Like father, like son: P.E. proves perfect major for Maveus family

Jeff Maveus

Jeff Maveus

Jeff Maveus had spent his professional years at DeKalb Genetics, feeling secure and content in his position with the Corporate Services Department.

That changed when Monsanto purchased the company in 1998. “I knew it was just a matter of time before I wasn’t going to have a job,” says Maveus, who lives in Cortland.

Pondering his next step, he discovered that it no longer lie in Corporate America but in a school gymnasium.

“I had played a lot of sports in high school. Coaching was something I had a passion for. My mom had a daycare for 30 years, and I had always been around kids. I had worked at camps,” he says. “I wanted to teach.”

Enrolling in the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Maveus earned his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in the fall of 2005. For the last 13 years, he has taught P.E. – the first eight years of those in an elementary school, and for the last five years, to sixth- through eighth-graders at Harter Middle School in Kaneland.

Now his son, Tyler, is following in those footsteps.

“My dad, for sure, was one of my biggest inspirations,” says Tyler, a 19-year-old sophomore at NIU who was a four-sport athlete at Sycamore High School.

“Hearing him come home and talk about how it’s a rewarding profession, and all the fun he has at work, just really made me want to get into it,” he adds. “I like the environment. I like the atmosphere of always being active. I like being able to have fun with kids, to help them learn and grow. I like the overall satisfaction of helping others.”

Dad understands why.

“What I love about teaching P.E. in middle school is that I love that age,” Jeff says. “The kids are learning how to lead healthier lifestyle and to make some good decisions in their lives. I’m teaching them about lifelong fitness; a lot of kids think that lifelong fitness is just a sport. They don’t know that more is involved, and I like to provide that knowledge, to be that role model.”

Tyler Maveus

Tyler Maveus

Sure enough, Tyler is also aiming toward a career in a middle school.

“At that point in their lives, they’re starting to become more independent, but it’s not like high school, when they’re starting to not participate as much,” he says. “Middle school can be a real rough experience for some kids, and I want to be sure to help them. I really enjoyed P.E. growing up – I had good experiences – and I want to make sure I give students that same experience. I want to be a role model, and someone my students can look up to.”

Being in the same profession – and, for now, the same house – is also providing a new camaraderie between the two.

Following an early clinical experience at DeKalb’s Huntley Middle School last semester, and part of a current assessment-related clinical at Brooks Elementary School, Tyler is getting his feet wet.

Naturally, he’s got questions and observations.

“It’s just nice to have my dad in my back pocket as a resource,” Tyler says, “like if I need help with an assignment late at night, he’s there. I can run warmup ideas by him, things to change, things to do differently, things that worked well, things I should be doing.

“My wife is just loving this. She thinks it’s great that we sit there and compare notes,” Jeff says.

Like Tyler, he enjoys the family room conversations.

“It’s really cool to not only talk to him about where the program is at NIU – it’s changed since I was there – but it’s really cool to have your son, when you’re watching a basketball game at night, turn to you and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a couple warmups I’d like to run past you,’ ” he says.

gym-balls“We talk about professors. We talk about how you bounce ideas off of other teachers, that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, that that’s how you get better,” he adds. “Tyler wants to be the best. It’s just fun.”

Both offer high praise for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“One of the top programs in the nation!” Jeff exclaims. “I’m so thankful that I went through the P.E. department at NIU. Every step NIU had through the progression was phenomenal – early childhood, clinicals, student-teaching – and the best experience I could ever have. It was all the classes I needed, and 10 years later, something I never thought I would use, I’m using now.”

KNPE professors – he singles out Connie Fox, Clersida and Luis Garcia and Jenny Parker – were motivational and committed to teaching “the do’s and don’ts.”

Tyler, who starts student-teaching in the fall of 2019, is enjoying KNPE’s cohort model.

“We move through the program together, which is really nice because I can grow and become good friends with the other students,” he says. “Also, I’m learning that you can only be so prepared from the classroom. NIU does a really good job of immersing us in the schools, and getting us that experience. There’s no better way to learn than experience, and you can only follow the book so much when you’re out in the field.”

Perhaps their strongest endorsement, however, comes from Jeff’s perpetual welcome mat for NIU student-teachers in his gymnasium.

