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2019 ITBE Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

JoAnna SmithThe Illinois Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages-Bilingual Education (TESOL Committee awards two graduate scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each, and two undergraduate scholarships in the amount of $500 each, in honor of Jane Curtis.

JoAnna Smith, Wheaton College Education major was the recipient of a $500 undergraduate scholarship awarded at the 44th annual statewide conference February 22, 2019, in Lisle, IL.

Along with this cash award, JoAnna also received one of ten Professional Development Scholarships to attend the annual ITBE convention. JoAnna is seeking an ESL teaching endorsement, are an excellent student and a current member of Illinois TESOL, which qualified her for this scholarship.

JoAnna Smith on the left pictured here with Marie, Friesema, the convention chair and Director of Race Track Chaplaincy of America.

Life Beyond Wheaton: Dr. Eckert's Role in Professional Development

Contributed by Jozua Van Bakel '19

Prof. John Eckert leading seminar

Professor Eckert is a passionate professor about educational policy, teaching quality, and leadership development. During this past semester, Dr. Eckert taught EDUC 201: U.S. Education Policy, an in-depth analysis of America’s overarching school policies and their implications for the schoolroom, as well as EDUC 306: Classroom Communication and Curriculum Integration, a rigorous preparation course for teaching effectiveness. Both classes broadened Wheaton student’s perspectives about their roles, responsibilities, and responses in their classroom context and their school contexts. He enjoys equipping his students with effective teaching tools and practices in order for them to help them become effective teachers.

Beyond his role at Wheaton College, Dr. Eckert assists states, districts, and individual schools across the country in their professional and leadership development. He meets with administrators and teachers from public and private schools in states such as California, New York, Texas, and South Carolina and facilitates a conversation about school improvement. He essentially asks, “What is one improvement goal for your school?” He encourages leadership teams of teachers and administrators to identify a shared goal, find two practices to discontinue and identify three observable pieces of evidence to track progress toward the goal. This goal-setting method helps school leadership to reflect on their school practices and approaches and take visible action steps towards their goals.

For his professional development method, Dr. Eckert uses a “collective leadership” model, where teachers and administrators gather and make school-wide decisions, forming their leadership team. In order to make effective decisions, the school is surveyed to collect actionable data, and after analyzing the data, the leadership team responds to the information to make well-reasoned decisions. This is crucially important because it allows the school leadership to understand their improvement needs. The leadership team, comprised of both teachers and administrators instead of solely administrators, share expertise among each other. Sometimes students are part of this planning process, too. This encourages a transparent culture across roles where knowledge and responsibility are shared.

He finds it especially fulfilling when administrators and teachers share responsibilities. Instead of asking “which role takes the responsibility,” the target question is “who has the expertise to take responsibility?” This allows teachers and administrators to try different tasks outside of their roles – which is not typical. Normally teachers are hired to teach, and administrators are hired to perform organizational tasks. However, with collective leadership, any persons can take on tasks regardless of their role. This sense of shared responsibility helps the leadership team trust and perform together.

As a consultant, Dr. Eckert's role is simply facilitation. He meets with schools once a month whether in-person or via video conference for progress checks. Teams review school goals, ask hard questions and provide insight into their decision-making. He works to see the big picture and the direction of the school’s decisions. These decisions ultimately benefit students. The behind-the-scenes actions of administrators and teachers cultivate a rich and healthy learning environment for their students. At times, his work is neither easy nor comfortable, but Dr. Eckert is passionate and persistent. He confirms this when he states, “I love my research and I love my work.”

Mentoring Opportunities for Education Students

Due to the funding initiatives of Wheaton College, a mentoring line was added to the Education Department almost ten years ago. This resulted in the hiring of Dr. Jon Eckert and additional support for other department faculties in mentoring undergraduate students. Since that time, scores of education majors have worked closely with department faculty on a wide range of projects.

Currently, all eight department faculty are or will be working on different projects with small groups of students. Prof Vroom Fick has been meeting with students interested in the influence of language on education and has been analyzing classroom literature using culturally and linguistically responsive criteria. They presented their findings at the Illinois Resource Center Fall Conference. As the newest faculty member in the Education Department, Dr. Boehm is developing two mentoring tracks. One will support special education practitioners with their skill development, while the other will focus on special education research.

Dr. Kim's mentoring group consists of undergraduates heading toward Wheaton's MAT program. By his modeling and their research, they are growing as teacher/scholars and will be better prepared to conduct their own action research while student teaching. Dr. Jonas organizes a peer mentoring group each year to support the thinking and writing skills of the students who enroll in Educ 135, School and Society.

Dr. Eckert and Dr. Egeland also have ongoing mentoring projects. Dr. Eckert recruits interested freshman and sophomores and some continuing juniors who engage in the communication and support of recent graduates of the WheTEP programs. They assist with the annual education department alumni survey and update the WheTEACH website with that data as well as information about each state's teacher requirements. Dr. Egeland focuses on juniors and seniors preparing for student teaching abroad, exploring cross-cultural challenges and the survey responses of past international student teachers.

After student teaching, Dr. Lederhouse's group of seniors will explore how to more effectively teach struggling math students. From Jo Boaler's research on mathematical mindsets, participants will rethink their instructional practices with those in their student teaching contexts who struggled in math. And Dr. Morrison and those she mentors will lean into the work of John Hattie on making visible learning for literacy.

Wheaton students are fortunate to have these opportunities to work closely with faculty on projects of mutual interest. These mentoring interactions allow for further professional and personal growth for all participants.