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Take 5: Get to know the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Education (COE)

DeGarmo in the sunlight

We sat down with a handful of members of the COE and asked five questions to find out a little more about them, why they do what they do, and what keeps them going.

James Wolfinger

James Wolfinger

Dr. James Wolfinger
Dean and professor, College of Education

Just a year into this role, Wolfinger has found it everything that he wanted it to be. Having spent his previous 16 years at DePaul University, he knew that Illinois State was one of the few  destinations that could lure him away. The job hasn’t disappointed, as he points to the faculty, staff, and students all working together to achieve the mission of the college as a major asset that is unique.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your position?

The nature of the work. Being an administrator and a dean, probably 90 percent of the work is dealing with people—understanding what their interests are, what they need to get their work done, how to bring resources together, and how to help them see the vision of the college and their role in helping us get there.

What energizes you at work?

Every day we come here to prepare the next generation of educators for Illinois. We do that a thousand different ways around the college; the classes we teach, the programs we develop, the extracurricular programming, the preparation of principals, superintendents, curriculum specialists, and everything else. Every day we come to work, knowing that is the mission of the place. That’s almost a sacred trust we have with the state of Illinois that I take very seriously.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

Clara Luper was my freshman history teacher in high school. She was a leader of the civil rights movement in Oklahoma City where I grew up. She taught her classes in a multicultural way before that was a commonly used term, and that really became a part of my thinking about the history of the United States and the way that classes should be structured to invite all students into that learning experience. From early in my career, I have held to this notion that education is about equity and inclusion and that all kids can learn. It’s up to us as educators to figure out what they need and how to pick that lock. The content is important, but ultimately teaching is about the connections that you make with the students and your colleagues so that you’re able to do great work on their behalf.

If you could have only three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

Pandora, StubHub, Waze.

What’s the most unusual food you’ve ever eaten?

Well, I lived in the South and I’ve visited Asia, so one that you can get in both places is pig intestine. It just goes by different names depending on where you are.

 

Terry Husband

Terry Husband

Dr. Terry Husband
Professor of early childhood literacy, School of Teaching and Learning

Husband taught for 10 years in the Columbus City Schools and has now been at Illinois State University for another 10 years. In addition to teaching classes, Husband also supervises clinical students and student teachers in the Professional Development School program in Unit 5 and District 87 in Bloomington-Normal. He has varied research interests, including critical literacies in early childhood classrooms, teaching for social justice, and literacy development in black boys.

What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

In 2019, I was awarded the College of Education Outstanding Teaching Award, which was a huge honor given all the tremendous faculty we have here.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about your position?

Many people don’t realize the science, theory, and skill that goes into being an effective early childhood educator. People have a tendency to assume that early childhood is nothing more than play time, circle time, naps, and snacks. While children definitely learn and grow in these activities, it takes a special and sophisticated degree of skills, knowledge, and dispositions to educate children from birth to age 8 effectively and holistically.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I wish I knew more about incorporating STEAM education in literacy classrooms. I think the arts in particular exist as assets that often go untapped.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

One of my guilty pleasures is watching reality TV shows, especially Real Housewives of Atlanta, Married at First Sight, and Below Deck.

What’s something that you’re really bad at?

Fixing things around the house. I’m not very handy at all.

 

Laurie Sexton

Laurie Sexton

Laurie Sexton
Teacher education assessment coordinator, Cecilia J. Lauby Teacher Education Center

Sexton has worked in a variety of roles within the College of Education for more than 31 years. In fact, Illinois State University is the only employer she’s ever had. After graduating from the Department of Special Education in 1988, she worked at Metcalf Elementary School, University High School, and the Department of Special Education before starting her current position in June 2019. She splits her duties providing support for the edTPA for the many teacher education programs in the college and throughout campus and coordinates key reporting of the Annual Assessment Review to maintain accreditation of programs.

What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

Probably my staying power for so many years. Just kidding. It’s really not just one thing, but if I had to point to one, it would be helping to re-focus the clinical experiences that deaf education students go through. Working as part of the team, we were able to help students connect what they learn in methods classes to their clinicals.

What do you wish you knew more about?

The stories behind the people I work with and the students I support. I think when I know more about them, it helps me do my job better and I can build those connections. It makes my job even more rewarding.

If you could have only three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

Weather Channel, Starbucks, YouVersion Bible

What’s your favorite item on your desk?

Definitely my coffee mug. I love my coffee in the morning, especially cold brew!

What’s something that you’re really bad at?

So many things. But I absolutely cannot carry a tune. No American Idol for me.

Brooke Jensen

Brooke Jensen

Brooke Jensen
Junior middle-level education major from Yorkville

In addition to her busy class schedule working toward endorsements in language arts, math, and science, Jensen serves as the president of the Collegiate Middle Level Association on campus. Her mother, an alum and educator, definitely put Illinois State on the radar when it came time for Jensen to choose a university. However, once she came for a visit, Jensen knew this was where she wanted to be.

What’s a school-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

I was recently nominated by the School of Teaching and Learning as its Bone Scholar, which is the highest university-wide honor for an undergraduate student. The selection process is pretty intense, so just being nominated is great.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach school?

Definitely my mom. She has been a role model in her career, first as a teacher and then becoming an assistant principal and principal. She has attacked everything with integrity. Seeing her as someone who is innovative in the classroom and creating a culture of community is what I want to do.

If you could have only three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

Pocket Schedule Planner app, Instagram, My Radar app

What’s your favorite item on your desk?

My Post-it Notes. I have probably 20 different colors in a variety of shapes and sizes. I love my Post-It Notes.

What’s something that you’re really bad at?

Walking. I trip over my own feet all the time. I can’t walk on flat surfaces or elevated surfaces. I just fall! I used to swim at Illinois State, and in the pool, I was very coordinated. But being on land is not my strong suit.

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