Alumni Spotlight: Megan Finnerty, Teacher Education, ’16

  1. Tell us about yourself: Megan Finnerty, BA in Sociology (2015) and a Masters in Initial Teaching (2016).
  2. What are you doing now?: Kindergarten teacher, moving on to First grade next year.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? I knew I would graduate with the credentials and confidence to become an effective teacher.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? As an undergrad entering into the elementary education certification, John Traynor assisted me in creating a 4 year plan. He helped me realize that I could graduate in 3 years and get back to teaching while receiving my Masters degree for my final year a GU. He aided in my success in becoming a highly qualified teacher. That being said, the faculty in the Gonzaga School of Education is top notch. I am forever grateful for the information and life lessons that I was taught while at GU.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? The notion of assuming the best in a person. Whether it be a challenging student, a trying parent or even an uneasy coworker, the idea of seeing the best in that person helps in every situation. We all have our daily struggles or personal situations, knowing that I can assume the best and hope for positivity has made me an understanding educator and leader.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?Most rewarding: ah-ha moments! Seeing my students reading with budding confidence or hearing them say “I get it!” when solving a new math equation.Most challenging: giving all students the attention they deserve. So often students that are challenging behaviorally or academically steal the spotlight. However, I think every student needs equal attention and one on one interaction.
  7. What advice do you have for future education professionals? This career is hard work but so incredibly rewarding. You are able to impact children’s lives which I think is the best gift you can give. Have fun and work hard, your students deserve it!

Patrick O’Rourke, 2017 Wardian Award Recipient

I have the distinct privilege to present to Patrick O’Rourke the 2017 Wardian Student Leadership Award. This award represents evidence of excellent scholastic achievements and a commitment to education through leadership, service, and integrity of character. I cannot think of a better person in our Sport Management program that is more deserving of this award than Patrick.

I am lucky to have had Patrick in multiple classes and I have also served as his academic advisor. Patrick is the ideal student: he is a pleasure to have in class, always has a smile on his face, and is excited to learn and ask questions to expand his knowledge. He works great collaboratively with his fellow classmates and works hard to get the most out of his education. He also takes advantage of opportunities to further his career in sports. For example, this past spring break he went with Dr. Jimmy Smith and other students to Phoenix, AZ, to meet with professionals in baseball and hockey Pro team.

Dr. Smith had this to say:

“It is wonderful to see a student like Patrick care so much about his academic career through constant engagement with his peers and professors, and invest in his future career by traveling on the Sport Management experiential opportunity to Phoenix. Any organization will be lucky to hire Patrick.”

Dr. Karen Rickel adds that “Patrick is a leader in the classroom and in the community and will have a positive impact wherever he goes after graduation.”

In his time at Gonzaga, Patrick completed two internships: one with Hoopfest (as the Public Relations and Marketing intern) and one with the football program at Eastern Washington University. He is currently applying for various graduate programs and sports positions within major league sports.

There is no doubt in my mind that Patrick will graduate and go on to accomplish great things. It has been a pleasure to have spent the last four years with Patrick and I can’t wait to hear what his future entails! Congratulations Patrick on the 2017 Wardian Leadership award.

