Capping a career that spans 45 years of teaching and teacher development, Dr. Claire C. Lamonica, M.A. ’83, D.A. ’96, will retire at the end of May. After working as a high school English teacher, a faculty member, and a program coordinator, she has spent the last eight years as director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT). She moved to CTLT as assistant director in 2006 from the Department of English.
“I love having a job where I can learn something new every day,” Lamonica says. “I’ll miss being able to learn from my colleagues at CTLT, all of the faculty with whom we collaborate, and by extension, all of our students. But I’m looking forward to discovering new ways to keep learning.”
Lamonica has championed the idea of lifelong learning, both as a personal credo and as something faculty can model to students, throughout her career. In addition to her work at Illinois State University, she has facilitated workshops on teaching and faculty development nationally and internationally.
“Claire is well known on campus as an outspoken proponent of continuous improvement in teaching. Under her leadership, CTLT staff continue to be the first ones to contact for faculty who endeavor to improve their teaching and how their students learn,” says Dr. Mark Walbert, associate vice president for Academic Technologies. “As an institution that places the student first, Illinois State has benefitted greatly from Claire’s tireless efforts to enhance their success.”
A Teacher’s Journey
Lamonica, with a freshly earned undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri, started teaching English and journalism at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, in 1975. She and her husband, Tom, settled in Normal in 1980. Soon, Lamonica returned to higher education along two paths: as a master’s, and later, a doctoral student at ISU, and as an adjunct composition instructor at Lincoln College, Heartland Community College, and Illinois State.
Lamonica returned to the high school classroom as a faculty associate at University High School in 1994, teaching freshman English and junior/senior-level American Literature. She received tenure there in 1996. It was also at University High School where Lamonica’s journey led her toward professional development for both aspiring and experienced teachers. In addition to mentoring English education majors, she was also a facilitator for Project FIRST, a program that supported team teaching among 10 instructors from five disciplines.
Learning and Leadership
Starting in 1996, Lamonica spent a decade as co-director of the Illinois State Writing Project, collaborating with colleagues to plan and implement a summer institute for teachers at all grade levels and across all disciplines. In 1998, she joined the Department of English full time as associate director of Writing Programs, creating professional development opportunities for writing instructors. She also supervised clinical experiences for English education majors from 2005 to 2006.
Throughout her transition to leadership roles at Illinois State, Lamonica has continued to teach, including undergraduate and graduate courses in the teaching of writing and a course for first-semester students through University College. She continues to serve on thesis and dissertation committees in the Department of English and the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations. She’s also remained active in several teaching-related professional organizations, including the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE), for which she served as president in 2005.
Building a Community
“Over the years the programming has changed, the learning challenges have changed, certainly the technologies have changed, but Claire’s keen interest in improving student learning has not,” says Walbert, who was director of Faculty Technology Support before moving to the Provost’s office. In 2006, that unit merged with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching to become the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. The move united support for traditional pedagogies and the use of emerging technologies under one roof. It also presented a new opportunity for Lamonica to help others embrace the idea of lifelong learning.
Lamonica joined CTLT first as assistant, and later, associate director. She guided and enhanced many of the unit’s signature programs, including the annual university-wide Teaching & Learning Symposium, New Faculty Orientation, consultation services like Midterm Chats, and workshop opportunities throughout the year. She also spearheaded expanded efforts to support new faculty, including candidate tours, the Early-Career Faculty Circles, and the Design Your Course summer-long workshop.
After a brief stint in an interim role, Lamonica was named permanent director in 2013. Under her leadership, CTLT has supported Illinois State faculty through more than 113,000 hours of professional development, in addition to providing numerous online resources and one-on-one support for teaching tools like ReggieNet. The unit provides important support for University initiatives centered on civic engagement, diversity, and online teaching—including extensive support during the emergency transition to distance learning as part of the current coronavirus pandemic.
Lamonica has always seen CTLT as a focus of collaboration. “I credit the successes of CTLT to the work of our caring team of professional educational developers, the support of the University administration, the generosity of faculty colleagues who contribute to and participate in our programming, and the partnerships we have been able to establish across campus. As I’ve been pointing out a lot recently, ‘It truly takes a campus!’”
Her colleagues at CTLT say she leads by example. “Whether it’s wearing red on Fridays, celebrating the accomplishments of individual CTLT members, or welcoming new faculty as Redbirds to campus,” says Dr. Dana Karraker, M.S. ’07, Ed.D. ’18, “Claire shares her joy for being a part of that community with all around her.”
Influencing the Future
Lamonica leaves a department that has proved to be both stable and adaptable. While she departs at the end of May, her influence will endure.
“She’s created a remarkable environment in which we know we make a difference,” says Jim Gee, B.S. ’96, M.S. ’13. “Everyone who was working here when I started seven years ago is still here. Most have been here much longer than that. We still love what we do. I’m sure that says something about the University, but it most certainly is a credit to Claire.”
Lamonica is currently collaborating with departments across campus to move CTLT from its temporary home in Williams Hall to new, customized spaces in Milner Library. It’s part of a larger effort to expand professional development at Illinois State.
“I’ll be sorry not to be at CTLT to see this work come to fruition,” says Lamonica, “but change is important. We have to keep growing and adapting to the needs of campus.”
Look for announcements about Lamonica’s retirement reception and an interim director at a later date.