Alumni in Action: Making a Difference

This is the third and final part in a series featuring the value of a cohort-based approach to graduate education.

Dr. Elaine Radmer spent the last two years advising a group in Fernie, British Columbia. The Fernie cohort perfectly highlights the value of Gonzaga’s site-based approach. “All but one of the educators were from a single school district, but that district spans a number of communities,” Dr. Radmer wrote. “Geographically, they are spread along a single highway, but it takes almost two hours to travel between the outermost cities.” Candidates from the cohort have a story to tell about the way the program transformed their educational practices and philosophy.

  • Penny did her capstone on improving the experience for athletes through recognition dinners and social media. This rejuvenated her passion for the role she plays as athletic director. On paper, it seems like a small part of her job, but in reality, it is a huge commitment.  Her capstone work led to many more plans for improvement – coaching clinics, sports camps, etc… Additionally, in an effort to involve the community in sports programs, she created the first alumni basketball game, which has become a highly successful fundraiser.
  • Jill continued her work as leader in school literacy goals, working on a collaborative literacy grant with colleagues. They implemented two school-wide initiatives. The first, “Storm Reads Challenge,” set a school wide goal of reading 500 books (which they exceeded) and featured grade level competitions (Grade 7 read more books than any other grade). The second, “Storm Reads Week,” saw every human in the school spend 15 minutes reading during an assigned time.
  • Leanna implemented the “MindUp” program in Kindergarten/Grade 1 class. It is a social-emotional learning program to teach mindfulness and improve self-regulation. Their class made a Gratefulness tree bulletin board and invited anyone at the school to add a leaf so it would grow over time.
  • Kathy has started to work with Grade 4 through Grade 6 students at her school to apply math in designing a garden housed at the school.
  • Andrew started making movies to highlight student achievement. He started with his own classes, but now has a leadership role across the school — gathering videos and pictures and posting “highlight reels” on school websites.
  • Renee is a Kindergarten teacher who is passionate about student activity levels. She developed and delivered materials to help kids at all grade levels understand options for being active at recess and expectations for their behavior (e.g., problem solving rather than fighting, etc.). Due to her efforts, kids became more active at recess and teachers reported fewer behavioral problems. She also implemented several other school-wide initiatives. She changed the volleyball approach to Triple Ball, which gives younger kids more chances to play and gain skills. To do this, she gained approvals from senior management, and then collaborated with a local college to provide training.  Ultimately, she organized a district tournament that was a hit in the community. She also implemented a Golden Shoe challenge to inspire everyone to ride, bike, scooter, or walk to school.
  • Ian created a collaborative, school-based team that launched an initiative to explore inter-curricular inquiry-driven projects. They changed the bell schedule to create “Inquiry Fridays” for project-based learning. On Fridays, three teachers from different subjects worked together on grade-wide inquiry teams. Ian’s background and expertise as an outdoor education instructor was helpful to support this initiative. In addition, Ian stepped into leadership by organizing activities: staff events, school-wide track-and-field event, and a field trip to Calgary for cultural experience for students in Social Studies and English.
  • After deciding to commission an art piece as a focal point at the school’s entryway, Jane collaborated with the staff and allowed the plan to evolve until the artwork represented the recent combination of two schools into one. She raised over $3,000 for this project. The unveiling will be in the fall. She also wrote a grant for a collaborative project to build a greenhouse at their school. As an inquiry project, students filled out the permit application, drew up plans, and decided how to heat the greenhouse.

Check out our first post in this series:  Alumni in Action: The Elk Valley Arch

Check out our second post in this series: Alumni in Action: The Rainbow Crosswalk Project