-Dr. Heidi Nordstrom

Alumni Spotlight: Christina Gauley, Leadership & Administration, ’17

  1. Tell us about yourself: Christina Gauley, M.Ed Leadership & Administration, class of 2017.
  2. What are you doing now?: I am currently a Fine Arts Specialist teaching at South Sahali Elementary in Kamloops, BC. I teach all students K-7.  I am moving into a new role as District Fine Arts Coordinator, beginning in September 2017.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? I originally hesitated to choose a program that I thought was gearing me into Administration, since that was not my intended path. I chose to apply to Gonzaga because I had heard from other teachers in Kamloops, including Music Specialists, who found the program to be extremely beneficial regardless of how one intends to pursue leadership.  I love that Gonzaga manages to create a cohort-based classroom for distance education; it is a marvelous way to provide the support and community needed for taking on this kind of degree.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? My thesis advisor, Dan, is one of the most outstanding teachers I have ever met. I was constantly amazed at his quiet ability to get us to do what seemed originally like an insurmountable task.  I feel so grateful for his faith in me that I could find the inner strength to take on the challenges I’ve faced in the last few years, and in his support of all of us in our cohort.  Also, the discussion and perspective I have gained from working so closely with 12 other educators, and from tackling difficult subjects honestly, without holding back, has allowed me unexpected growth. I feel so lucky to have gained the insight and expertise from the rest of my cohort.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? In my undergrad studies, I was a very successful crammer. I procrastinated projects, essays, and studying for exams, and then locked myself in the library until I had produced something I deemed worthy of handing in.  I was frightened at the start of this program, because I knew that I couldn’t do that.  I work full-time, and I am a single mother of three young children – there could be no all-nighters.  There was no way I could lock myself in the library; assignment deadlines would overlap with report cards, kids would get the flu, life would be difficult, and I would still have to make it work.  In one of our first courses, one of our professors said something that I took as gospel and used unfailingly throughout the program:  “Write one sentence every day.”  So I did.  Usually the one sentence turned into more, but on the toughest days, one sentence was all I could handle.  But I didn’t miss a day, and I didn’t miss a deadline.  My children still felt loved, and I managed to earn my masters degree by following that simple guideline.  So my most valuable lesson is that it turns out you can actually climb a mountain one step at a time.  You literally just have to keep walking, and it actually gets done.   It is such a liberating truth to learn.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? The most rewarding aspect is to see joy and pride on the faces of children who have succeeded in creating something that they didn’t think they could do. Teaching music and performing arts, I encounter a lot of kids who think that they just ‘aren’t musical,’ and I love taking that challenge on to find out what they actually love about music, and hook them into loving more.  The most challenging thing is living and working in a culture that undervalues the arts.  Many school boards and governments pay lip service to appreciating the arts but when it comes down to it, our North American culture sees the arts as a delightful extra, a piece of dessert but not a meal in itself.  Arts advocates link musical study to improved literacy skills in an attempt to ‘legitimize’ studies in the arts, but in doing so we contribute to the problem: do you see reading teachers convincing parents of the importance of literacy so that it improves their piano skills?  Of course not.  I don’t mean to belittle the importance of reading, so much as point out that the study of the arts is important because music, drama, dance, and art are part of what it means to be human.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? Part of what I am excited about in my new position next year as District Fine Arts Coordinator is to work with general classroom teachers in infusing their classrooms with music, drama, dance, and art. I am hopeful that as more general teachers incorporate arts studies into their classrooms, our culture can begin to see the way the arts influence everything that we do.  I am also excited to work with specialist teachers in helping them become stronger advocates for arts education, and help them inspire colleagues to collaborate and weave arts into other areas, rather than quarantining them to the theatre, dance studio and music room.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Find what you love about your job; what you value the most. Do the soul-searching required to know the deep answer to that question, because once you know what you really care about, decisions become so much easier.  Every choice can be boiled down to those core values, and once it’s all aligned, it’s so much easier to see the path ahead. It is totally hard work to figure it out, and it may get kind of messy. But it is completely worth it. Know what you love, and make it happen.

Taylor Cooke, 2017 Wardian Award Recipient

In my role as a faculty member, I teach foundational courses in our program.  I teach nearly all of the candidates that come through our program but I catch them early in their time with us, so I get to see the raw potential in many candidates. It is always exciting when the nominations for this award come around because I get to hear about the accomplishments they have achieved since they left my classroom.  For some, a great deal of potential is realized in the years after I have had them in class.

Such is the case with this year’s recipient, Taylor Cooke.  Here is what people she worked with her in the years since my class have said about her.

From Kathy Nitta, who taught her in several methods classes:

“Taylor took a stance of inquiry in considering theories and research-based strategies.  She would ask insightful questions and connect readings and course materials with her field experience.  She exhibited a willingness to share her thinking with her cohort. Her cohort saw her as a leader and would often ask her questions and seek her feedback.”

Kathy also supervised Taylor in the Extended Learning Opportunity program at Holmes. Taylor took a leadership role at the winter session of ELO and then continued in the Spring. She designed STEM activities for the session and she supported her MIT cohort in implementing those activities. The other service learning students looked up to Taylor as a great support.

From Dr. Deborah Nieding, a faculty member who taught Taylor methods and strategies Courses:

“Taylor took 4 classes from me as a graduate student and her work was outstanding.  Taylor set a high standard, which exceeded the stated expectations and always turned her work in on time or before the due date.  Taylor consistently served as a resource to her peers in the cohort.”

Dr. Nieding also worked with Taylor as Taylor took on responsibilities with Kappa Delta Pi, our Educational Honor society. “I worked closely with Taylor while she was an undergraduate and served as the treasurer of KDP.  She was dependable and competent.  She followed up on all the details involved in KDP as the treasurer and as an officer.  Taylor was also instrumental in the first Camp Rosauer that we hosted.”