“I had two cooperating teachers who were phenomenal. They really helped me to finish that final step I had to take, and it’s not an easy step. There are a lot of things you have to learn while you’re student-teaching,” he says. “I remember how important it was to me to have someone good to work with – someone to learn from – and I want to be that person. That’s definitely what I’m here for.”



Scott Wickman left ‘speechless’ by ‘Humanistic Educator’ award

Scott Wickman, associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, has received the 2018 Humanistic Educator/Supervisor Award from the Association for Humanistic Counseling.

Scott Wickman visits with Guatemalan children.

Scott Wickman visits with Guatemalan children.

He will be honored in April at the 2018 ACA Annual Conference in Atlanta.

The award recognizes an AHC member who demonstrates a humanistic philosophy of teaching or supervision, resulting in a significant impact on the development of students, new professionals through teaching, advising, supervision and/or mentoring.

Nominees must be counselor educators and/or counseling supervisors with a history of incorporating a humanistic philosophy into their work, which results in a significant impact on students, supervisees or mentees.

Before coming to NIU, Wickman was a K-12 school counselor. He also worked as a community support counselor, serving clients with serious and persistent mental illnesses while running court-mandated psychoeducational groups for perpetrators of violence and abuse.

Wickman also has received the Beverly Brown Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Group Counseling, the Illinois School Counselor Educator of the Year Award and the NIU College of Education’s Exceptional Contributions to Teaching Award.



CAHE’s Xiaodan Hu celebrates ‘Dissertation of the Year’ award

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, will travel next month to Texas for an impressive honor.

Hu’s dissertation, “The Impact of Performance-based Funding on Community College Retention and Completion in Louisiana,” is the winner of the 2018 Council for the Study of Community Colleges Dissertation of the Year Award.

She will receive a $1,000 award honorarium/prize from a sponsor of the 2018 CSCC Conference.

Casey Ozaki, associate professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning of the University of North Dakota, informed Hu that her “dissertation has the potential to have a significant impact on the literature and policy.”

“In a year of very competitive nominees,” Ozaki wrote, “the committee agreed that your dissertation was an example of a rigorous and well-constructed research design and critically important findings that deepen the understanding performance-based funding and its impact on community college success.”

Meanwhile, her CSCC Dissertation of the Year award is an invitation to submit an article to the Community College Review. With support from CCR, her submission would go through the peer review process with the hope for publication.

Joining CAHE’s Adult and Higher Education faculty last fall, Hu teaches courses related to community college leadership; finance and policy; and higher education administration.

Her research typically employs quantitative methods to examine the impact of state policies and institutional initiatives on colleges and universities, focusing on educational equity issues of historically underserved students and non-traditional students.



CoE award nominations open, deadline is Thursday, March 22

trophy

Kate Donohue won the 2016 award
for Exceptional Contributions
by Supportive Professional Staff.

Do you know colleagues in the College of Education who deserve special recognition for their work over the past year?

Nominate them for a 2018 College of Education Award!

This year’s honors come in eight categories, each with specific criteria. More information about each award, as well as a link to each online nomination form, is available below.

A letter from the nominator and two letters of support are required to complete the online nomination.

All nominations are due by 4 p.m. Thursday, March 22. Recipients will be recognized Friday, May 4, during the Celebration of Excellence ceremony.

Excellence in Teaching Award by Faculty/Clinical Faculty 2018
1. Open to tenure-track, tenured and clinical faculty for their teaching accomplishments in the recent calendar year.
2. Provides recognition of outstanding contributions in the classroom or in an online course (face-to-face and/or online) environment in which students have been challenged, engaged and supported toward excellence in learning.
3. Professor has demonstrated creative and innovative pedagogy, such as:

  • activities that promote engagement with class activities and learning experiences
  • service learning
  • community-based educational activities that provide out-of-the-classroom involvement
  • inclusion of technology in innovative ways
  • bridging the gap between theory and application
  • innovative and noteworthy inclusion of diversity and social justice issues
  • relevance of the course to real-world experiences
  • participation in other activities that contribute to teaching excellence.