Alumni Spotlight: Nickie Lustig, PhD, BCBA, Special Education ’02, ’08

  1. Tell us about yourself: I received both my B.Ed. and M.Ed. in Special Education, 2002 and 2008 respectfully, from Gonzaga University.  I received my PhD in School Psychology from the University of Iowa in August of 2016.
  2. What are you doing now?: I am currently a psychology fellow at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center working in the Biobehavioral and the ABA Early Intervention programs.  I specialize in assessing and treating challenging behaviors that often are associated with autism and other disabilities. I have accepted a position with the Child Development Center in Missoula, MT and I will start in October 2017.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? At the beginning, I just wanted to be at Gonzaga University and I was undecided between majors and academic programs.  I was involved in several sports when I was younger and I thought coaching would eventually be in my future.  Most of my former coaches were teachers so registered for my first education class with Dr. Tim McLaughlin.  I remember loving the discussions in that class and he inspired me to pursue special education.  The next semester, I registered for applied behavior analysis (ABA) with Dr. Randy Williams.  ABA was life changing for me.  Understanding and analyzing the concept of learning through the principles of reinforcement and punishment made intuitive sense to me.  I knew I was in the right program after taking that course!
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga?Each member of the faculty reach out to me, taught me critical skills, and believed in me in different ways throughout my Gonzaga career. Tim was influential in getting me started down the path of special education and for advising throughout my undergrad. Randy was influential in teaching me the foundational principles of ABA and modeling ABA in his teaching. Mark (Derby) was influential by convincing me to pursue my masters at a time when I was so unsure of what to do with my life. Kim (Weber) is influential by modeling leadership and advocacy, not only for the population of students that special educators serve, but for her undergrad and graduate students. Anjali (Barretto) was influential by simultaneously modeling passion for our science and compassion for all the children who walk in our doors.  She was also instrumental in my choice to pursue my PhD at University of Iowa and to work with Dave Wacker. It was the most difficult, but by far the most rewarding choice of my life.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? Gonzaga taught me several valuable lessons two of which come immediately to mind. First, I learned is that Gonzaga will always be a second home and Gonzaga’s faculty, staff, and fellow alumni are family. Between graduating from Gonzaga with my bachelor’s and coming back to earn my master’s, I sustained a life-changing traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation and Deaconess for several weeks. But the time went by fast because I had so many visitors.  Tim and Randy among them.  As soon as I could, I began volunteering at Gonzaga as a rowing assistant coach and would walk across campus to visit the SPED faculty regularly. I was always welcome at Gonzaga! Learning how to navigate the world of disability while showing individuals their true abilities was the second lesson I Iearned at Gonzaga.  From writing an individual education plan (IEP) to researching rare genetic syndromes, I learned that that the word “disability” is multi-faceted.  At the same time, every individual has amazing abilities.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? Strength:  Seeing the growth in a child and showing parents their child’s strengths through your data. For example, I recently saw a 5-year-old girl with destructive behavior. Her mother just wanted to keep her safe.  We implemented a play intervention to teach her to play with her toys instead of throwing them and the outcomes were successful. Her mother was brought to tears when she saw her daughter playing and said, “she has never done that before!”Challenge:  Keeping up with the need.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? Making quality services more accessible.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals?  “When in doubt… persist, don’t punt.” A quote from Dave Wacker.

Alumni in Action: The Rainbow Crosswalk project

This is the second part in a series featuring the value of a cohort-based approach to graduate education.

Dr. Elaine Radmer spent the last two years advising a group in Fernie, British Columbia. The Fernie cohort perfectly highlights the value of Gonzaga’s site-based approach. “All but one of the educators were from a single school district, but that district spans a number of communities,” Dr. Radmer wrote. “Geographically, they are spread along a single highway, but it takes almost two hours to travel between the outermost cities.”

The Rainbow Crosswalk in Fernie. Shared from e-know.ca

Inspired to undertake additional project with students to improve their communities, Tara and Janet spearheaded the Rainbow Crosswalk project in Fernie, BC. In her role supervising the Student Council, Tara was able to mobilize the students. The project unfolded over months, as community experts came to school, students taught lessons to peers, and they presented to school and city boards. The project culminated with the painting of a crosswalk by the high school and four additional crosswalks in the downtown area to promote inclusion. Local media covered the project:

http://www.summit107.com/news/east-kootenay-news/six-rainbow-crosswalks-to-be-painted-by-fernie-high-school-students/

https://www.e-know.ca/regions/elk-valley/fernie/first-rainbow-crosswalk-opened/

 

Check out our first post in the series: Alumni in Action: The Elk Valley Arch

Alumni Spotlight: Scott Kasenga, Principal Certification, ’16

In the Spring of 2016, I earned the Principal/Program Administrator Certificate led by Dr. Cynthia Johnson. As a result of positive support and a rigorous training, I am the first Assistant High School Principal at College Place HIgh School in College Place, WA. Craig McKee, who graduated from the program two years earlier introduced me to Gonzaga . He spoke highly about the standards that the programs holds their students accountable, the support given to their students while attending the program, and the program’s leadership.