Taylor’s passion for service to others is apparent in all that she does whether it is helping her colleagues, coaching, teaching and volunteering.  She embodies servant leadership. From her field supervisor Gwen Sanders upon hearing the news that Taylor had won the award: Wow… how wonderful for Taylor!!! My impressions of her are: quietly confident, humble, appreciative. Taylor sees the need for some school/curricula reforms and quietly yet effectively works toward that in her teaching. Yay for Taylor!!!”

Her cooperating teacher commented: “I have witnessed so many leadership qualities in Taylor and am so excited that she has been selected for the leadership award.  She has shown confidence, focus, persistence, decisiveness, inspiration, integrity, passion, positivity, and accountability. Her keen ability to spot problems in learning and find innovative ways to bridge the learning gap for all students is amazing.” 

Furthermore, she added: “Sometimes I have to remind myself that Taylor is a student teacher. I know that she will be a phenomenal leader.”

Last but certainly not least are comments from her students. The prompt offered was:

What makes Miss Cooke a great teacher?

Evelina wrote: She lets us skip math when we don’t know what to do. She is nice.

Ava wrote: She works hard, she’s nice.

Christian wrote: She is nice, she is cool.

Through a qualitative research lens, I am beginning to see a pattern here.

Zach adds:  She is nice and always having fun.

And finally my favorite:

Aalyiah writes:  If it is not a spelling test she will help us.

Congratulations Taylor on winning this year’s Wardian award for educational leadership.

-Dr. Jonas Cox

Alumni Spotlight: Ziyba Ibragimova, Leadership & Administration, ’15

  1. Tell us about yourself: My name is Ziyba Ibragimova. I received an M.Ed in Leadership & Administration in August of 2015
  2. What are you doing now?: I have started my own enterprise called One Small World Trainings. I offer workshops on cultural competence and cultural awareness for both mainstream Canadian groups or organizations and immigrant/refugee groups. I also offer mental health wellness workshops for immigrant/refugee groups.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? Gonzaga has a history in my area of offering reputable Masters level programs.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? My advisor and at times instructor, Dan Mahoney, was the greatest influence on me. His genuine caring for all of us, patience, understanding, and willingness to teach us how to do things right rather than just give a grade was truly admirable. He is an authentic leader who is not driven by his ego. I don’t believe anyone anywhere could have done a more complete or excellent job.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? Through various presentations in most of our classes, I developed my creativity and confidence in going outside the norm.  My goal was always to appeal to the audience.  I wasn’t much aware of my own capacity for this until I did my Master’s. In general, my experience with Gonzaga helped me believe in myself and see the sky as the limit.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? The most rewarding aspect is the hope that I may make a difference in bringing people together. Being invited into the lived reality of immigrants and refugees is a privilege that teaches me in many ways. The challenge is to stay open to seeing what is needed and what will work to bring about the well-being of others.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? In terms of immigrants and refugees, very little is happening to integrate each into mainstream society both emotionally and in awareness. Similarly, nothing is being done to help mainstream society understand the newcomers. Hence, there are divisions and lack of trust that need not be there. Right now I am working with Syrian women, and being with them, understanding them, feeling accepted by them and seeing their challenges to integrate into Canadian society is fulfilling and enlightening. Expanding this work to other communities and to mainstream Canadians is not easy.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Go outside your comfort zone. Recognize that finding a new understanding of oneself is exciting and strengthening. Be creative in every venture.