4. Outstanding evaluations/feedback from participating students in the class

Excellence in Research and Artistry Award by Faculty 2018
1. Open to tenure-track, tenured and clinical faculty for their research and artistry accomplishments in the recent calendar year.
2. Provides recognition of outstanding contributions to research and to other endeavors such as exceptional artistry or performance that have made a significant impact on the field to which the faculty member belongs.
3. Professor has demonstrated research and artistry excellence in the field in multiple ways, such as:

  • obtaining high quality publications in top-tiered journals in the field
  • receiving major grants and fellowships to support research and artistry
  • presenting at state, regional, national and/or international conferences to promote creative or innovative knowledge and skills in the field
  • service as an editor or a member of the editorial boards of professional publications
  • being awarded grants for the program and/or department that reflect innovation and the creative engagement of departmental personnel and students
  • presentation of a noteworthy or otherwise significant artistic performance
  • involvement in other activities that contribute to excellence in research and artistry

Excellence in Service Award by Faculty 2018
1. Open to tenure-track, tenured and clinical faculty for their service accomplishments in and/or outside of the university in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding service that has had a positive impact on the department, college and/or university, profession or community.
3. Professor has demonstrated service excellence in the field by completing activities, such as:

  • professional leadership
  • mentorship of faculty, staff or students
  • development of new ways to disseminate information and innovative ideas on behalf of the profession
  • noteworthy service to state, regional, national and/or international boards or professional organizations
  • leadership in state or national agencies on behalf of the profession or higher education
  • partnerships with schools, community agencies and/or other institutions
  • participation in other activities that contribute to leadership in service

Exceptional Contributions by Instructors 2018
apple1. Open to any full or part-time instructor in the College of Education for teaching accomplishments in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding contributions in the classroom or in an online course (face-to-face and/or online) where students have been challenged, engaged and supported toward excellence in learning.
3. Professor has demonstrated creative and innovative pedagogy within the classroom, such as:

  • activities that promote engagement with class activities and learning experiences
  • service learning
  • community-based educational activities that provide out-of-the-classroom involvement
  • inclusion of technology in innovative ways
  • bridging the gap between theory and application
  • innovative and noteworthy inclusion of diversity and social justice issues
  • relevance of the course to real-world experiences
  • participation in other activities that contribute to teaching excellence.

4. Outstanding evaluations/feedback from participating students in the class

Exceptional Contributions by Civil Service Staff 2018
1. Open to any full-time civil service staff member in the College of Education who has made exceptional contributions in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding contributions to the department and/or college that go above and beyond the assigned duties of the staff member.
3. Staff member has demonstrated creativity and innovation in such activities as:

  • creating a positive work environment and promoting the positive image of the college
  • development of service and work flow enhancements that positively affect the working environment within their office, department or college
  • significantly exceeding expectations and promoting communication/collaboration
  • advocating for students in ways that contribute to retention and recruitment
  • participating in other activities that contribute to excellence and success in the department/college

Exceptional Contributions by Supportive Professional Staff 2018
1. Open to any full-time SPS staff member in the College of Education who has made exceptional contributions in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding contributions to the department and/or college that go above and beyond the assigned duties of the SPS member and contribute to the enhancement of the program/department/college in significant ways.
3. Staff member has demonstrated creativity and innovation in such activities as:

  • creating a positive work environment
  • seeking to improve service and work flow
  • going beyond minimal work expectations in a significant and tangible manner that produces valued outcomes
  • advocating for students in ways that contribute to retention and recruitment
  • participating in other activities that contribute to excellence and success in the department/college

Outreach/Community Service Award 2018
globe-hands1. Open to any faculty/clinical faculty or staff member in the College of Education for their outreach or community service accomplishments in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding contributions in outreach or community service that have had a positive impact on the department, college and/or university, profession and community.
3. Employee has demonstrated excellence through outreach or community service activities by participating in activities, such as:

  • building partnerships with other institutions or groups in the community
  • providing leadership
  • creating bridges between the College of Education/or university and other institutions or the community
  • leadership in local, state, national or international venues that have had a positive outcome for the College of Education and the greater community
  • development of innovative methods of disseminating information and innovative ideas on behalf of the profession, college and/or university
  • other activities that contribute to excellence through outreach or community service

Exceptional Contributions in Diversity/Social Justice Award 2018
1. Open to any faculty/clinical faculty or staff member in the College of Education for their positive impact on diversity or social justice in the recent calendar year.
2. Recognizes outstanding contributions in addressing and promoting diversity and social justice that have had a positive impact on the department, college and/or university.
3. Employee has demonstrated excellence in addressing diversity or social justice issues by participating in activities, such as:

  • advocating for diverse students
  • addressing social justice needs for students and the college/program
  • bridging gaps between people through dialogue and activities that lead to enhance communication or engagement between diverse groups within the community
  • contributing to diversity and social justice through innovative teaching, research or community outreach within the department and college
  • participation in other activities that successfully contribute to the understanding and support of diversity and social justice


James Cohen wins Fulbright

James Cohen

James Cohen

James Cohen will spend the summer of 2019 in Uruguay as a Fulbright Scholar.