The instruction and guidance provided by Dr. Cynthia Johnson and Jim Whitford helped me tremendously during my adjustment out of the classroom and into the front office. As a first year administrator, Dr. Johnson has reached out to me to assist with this year’s cohort and Jim Whitford has stopped by my high school twice to make sure I was settling into my new position with relative ease.

One of the greatest lessons learned while attending Gonzaga is how to work collaboratively, because education’s greatest resource is others in our field. We can solve all our current issues if given enough time to first empathize an issue, create a definition, ideate possible solutions while building a prototype, and finally testing and evaluating our results. If we can provide the resource of time mixed with the experience of other educators most educational issues can be contained. Working with my colleagues for the betterment of the students has become my best part of my day, because the most challenging aspect has always been a meeting to set up a meeting. Any system can be infected with the bureaucracy. Part of my vision as an educational leader is to support those with a great idea. The idea needs to get into the classroom while the burning inspiration is still ablaze.

I want to raise the public perception of teachers in our society. I have worked with two highly dedicated and motivated school districts in my career, and in both always felt overworked, but this is the profession we have chosen. I want acknowledgement through accolades and compensation through funds showered on our current educators. Only then will the profession be viewed on the same level as other occupations in our society. However, this vocation can offer the most rewards you could ever imagine! Once a professional educator develops relational trust with all their stakeholders, colleagues, students, and parents, true success follows. Know what your strengths are and play to them while recognizing and developing your areas of concern.

Welcome from Dean Alfonso

Greetings and welcome to the inaugural Gonzaga University School of Education (SOE) e-newsletter. Through this medium, I hope to keep you apprised of our initiatives, which are based on mission and vision, and build community with you: our students, friends, alumni, and colleagues around the world.

As we begin another academic year, and I begin my fifth year as Dean of the SOE, I see our initiatives coming to fruition faster than ever before. Our school, guided by our strategic plan, continues to transform in ways that allow us to serve our students and community all year round. However, we are far from finished and have much more to accomplish in the months and years ahead.

The stories in this e-newsletter provide only a brief glimpse of what is happening in the SOE. Please visit our website at www.gonzaga.edu/soe and our blog at http://blogs.gonzaga.edu/soe/ for more stories, events, and celebrations. Thanks for being a part of the SOE!

Alumni in Action: The Elk Valley Arch

This is the first part in a series featuring the value of a cohort-based approach to graduate education.

The Department of Leadership & Administration is celebrating the 40-year anniversary of our Master’s programs in Canada. For four decades, the department has formed cohorts of working educators in their locales, and applied course content and assignments in their professional settings. Graduates of our Master’s programs have consistently reported that the program changed their life.

Dr. Elaine Radmer spent the last two years advising a group in Fernie, British Columbia. The Fernie cohort perfectly highlights the value of Gonzaga’s site-based approach. “All but one of the educators were from a single school district, but that district spans a number of communities,” Dr. Radmer wrote. “Geographically, they are spread along a single highway, but it takes almost two hours to travel between the outermost cities.”

In many ways, the Fernie cohort is very typical for our programs.  Their coursework structured for application in our students’ professional work, so at the end of their program, they have a list of accomplishments advanced by their involvement in the program.  Graduates often tell us that the program modeled experiential education for them. Faculty think of it as Ignatian pedagogy.