Alumni Spotlight: Michaela Jones, Special Education ’13

  1. Tell us about yourself: Michaela Jones, B.Ed. in Special Education, class of 2013.
  2. What are you doing now? I currently teach 3rd grade at a Title I school in Spokane.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? When I entered Gonzaga as a freshman, I thought I wanted to be a primary science specialist, so I signed up for the elementary endorsement (majoring in biology).  About two weeks into my Intro to Special Ed course, I realized that I was way more passionate about teaching neurodivergent kids than I was about science, so I switched into the Special Ed program, and have never looked back!
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? I think the biggest influence at GU was the culture of community.  Whether it was a study session that got way off-task with my Honors class, a collaborative project for a philosophy course, or helping each other figure out how to graph data for a case study in Rosauer Lab, I was always surrounded by people with different schema and life stories who pushed me to “shape up or ship out” ideas, beliefs, and habits that have made me — ready for the Zag buzzword? — the authentic citizen I aim to be every day.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? Do I have to pick just one?  I’d have to say that one lesson that I mastered at Gonzaga comes from the quote: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”  Interaction after interaction on campus – with peers, with professors, with District 81 students- knocked me down and picked me back up, better for the dust and wear.  I learned to seek out the edges of and to love conquering what was outside my comfort zone.  Now that I spend my days surrounded by 8 and 9 year olds, it’s a great skill to have!
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? In order to reply about the most rewarding and challenging aspects of teaching in Title I, I must again share someone else’s words. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”  The most rewarding aspect of working in my field is every moment a child’s face lights up with love, when they are so excited to share life with me and the belief that they MATTER shines through their story.  Sometimes that moment happens over academics, sometimes it’s over basketball, chess, or a chance encounter on the way to the restroom. The injustice of just how crucial these moments are is the most challenging aspect of teaching.  We work so continuously with our families and community to surround all of our children with support, and bureaucracy bowls over those efforts.  It’s hard to listen to the media report that state and national politicians say there’s not enough funds for education on one hand, but that there will be millions cut further from initiatives and programs such as subsidized lunch.  It shouldn’t be an outrage, a battle, to provide our children with these moments of pride and resilience, yet priorities set by those who are unaffected make it one.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? The list of critical issues in education could fill pages: smaller class size, more mental health services on site, better social emotional learning, decision making that reinstates professionalism for educators, less emphasis on standardized testing… At the end of the page, though, the critical issues boil down to this: if we agreed at a bureaucratic level to train all staff in data-verified strategies for growth of the whole child, and to fund programs based on research-driven effectiveness rather than on philosophical and anecdotal theories, I think the balance of trust in education and emphasis on child-focused interactions would be restored.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Self-care is an ethical responsibility.  Someone somewhere said that educators are candles who use themselves up to light the flames of others.  It’s lies and slander and a perpetuating ethos that is a real cause for the stat that 50% of new teachers leave the field within 5 years.  Know your contract rights.  Take lunch without meetings.  Give yourself grace- always- but work like mad the first couple of years to develop routines so you can find a place where you leave work without taking grading home every night.  Save lesson plans and tasks to tweak and reuse next year.  The wheel has already been invented– share with your colleagues! Weekends are a sacred time to rest.  Develop relationship with your colleagues outside of shop talk.  Learn a new hobby; master it, and pick up a new one.  Actively participate in school functions and committees where decisions are made, but practice saying no when your plate is already balanced.  Develop daily, weekly, and monthly habits of refreshment for your body.  Read for fun during the school year.  Say yes to adventure as it comes.  Matt Haig wrote that a quark is not the smallest particle in the universe; the regret at one’s deathbed for not spending more time at work is.  Children are the most important work there is.  They deserve passionate and interesting adults to model a well-rounded life and guide them.


Emily Clary, 2017 Wardian Award Recipient

The School Counseling program is excited to present Emily Clary with the 2017 Wardian Leadership Award.

Leadership is an important part of a school counselor’s role.  We work to prepare our students to navigate the complex systems and circumstances that exist within a school community, and develop leaders who are willing to think creatively, take initiative, identify partnerships, engage in advocacy, and work effectively and efficiently to meet the vast need of students and families.

Emily already demonstrates these skills.  I’m going to share about how she does this within her school cohort here at Gonzaga, at Garry Middle School her internship site, and within the school counseling profession.

At school, her peers said the following about her:

“Emily exudes passionate leadership. She has such a genuine presence, and people are drawn to her. It has been such a pleasure working with her over these last two years, and I am certain she will do great things in the years to come. I have personally been so inspired by her commitment and passion for the school counseling field and all it stands for. Her integrity, dependability and confidence are admirable. She puts her all into every task she takes on, and she never shies away from a challenge. I cherish the time we have had together, and I look forward to calling on her as a friend and colleague in the future.”

Another said:

“When I think about Emily I immediately think about how compassionate, confident, dedicated and goofy she is.  She has a warm heart that she wears on her sleeve, paired with a smile that lights up the room.  She is genuine and charismatic.  She is a great leader and a thoughtful listener.  I admire her ability to take the initiative to add comments or ask questions no matter what the class or topic may be.  Emily adds to the classroom dynamic in a positive way and our cohort would not be the same without her.”


“When I think of Emily, I think of an energetic and passionate leader committed to the entire school counseling community including her students, classmates, and fellow educators. Emily is an authentic individual who doesn’t shy away from asking hard questions or sharing her own experiences. She is a role model for both her students and her peers!”