The associate professor of ESL/Bilingual Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction will work alongside Aldo Rodriguez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. Rodriguez is also the national director of Second Language Policy for the Uruguay National Board of Education.

“Essentially,” Cohen said, “I will be going around the country, from region to region, working with high school English teachers, focusing on a combination of English as a Foreign Language pedagogy and cultural sensitivity issues.”

Cohen hopes to make these educators “more culturally responsive in their teaching strategies and teaching approaches.”

“I want to provide a venue in which they can understand the hierarchical nature of these systems of injustice that exist in every country, including theirs,” he said. “I also want to provide a venue in which they are aware of their perspectives of the students – in other words, are they viewing their students from a deficit model or from a strength model? We are learning that the research is very, very clear on this.”

His reason is equally clear.

“No child should be treated as ‘the other,’ and I’ve seen it many times where teachers and school systems treat kids as ‘the other.’ It’s unethical, it’s immoral and it’s wrong, and a lot of times, teachers aren’t always aware that they’re doing this. It’s all about raising awareness,” said Cohen, who joined NIU in 2010.

“My experience here in the United States is that when teachers gain the awareness of how they’re interacting with their students, and how they’re viewing their students, it’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

Aldo Rodriguez

Aldo Rodriguez

“The teachers are no longer frustrated with their students; the students are no longer upset about going to class; and the students end up working harder for the teacher because the teacher is respecting them. I’m passionate about this because I know it makes a difference in kids’ lives.”

Before Cohen and his family embark for South America, he plans frequent and extensive conversations with Rodriguez to discuss the specifics of the implementation of the proposed project.

In preparation for this time in Uruguay, Cohen is taking an advanced-level Spanish course this semester during his sabbatical because he does not know what level of English proficiency the teachers will have. He also hopes that, by spending three months in Uruguay, he and his daughter will continue to improve their Spanish.

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Fulbright awards approximately 8,000 grants each year to roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars and 900 visiting scholars, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals.

Cohen’s first application for a Fulbright grant, one he submitted four years ago in hopes of visiting Paraguay, the country located directly north of Uruguay, received “alternate status” and never came to fruition.

However, this year’s attempt seemed predestined to succeed.

fulbrightDuring a recent academic conference, while he awaited word on his proposal, Cohen bumped into a close friend who teaches at Western Illinois University. She unexpectedly mentioned that she had applied for – and had received – a Fulbright grant.

The good news was enough to excite Cohen, but the “rest of the story” sent him over the top: His friend was going to Uruguay. “I’m like, ‘This is awesome!’ ” he said. “She’s there now. She just went down there in January, and she’ll be there for the whole semester. I didn’t even know that she was applying.”

Cohen got his good news while in Washington, D.C. for the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Institute, sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities and held from Jan. 19 through Jan. 23.

“I was listening to a presentation and then, all of a sudden, I get this email, and it says, ‘Congratulations! You have won!’ ” he said. “Needless to say, I have no idea what that presenter said. From that moment on, I was no longer listening.”

Related:



Engage U.S. ready to launch with trip to Olympic City USA

Brandon Male

Brandon Male

All of the world’s eyes – Brandon Male’s included – are on South Korea.

But the instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) is looking at the Winter Olympics through a different lens, one that understands that the games are far more than athletes, medals, national anthems and must-watch TV.

Male is preparing to select and accompany a dozen NIU College of Education students this May to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, also known as Olympic City USA, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Stop One on the trip, coming at the half-way point of the drive, is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where the Engage U.S. students will visit the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory.

It’s among the first ventures of Engage U.S., a new addition to the Educate and Engage Program and tailored for students who are not in teacher-licensure programs. Thanks to generous funding from donors to the college and the department, students selected for the trip will pay almost nothing.

“This is a big opportunity for our Exercise Science and Sport Management students to gain a little insight and to get their own Olympic experience,” Male says. “This is going to be the start of something cool.”

team-usaHuskies chosen for the trip will engage with, and learn from, coaches and other practitioners and administrators who work at the U.S. Olympic headquarters. Male also hopes his travelers will meet current Olympic athletes.