Our latest Fernie cohort’s graduation year coincided with another celebration: Canada 150 (a provincial change to the curriculum structure. Their district responded to B.C.’s new curriculum by encouraging project-based learning. Inspired by the cohort’s collaboration, their instructors, and the program content, some of our candidates decided to facilitate students in a project that would memorialize Canada 150 and represent unity among different schools who typically only compete in sports. Thus, the Elk Valley Arch project came to realization.

The Elk Valley Arch. Shared from elkvalleyarch.com

One of the candidates in the cohort, Steve, envisioned and spearheaded this major inter-provincial project, involving four schools to design, build, and erect 14’ x 16’ cedar archway at the top of mountain pass on Alberta/B.C. border. The story and images of the 3,000 kg arch are on a student-launched website, which was part of the learning embedded in the project: https://elkvalleyarch.com/.

Preparation spanned 10 months. Steve wrote 10 grants, raising $23,000 for the project. He involved colleagues, administration, School Board, government officials and private business people. They were able to obtain permissions to build the structure on crown land leased by a hydro company.

Students in a number of classes at the different schools were involved in designing, creating and transporting the memorial. In Sparwood, Social Studies and Grade 5 students helped identify symbols of the valley. The metal shop built a cart to haul the massive logs up mountain. The Woods class worked on the scaffold. Foods classes prepared granola for students to eat while camping, etc…

Students also played leadership roles in Elkford. Students presented the concept to the Town Council, informed the media and newspaper, and sought out businesses and volunteers willing to support the project.

Seven staff from 3 different schools, 5 volunteers, and 20 students moved the wood up the mountain by hand, and then constructed the arch. Local media covered the Arch. Additionally, a group of students participated in a 3-day outdoor education program, camping on the mountain.

New Programs Bring New Opportunities

Over the last few years, our departments have worked to create dynamic, new offerings that meet the demands of the ever-changing world. This required comprehensive reviews of our current curriculum, identification and development of new material, and the willingness to evolve to stay ahead of the curve. The dedication and effort of our faculty is apparent as we are launching two new programs in the coming year: our Doctor of Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) and Master of Education in Educational Leadership (online).The new programs increase our program offerings to 3 Undergraduate majors and 16 Graduate or Doctoral options across five academic departments.

  • Our Ed.D., housed in the Department of Educational Leadership & Administration, will enroll the first cohort in Summer 2018. This 51-credit hybrid program prepares candidates for administrative, academic, professional, and research positions in education, civil organizations, private organizations, and public institutions. In American universities, the Ed.D. is recognized as qualification for appointment as a professor.
  • Our Master of Education in Educational Leadership (online), also housed in the Department of Educational Leadership & Administration, will enroll the first cohort in Summer 2018. This degree is designed for working educators, with a focus on linking theory and research to practical issues in teaching and leadership using their local districts as the context for their study.  Students are welcomed into an online cohort of educators and experience the benefits of a collaborative learning community delivered in a dynamic, fostering environment.

The application for admission to each program is open and we are already reviewing potential candidates’ applications. Spread the word: Apply Today!

DELA Celebrates 40 Years in Canada

For 40 years, the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration (DELA) has provided high quality masters programs across British Columbia (BC) and Alberta (AB), graduating knowledgeable, skilled, and committed leaders who operate from a strong value base. This year marked the 40th anniversary of program offerings in Canada, and three celebrations were held across the provinces over the summer. Faculty, alumni, and friends of the program united in Victoria, BC; Kelowna, BC; and Calgary, AB, for food, fellowship, and festivity. “The impact of our graduates reaches nearly everywhere across BC and AB,” Dean Alfonso remarked. “We are proud to celebrate our alumni and our department on this impressive milestone.”

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

40th Anniversary Celebration in Kelowna, BC.

