gym “was one of my most difficult decisions but worth it,” she says – Santillan works with all of the district’s P.E. teachers to boost their productivity and, by extension, enhance student outcomes.

Serving as a “cultural mentor,” she ensures that the teachers are following standards, writing and implementing lesson plans, practicing concepts of Social and Emotional Learning and conducting assessment.

Meanwhile, she stresses to her teachers that P.E. is “not just inside the four walls of school” but also something that can empower students, parents and siblings through newsletters, after-school programs and family nights.

“Overall, I’ve had really positive response from the teachers,” Santillan says. “I tell them, ‘I know what you’re doing is important and meaningful, and I’m with you.’ They know I genuinely care about what they’re doing – that I care about their success, the kids’ success and that P.E. is one of the most important content areas in school.”

For her own role in extending P.E. beyond the school grounds, Santillan has volunteered with Beyond the Ball, “an organization that uses the power of sport to change lives, give hope, reclaim space and develop a culture of opportunities for youth and families in Chicago.”

She plans a 2020 run for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly. She also is contemplating a return to college for a doctorate and perhaps a career teaching in higher education.

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan

At this point, however, her future is in the Windy City.

“I’m increasing teacher effectiveness in the City of Chicago, and I see myself doing that for quite some time,” she says. “I still have the same passion, but instead of teaching 600 students in my school, I have the opportunity to reach 381,000 students in CPS.”

Wright applauds her commitment, calling its beneficiaries fortunate. That group soon will include current students in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education after Santillan returns Monday, Oct. 9, as a guest speaker.

“The students she has worked with in the schools, our current students at NIU and P.E. teachers throughout Chicago are lucky to have Yara as a champion and a role model for doing what you believe is important and right, for yourself – and for others,” he says. “It’s been my pleasure to work with her and follow her success.”



Funding available for research, innovative ideas, partnerships

grants-2Grants 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 2018-19 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. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • Apply online!

lightbulbDean’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. Friday, Oct. 20.
  • Recipients will be contacted by Dec. 1 with further instructions.
  • Grant funds must be spent by June 30, 2018.
  • 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.



Show your #HuskiePride

victor-e-huskie-4It’s great to be an NIU Huskie, and it’s about to get even better to be a Huskie on Fridays.

That’s because the university has planned a variety of ways for Huskie fans to celebrate all things NIU this year, and to share their pride both on and off campus.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 1, everyone’s favorite day of the week gets another reason to be awesome with Red and Black Fridays observed on campus and by NIU Huskies around the world.

Participants are asked to wear NIU clothing and gear, and to share their pride on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with #HuskiePride for a chance to be featured on NIU’s homepage and NIU official social media accounts. Organizers plan to hand out T-shirts, snacks and prizes across campus Sept. 1.



Come, Look, See: Blackwell celebrates classic book series

Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Johnson

Familiar faces – at least to those of a certain age – are taking root throughout the College of Education’s Blackwell History of Education Museum and the Learning Center.

Dick, Jane and Sally, along with their parents and pets, are the stars of a sprawling new exhibition highlighting the classic “Dick and Jane” book series that helped multiple 20th century generations learn to read.

Yvonne Johnson, a longtime Sycamore educator who holds two degrees from NIU, including a 1960 master’s in Elementary Education, graciously and generously donated her vast collection of the famous and influential books to the Blackwell.

“We want to put out as many of the books as we can, and we tried to open up as many as we could,” says Steve Builta, director of Technology Innovation and Learning Services in College of Education Technology Services. “People will remember the pictures.”

Rich Casey, instructional designer in the Learning Center, heard of the opportunity from Cindy Ditzler and Lynne M. Thomas of the NIU Libraries. With the help of the NIU Foundation, the gift was completed in November 2015.

Casey and Ditzler soon visited Johnson in her Sycamore home.

Johnson taught in a one-room school for two years after earning her NIU bachelor’s degree in Home Economics Education in 1951.

Johnson chats with DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith.

Johnson chats with DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith.

Her career in Sycamore’s District 427 began in 1953, when she joined the staff at West Elementary School. She closed the book on her career 58 years later, and in 2013 was inducted to the Sycamore High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

“She showed us the collection, and I was amazed. I was thrilled,” Casey says. “I’m hoping to hear people say, ‘I remember that story.’ I’m hoping we’ve done some justice to it.”

Builta and Casey have accomplished just that, displaying books, framed images and enlarged prints throughout their facility in the lower level of Gabel Hall.

One glass case shows pages from Dick and Jane stories side-by-side with nearly identical words and illustrations of African-American siblings Mike and Pam – their family arrived in the 1960s amid the civil rights movement – or within religious school contexts.

Many cases are dressed with objects that vividly evoke the period of the books’ greatest popularity: wood clothespins, a rolling pin, a mop, an iron, a game of jacks, stuffed dolls, a baseball glove, a toy airplane.

“Frankly, ‘Dick and Jane’ is a real part of pop culture,” Builta says, “and this really is about bringing back some memories for some folks. ‘Reminisce’ is a great word. We’re giving people an opportunity to see this again.”

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Johnson enjoy the exhibition.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Johnson
enjoy the exhibition.

“Dick and Jane” was the creation of Zerna Sharp, a reading consultant one-time kindergarten teacher who called the main characters “my children.”

According to a 1994 article in the Chicago Tribune:

It was in the late 1920s that Sharp, who died in 1981 at age 91, came up with the concept of an illustrated primer with simple text and repeated words mimicking the speech patterns of her young students.

Sharp had difficulty at first convincing Scott, Foresman’s editors to abandon the more stilted reading books of the era, most of which lacked illustrations. But when a University of Chicago authority on education, William S. Gray, endorsed her methods, the publisher embraced her “picture-story” method.

“She heard kids talking the way Dick and Jane would – ‘Look! Look! Look!’ – and thought that maybe the dialogue should reflect that kind of language,” Casey says.

“With the illustrations, she thought that maybe those would help kids understand what they were reading,” he adds. “There were illustrated primers, such as the New England Primer, but the difference was having the images mirror the action.”

“ ‘Dick and Jane’ were the first set of books that really utilized that concept,” Builta says.

dick-jane-4Regardless of the affection and nostalgia held by many 20th century children, however, the “Dick and Jane” books were not universally beloved. Legendary author Dr. Seuss, for example, said in 1983 that his “The Cat in the Hat” was “the book I’m proudest of because it had something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane primers.”

And although Casey was never a fan himself, he will acknowledge that the series made a huge impact on baby boomers, their parents and their children.

“Personally, I think that kids learned how to read in spite of ‘Dick and Jane.’ Our nuns were very big on phonics. I remember being in second-grade and trying to sound out ‘refrigerator,’ ” he says. “Nonetheless, ‘Dick and Jane’ was very successful.”

The Learning Center is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday. For more information, call (815) 753-1241 or email learningcenter@niu.edu.

Rich Casey, Johnson, Margaret Thacker and Steve Builta

Rich Casey, Johnson, Margaret Thacker and Steve Builta