USA Swimming and USA Shooting also house their national headquarters on the complex, which covers 35 acres and can provide housing, dining, training facilities, recreational facilities and other services for more than 500 athletes and coaches at one time.

NIU students will stay in the training center’s dormitories and enjoy use of the fitness facilities and swimming pools, he adds.

Field trips are planned to the Air Force Academy and the headquarters of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“Colorado Springs is kind of the fitness, strength and conditioning capitol of the United States,” Male says. “It’s kind of like Silicon Valley is for the technology industry.”

KNPE Chair Chad McEvoy was instrumental in bringing Male’s vision to life.

“Dr. McEvoy had a couple contacts there, including a former student who’s moved on to the USA Triathlon. He still knows some folks there, though, and did a little networking, made a few phone calls – business development is his title – and they ate it up,” Male says.

“Every once in a while, the Olympic Training Center has a university tour that comes out, but they’re trying to get more experience with more young people, with more up-and-coming professionals, and they’re really trying to push the Olympics to help grow and cultivate Team USA. They’re very on board. They love the idea.”

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

“Our Kinesiology program at NIU provides exceptional opportunities for students to pursue their passion for working in fitness and exercise related professions,” McEvoy says. “This Engage U.S. experience with the Olympic Training Center will allow our students to immerse themselves in sport performance at its peak.”

Past the invaluable lessons of the industry lie the kinds of experiences that are only available outside the classroom, Male says, including new skills, greater confidence and the inspiration to “better themselves to become the highest level of professional.”

“I hope these students realize that it’s a big world out there with a lot of really great opportunities. I hope they come back with a more global perspective, and that it’s important to reach out, to make contact with people and to take a chance,” Male says.

“I want them to think about those employers, those graduate schools and those jobs that might seem too good to be true, or too much of a big fish, and to go for it,” he adds. “At its core – at its root – what this is is a networking opportunity, to just go out there and meet people, and this is an opportunity to go out there and meet the best of the best. Who better to talk to you about that than Team USA?”



SEED faculty chosen to present at engaged learning conference

Laura Hedin

Laura Hedin

Laura Hedin leaves no doubt of her feelings on engaged learning.

“It’s the best way for students to learn. That’s the bottom line,” says Hedin, who teaches Special Education in the Department of Special and Early Education (SEED). “If it’s just listening – and not doing – then students are not getting everything they could be getting from my expertise. Practicing their skills just bumps everything up in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.”

The associate professor is one of two College of Education faculty members chosen to present at NIU’s first Conference on Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship.

Natalie Young, an instructor of Early Childhood Education in SEED, is the college’s other “exemplar” at the Tuesday, March 6, event in the Holmes Student Center.

Several faculty and staff will present on best practices in engaged learning, teaching and scholarship. All are welcome to attend; registration is open online.

Lisa Freeman, acting president of NIU, will deliver the opening remarks as well as the keynote address: “Bringing NIU’s Mission to Life through Engagement.”

Concurrent “Best Practice” sessions begin at 9:15 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. A plenary session is scheduled from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m., and a poster session will begin at 11:45 a.m.

Participants will close the day with a discussion on “The Future of Engaged Learning at NIU.”

kanelandHedin will discuss her department’s collaboration with Kaneland School District 302, where her teacher-licensure candidates in Special Education are collecting and analyzing assessment data to design and deliver effective lessons.

“We have so much positive feedback from our candidates, the district teachers and the school districts,” Hedin says. “It’s one thing to hear something from a professor, but it’s another thing for that information to come directly from your clinical site and your cooperating teachers. Our students get that reflection; they get that piece where they say, ‘You know, I just saw this in my clinical placement. Why do you do it that way?’ ”

Faculty, meanwhile, are on site in Kaneland.

“As we started working with the district representatives about what they need, we made them aware of the advantages of having a cluster of candidates working there so that we could bring our coursework to Kaneland,” she says. “We came up with some curriculum to deliver to their classroom teachers, specifically about writing IEPs and IEP goals.”

Young will talk about Open Doors, her Educate Local program that takes NIU students to teach at Lincoln Elementary School in Bellwood, Ill.