Alumni Spotlight: Gane’ Bourgeois, Principal Certification, ’16

  1. Tell us about yourself:  My name is Gane’ Bourgeois, and I received my certification in Educational Administration/Leadership from the Principal Certification Program. We, our cohort, graduated in May, 2016.
  2. What are you doing now?: For the last six years, I have served as the Educational Director for the Madison House, a youth organization run by the Yakima Union Gospel Mission. I chose to remain in my role for an additional year to serve the students in our program, whom I’ve known and mentored for over 20 years. I recently accepted a position as the Assistant Principal at Wilson Middle School, in the Yakima School District, for the 2017-2018 school year.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? Gonzaga University is well-respected in the field of education, known for having an excellent program with high standards, talented faculty, and focused on bringing quality educators/leaders into the field.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? Dr. Cynthia Johnson was instrumental in helping all of us become successful. While she has extremely high expectations, she treated us with respect, and helped us keep our goal in mind. Dr. Johnson loves her school, and is a proud Bulldog. She made sure that we were well “decorated” in GU emblems for our future offices, as each graduating principal enters our new roles as administrators with a professional folio marked “Gonzaga University Educational Leadership” on the front. “Expecting” mothers and fathers received Gonzaga “onesies” to celebrate the new births that took place during our cohort year. She helped us become a supportive family, and her friendliness kept us “human” during our tough program.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? My greatest lesson learned from my specific program at Gonzaga was that ANYONE can do ANYTHING for a year, but doing it well is the challenge.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? The most rewarding aspect of working in the field of education, and in my position as an educator in a youth non-profit organization, is watching students make something of their dreams. When my students turn their dreams into goals and then go after them, it is so powerful.  The most difficult aspect of being a part of this field is helping students understand that success doesn’t come easily, all the time; and when they fail, helping them get up is difficult, but necessary.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? I’m worried that educational professionals have become swept-up in a current of negativity. This has been caused by several factors; and though it is fairly easy to focus on things that distract us, we cannot lose sight of the reason why we do what we do…a successful future for our students.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals?
    1. In whatever role you acquire, give yourself at least two years; one to keep your lips above the water-line, and the second to actually do the work. Then decide if you like what you do.
    2. Find balance; this field will take every second of time that you have. The work will still be there tomorrow, but people may not be.
    3. Don’t be afraid to laugh…especially at yourself. This might be the only action that keeps you from “crazy”, on some days.

Alumni Spotlight: Tiffany Hawkins, Leadership & Administration, ’17

  1. Tell us about yourself: My name is Tiffany Hawkins and I completed a Master of Education in Leadership & Administration ’17
  2. What are you doing now?: I currently serve as a Vice Principal.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? I chose Gonzaga’s program in order to become a vice principal and eventually a principal. The program came highly recommended by Gonzaga graduates as the best professional development they had participated in. It was offered in Kamloops, so I didn’t have to do any courses remotely or by correspondence. The work and opportunity to study with colleagues expanded and challenged my professional capacity and opened new career paths for me.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? The closeness of our cohort. Even when you are exhausted at the end of the week and you have class at 4:30pm, by being with the group, I was re-energized as well as cared for. We laughed, cried, and got frustrated together. It was very powerful! Several of our professors cared about our well-being just as much or even more than our assignments. This allowed me to want to do well and push forward even though sometimes it felt impossible!
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? Time management and learning to prioritize items. Professional growth and learning does not stop at the end of the program. It has lead me to continue with learning through professional conversations and readings. I look forward to what else I can learn!!
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? Students growing emotionally due to the relationship that I worked to develop with them – being able to trust and begin to change their attitudes and negative behaviour. Relationships with staff – I find I am very strong in this area, which allows me to provide support as well as the ability to being the instructional leadership aspect of my job. The most challenging issue was being able to support children and families that are difficult to help. The issues can range from stating that they do not need help to the school and community providing excellent supports, but the family is not taking these lessons to help their family grow emotionally. As a result, the students struggle to function at school because they are not ready to learn due to instability at home.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? We need to have counsellors at the elementary school level. We have many students entering our school with significant mental health issues that go above and beyond our abilities as teachers and administrators. These issues are not limited to our inner city schools. This can be found at any school in any area.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? This field is extremely rewarding even when it feels overwhelming or it seems like you will not make it. During the process, make sure you have a strong support group, manage your time, and make sure you also take care of yourself. At the end of the day, if you are not well, you will not be successful. Do want you enjoy. Challenge the norm and yourself. It may be messy and uncomfortable, but the end result will be very rewarding.
« Older posts