At Garry Middle has served a diverse student population.  In these efforts, Emily has worked closely with Jo, the mental health therapist (this has been a running joke in the cohort).  I reached out to Jo and she shared the following:

“Emily is kind, positive, energetic, and radiates an openness that has enabled her to connect with students on a level that facilitates proven growth.  It warms my heart to see students knocking at Emily’s door, asking when they can see her for an appointment or showing such excitement to share what they are learning and what they’ve accomplished.  Emily’s presence at school has been invaluable and her dedication, knowledge and personal contribution to our field of counseling and for our students will be greatly missed.”

During her time at Garry, Emily also engaged with the HIllyard Youth Collaborative, a community/school partnership that works to provide additional supports to students.  Within this project, Emily identified 26 students who needed additional assistance – these students struggled with attendance, finding a positive connection at school, and demonstrated behaviors.  In thinking about how to serve this number of students most efficiently, Emily partnered with teacher education candidates from Dr. John Traynor’s “Teaching in the Middle School” class.  Emily provided training to these future teachers on the role of the contemporary school counselor, the importance of teacher/counselor partnership, and small group facilitation.  Following this, Emily and the teacher education candidates, provided a small group experience on the topic of growth mindset to the group of students at Garry, with teacher education candidates facilitating the discussions and Emily developing the weekly curriculum and overall supervision.  This creative strategy is an example of effective partnership and leadership within the schools, while also educating others about the role of a school counselor.

Following this experience, a teacher education candidate reported the following:

“This project has made me realize that counselors don’t just sit in their offices all day and talk with students and parents.  They do so much more like creating this program and others like it to provide further support for students.  I’ve also learned the value of keeping in constant communication with the school counselor who can enlighten you on a student’s situation and provide you with support and resources to effectively teach.”

Along with this experience of professional leadership and advocacy, Emily has also presented with faculty at the American Counseling Association conference in Montreal, as well as several Washington School Counseling Association annual conferences.  Her identity is passionately grounded in school counseling.

It is for these and many reasons that we honor Emily with this award.

-Dr. Addy Wissel

Sport Management Panel Offers Majors Real World Exposure

The Department of Sport and Physical Education partnered with the Career and Professional Development office to host a Sport Management Panel Discussion. The goal was to have students hear firsthand from those working in a variety of sport career fields. Dr. Heidi Nordstrom organized the event on behalf of the department.

Panelists included: Jay Stewart, VP of Sponsorships for the Spokane Chiefs; Bailee Neyland, Director of Brand Strategy & Business Development for Spokane Hoopfest; Josh Roys, VP of Development for the Spokane Indians; Eric Sawyer, President/CEO of the Spokane Sports Commission; Ashley Blake, Director of Sports for the Spokane Sports Commission; and Shane Santman, VP of Sales for the Tacoma Rainiers.

Many questions were asked of the panelists. Topics included: education paths to reach current positions; important lessons learned in their particular field; advice on transitioning from college to sport careers; and what panelists look for when hiring potential employees and interns.

Students and attendees enjoyed the chance to hear from sport professionals. Below are a few key points that students said they found important after the panel discussion:

  • “Networking and creating great relationships with those in your field is vitally important.”
  • “Research the organization to which you are applying. Understanding the mission and culture are the key to success in an application and interview.”
  • “Once you land your first job, don’t relax. You have to work very hard to show they made the right hire.”
  • “Take internships seriously, your supervisor could one day be the connection you need for a job.”
  • “If you make a mistake, own up to it, and figure out how to make it right. We are all going to mistakes at some point.”
  • “Be authentic and be able to articulate yourself well during an interview.”

Dr. Nordstrom explained that, “It is important for our students to hear from sport professionals, it reiterates what we are teaching them in the classroom. The panel discussion was a great way for our department and our students to network with the many great sport organizations in Spokane, as well as the west side of the state.”

Sam Brown, 2017 Wardian Award Recipient

Sam Brown receives the Wardian Award from department chair, Kristen Kavon.

It is my pleasure to present Sam Brown for the Jeanne Foster Wardian Student Leadership Award. This award represents evidence of excellent scholastic achievements, disciplinary competence, commitment to education through service, and integrity of character.

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Kristy Heline (’12, M.Ed) has passed Zag Fever on to her 5th graders at St. Madeleine-Sophie School in Bellevue, where her students demonstrate their hopes to be part of the Class of 2028!

Learn about what makes her school special and why so many School of Education graduates want to teach there:

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