Natalie Young

Natalie Young

Open Doors has two motives, one to motivate the college aspirations of Lincoln’s first- and second-graders and another to expose NIU teacher-candidates to “understand the importance of having experiences in a setting where minorities are the largest population.”

“When reflecting on their experiences through the Open Doors program, my students express appreciation for additional hands-on, in-the-field opportunities with young students,” Young says. “Students collaborate on teams to create lessons specifically targeted to the needs of the students. We go, and we work directly with young students directly. Who doesn’t learn best by doing?”

Experiences like the ones provided by Open Doors are essential for undergraduate students before they become actual classroom teachers, she adds.

“I can give my students lots of articles and tell them to read about what others say it looks like to teach in predominantly minority schools. We can read, read, read, and we can discuss, discuss, discuss,” she says, “but it’s completely different when you meet that primary school child who’s right in front of you, connecting with you, and you’re connecting with them. It’s different when you’re sitting there crisscross-applesauce, working directly with and engaging with students of color in a way in which you may have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing.”

Hedin and Young are eager to learn from the other presenters, and are grateful for the opportunity to do so.

“I am a lifelong learner, and I need not only to continue to work on my skills but to engage with colleagues who are doing the same things. I also need to be a model of that for my students,” Hedin says.

open-doors-fi

Open Doors

“To have engagement initiatives like this come down from the president and the provost is terrific,” she adds. “It really shows a dedication of resources to actually make certain that engaged learning occurs and to help people understand how it can occur.”

Young, a doctoral student in her department, regards the ELTS conference as a university-based version of what goes on in K-12 schools all the time.

“I like to see what types of engagement activities and program others are doing,” Young says. “I’m always curious about what other educators are doing and how it’s working for them, and that’s what teachers do all the time. We get creative ideas from each other, and if we listen and collaborate, we continue to grow as professionals.”

For more information on the ELTS conference, call (815) 753-8154 or email rkersh@niu.edu.



Getting to Know You: SEED finds creative way to engage freshmen, transfer students

Angie Lobdell

Angie Lobdell

Angie Lobdell knows her way around schools.

When her youngest child was born in 2001, she became a stay-at-home mom. And when that child began kindergarten, she maternally followed.

“I decided to work at the school. I got a job as a para,” Lobdell says. “Later I got a promotion to reading aide – or Title I aide – and I thought, ‘I’m already doing some lesson-planning, and I always wanted to finish college, so let’s just do it.’ ”

Heather Kerfoot found inspiration from one of her oldest son’s former teachers.

“Both of my sons, who are both teenagers, have special ed in their educational lives, and I have seen the great things it can do for students who really need it. I’ve seen it make a big change in their academic abilities and performance,” says Kerfoot, who lives in Naperville.

“There’s one great teacher who really made a difference for my 17-year-old when he was an eighth-grader,” she adds. “In fact, he still communicates with this teacher, and I can’t say enough about what he did for us.”

Roxanne Espinoza’s light bulb moment came long before adulthood.

“I got the wonderful opportunity to do a Partners Club in junior high,” Espinoza says. “They pair you up with a student with a disability, and you do fun activities after school. I just enjoyed the experience. I helped students with disabilities with their homework, and I just loved that.”

Lobdell, Kerfoot and Espinoza have plenty in common.

Toni Van Laarhoven

Toni Van Laarhoven

All are majoring in Special Education. All are transfer students, from Sauk Valley Community College, the College of DuPage and Harper College, respectively.

And all recently earned one credit each in a new course called “Exploring the Special Ed Major,” now required for all students who declare the major.

“For years, everyone has talked about the quality and importance of recruitment and retention,” says Toni Van Laarhoven, Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Special and Early Education.

“In our program – in Special Ed – we’d say the problem was that we never get to reach the freshmen and sophomores, and to pull them in to get to know our program, until they were in their junior year and in the professional block,” she adds.

Van Laarhoven noticed that her licensure candidates in Block 3 (the semester immediately before they begin to student-teach) were largely unaware of amazing resources and opportunities they had all through their NIU careers.

Student organizations. Student Services. The Educate and Engage Program. Undergraduate research. The Learning Center.

“But it was almost too late,” she says, “so we as a faculty started talking about, ‘What are the cool things we would like potential Special Ed majors to know?’ And we just developed this course.”

Coursework includes the making and keeping of one-on-one appointments with academic advisers and with Van Laarhoven herself, who taught the fall class one day a week in a blended face-to-face and online format.

Greg Conderman

Greg Conderman

Students learn about the structure of the program, including the professional blocks, as well as the requirements of getting in and staying in the major. They are told where to find more information on the Educator Licensure Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) as well as tutoring, counseling and more.

They must complete “passport” activities such as locating faculty and departmental offices, meeting Department Chair Greg Conderman and conducting interviews with professors to learn about their academic backgrounds, their daily work and their research interests.

“We also do silly things,” Van Laarhoven says. “They have to go down to the Learning Center and take a selfie of themselves getting coffee. It’s like our best-kept secret: You don’t have to go to the library! There are a lot of things here that are fun.”

Beyond the basics, she says, the course offers comfort and early camaraderie.

“I tell students that we want them to feel like this is their home, and that they can come to any of us at any time,” she says. “They also have to write directions for how to go downstairs, how to find the advisers’ offices and all the way down to the little lounge in the basement of Graham Hall – ways to find all these places where they can belong.”

After piloting the program in Fall 2017, the professor believes the department has earned a gold medal for innovation.

“I could see the students’ eyes lighting up, like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know this was possible,’ or, ‘I’m feeling like I’m so connected already. It makes me feel like I belong,’ ” she says. “For me, it’s just plain fun. I’m even learning about my own peers by hearing some of the interesting facts that the faculty are telling the students.”

Roxanne Espinoza

Roxanne Espinoza

Espinoza, Lobdell and Kerfoot agree.

“You can have anxiety going from a community college straight into a four-year university, and especially into Special Ed, which is such a broad category,” says Espinoza, who is from Schaumburg. “This helps you to look at what’s ahead in the program in terms of, ‘This is what I need to do. This is what I need to prepare for my future.’ ”

With an hour-long commute between campus and her home in Sterling, Lobdell is grateful for being pointed to the free coffee and friendly study environment of the Learning Center. She also enjoyed meeting other transfer students.

“I was very nervous coming from my little community college to Northern; I was only doing that part time and working full time. I finally made the switch this fall,” she says, adding that most of her traditional-age classmates in other courses “weren’t really my peers. Having this class just made me more comfortable.”

Kerfoot, who formerly managed real estate for Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp., calls Van Laarhoven “a great ambassador for the Special Education program.”

“Toni did a great job of getting us entwined in the department – who the professors are, who the head of the department is, meeting a professor and interviewing them, talking with Dr. Conderman,” she says.

Heather Kerfoot

Heather Kerfoot

“One thing I thought was really nice was that you get to meet people who also want to be in Special Ed,” she adds. “Special Ed is a lot more than helping out your kid at home, and if I can help somebody else’s kids the way my kids have been helped, I would love to be a part of that.”

Most of all, Kerfoot gained empowerment during her interview of Associate Professor Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez.

“She primarily works with transitional students between 18 and 21, and that’s something I’m possibly interested in but haven’t committed to yet,” Kerfoot says.

“And as a mom, and especially as a mom of kids who have special education and a disability, I’ve kind of struggled with the idea of, ‘I guess this is what I want to do, but how do I not want to take all these kids home with me?’ ” she adds. “Dr. Rodriguez told me, ‘You’re not there to feel sorry for them. You’re there to help them.’ That really spoke to me. That really made sense. That’s something I can take with me. And it kind of got me past that.”



Graduate Student Association fosters intellectual exchange, builds community within ETRA

Olha Ketsman

Olha Ketsman

Members of the Graduate Student Association of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment are celebrating some good news.

NIU’s Student Association has recognized the ETRA-GSA as an official student association, which allows it to apply for funding to further its monthly workshops and presentations on technology topics

Beyond its professional development activities, ETRA-GSA also provides outreach, mentoring, support and information to benefit its members while serving as a liaison between graduate students and the department.

Olha Ketsman, the group’s faculty adviser, is happy to watch the growth and progress.

“When I joined NIU in August of 2014, ETRA-Graduate Student Association didn’t have an executive board. I worked with the students to form one and to solidify responsibilities of board members,” says Ketsman, a clinical assistant professor of Instructional Technology.

“It’s really rewarding to work with the students, share ideas and see how excited they get about different professional development opportunities,” she adds. “We’re encouraging others to join ETRA-GSA. It’s a nice community.”

ETRA-GSA President Kenie Moses is grateful for “the fortunate pleasure of serving with some of the brightest graduate students here at NIU over the past three years.”

Kenie Moses

Kenie Moses

“Since our organization is probably one of the most diverse organizations here at NIU, I have the opportunity to experience and learn from the diverse views, cultures and ideas that our outstanding graduate students contribute to our organization,” Moses says.

“The mission of the ETRA-GSA is to foster community and intellectual exchange among NIU ETRA graduate students, faculty and alumni,” he adds. “Personally, I enjoy the Coffee Hours that our organization holds bi-monthly or monthly, which attempt to connect our graduate students with information, experiences and new ideas from faculty, employees, sponsors and graduate students from our department as well as other departments and colleges here at NIU.”

David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs in the NIU College of Education, was a recent guest speaker on the topic of applying for and receiving grants. Faculty, ETRA-GSA members and other graduaate students also give presentations on their research.

Many of the members are graduate assistants in the ETRA department, Ketsman says, and find in ETRA-GSA opportunities for networking, advice on applying for jobs and many opportunities for professional growth and development.

“The objective of the ETRA-GSA is to support the interests of current and future ETRA graduate students by promoting scholarly activities and providing leadership, service and social opportunities,” Moses says. “Our organization also provides a unified representation of our members, their concerns and their activities to the department and to the university.”



Exercise Science Club students shine at Abominable Snow Race

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work
with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton’s journey to the foot of a snowy Lake Geneva mountain drew her into the heart of the Abominable Snow Race.

But amid the frigid cold and friendly competition, the senior from Plano found affirmation of her dream to teach Physical Education to elementary school children.

“I helped with the ‘Little Yeti’ race, which was a kid’s version. It was so fun; they were so cute,” says Paxton, who will begin student-teaching in the fall.

More than 100 children from ages 4 to 12 participated in the Jan. 27 event, she says.

“We had six different obstacles. They had to go and run the obstacles, sled down one hill and run up another, sled down another and run across the finish line. They got medals, just like the adults did,” she says. “I was really surprised. It was cold and slippery, but they were determined to do it.”

Paxton joined a dozen classmates in NIU’s Exercise Science Club in making the trip to “The Midwest’s Premier Winter Obstacle Race,” which each year attracts up to 2,700 runners eager to tap into their “inner Yeti.”

Tony Calderala, an academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, arranged for the dozen club members to volunteer along the course and in the “Base Camp” area.

exercise-science-club

After arriving Friday evening in Wisconsin and grabbing some dinner, the Huskies made their way to the Grand Geneva Ski Resort to begin assembling their pegboard obstacle, which challenged racers to go up and over in a test of their athleticism.

“Overall, it went pretty well,” Calderala says. “On Race Day, we got there about 6:30 in the morning, set up our last-minute items, helped in the volunteer tents and at the starting line. All of the students were course marshals for the competition heats; if racers failed an obstacle, we took away one of their three wristbands.”

For an hour after the race, he says, NIU’s pegboard proved a popular and favorite attraction. Many of the racers called it “a great way to practice,” he says.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

“Racers coming off the course wanted to challenge themselves more,” he says. “We had a timing competition – how fast could they do it? Or how many times could they go up and down without touching the ground? Bill Wolfe, the owner of Abominable Snow Race, said, ‘I gotta try it.’ He went for it and did pretty well. We had kids and their parents.”

NIU’s students were able to do some teaching of good race technique – “It’s not all upper-body; it’s about core,” Calderala says – and get first-hand looks at some aspects of sport management.

Among the issues: up-and-down temperatures froze the course overnight from Friday to Saturday; bright sun Saturday morning melted the ice and turned parts of course into mud and slush, snagging ATVs and requiring the distribution of water by foot; some volunteers failed to show.

“We met gym owners and were able to discuss what goes designing these courses: ‘What did you think about when you put it together? Why did you put it together this way?’ They learned that in the construction of these obstacles, they actually think through what this is going to look like and how it’s going to affect an athlete.”

Students also saw some injuries – “ankle sprains, bumps, bruises, nothing serious” – and learned how to help athletes keep going if they need some medical attention.

basecampOwners of the Abominable Snow Race were impressed by NIU’s contributions, which including “filling the void” caused by missing volunteers.

“The feedback from ASR was great,” Calderala says. “They want to do more here at NIU, so we want to see what that looks like and see what we can offer.”