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Washington State University
College of Education

October 2011

Student ambassadors share enthusiasm for diversity in education

Kryssa Isobe
Kryssa Isobe

When Kryssa Isobe was in elementary school, her mom would stay up late to teach her long division and would assign extra “homework” when she wasn’t performing as expected. And the family’s expectations were high.

“Without my family’s strong roots in Japanese culture, my foundation in education may not have been as rigorous,” she says.

An elementary education major, Kryssa is keenly aware of the impact of culture and the value of diverse perspectives in the classroom. A resident of Waipahu, Hawaii, she grew up in the only state that has never had a white majority. She sees that not only as an advantage in doing a good job, but landing one. “Utilizing what I know about other cultures would give me an edge in looking for a job, especially in diverse communities.”

Kryssa is a 2011-12 ambassador for the WSU College of Education’s Future Teachers & Leaders of Color  (FTLOC) program in Pullman. The role comes with a scholarship and a chance to help other students. Her fellow ambassador is Alexandra Colvin, a secondary education major from Kennewick who plans to teach math.

Alexandra Colvin
Alexandra Colvin

Alexandra was drawn to education because she recognizes the power that a teacher wields to influence lives — for better or worse.

“The most detrimental and inspiring people in my life have been educators,” Alexandra says. She plans to fall in the “inspiring” category, which means knowing how to relate to students with different perspectives than her own. “Teachers alienate their students if they can’t understand them.”

Kryssa puts it this way: Educators need to understand the culture of students for the same reason that comedians need to understand the background of their audiences. Without cultural understanding, learning — like jokes — falls flat.

FTLOC was established in response to the under-representation of ethnic minorities in education. Its ambassadors, working with the College of Education’s student services office, coordinate some very pragmatic events, such as mock interviews for students who are applying for WSU’s teacher education program, which involves an admission interview. The FTLOC also provides networking and socializing opportunities. Alexandra and Kryssa are getting ready for what has become a signature program event, a Thanksgiving-style dinner at which students mingle with faculty. This year’s feast will be held November 15; guest speaker will be  Miguel Villarreal (Ed.D. ’11), superintendent of schools in Othello.




Aspiring teacher Riley Myklebust goes to head of political class at WSU

Riley Myklebust
Riley Myklebust, president of ASWSU in Pullman

When people ask one of the best-known students at Washington State University what he’s studying, they often expect to hear “political science.”

“People are so surprised when I tell them I’m an elementary education major and I want to teach middle school,” said Riley Myklebust. “They ask, ‘Well, why are you student body president?’ We usually laugh and I say, ‘I can tell you, I’m not going into politics, that’s for sure!’ ”

That’s his way of saying that being president of the Associated Students of WSU involves some stress.

“We’re required to work 20 hours a week, but it’s definitely more than 20 hours,” he said. Sometimes he’s up until 2 a.m. working; often he’s “kind of doing homework, kind of checking email.”

Myklebust, a senior from Spokane, was an ASWSU senator during his first two years on campus and, during his junior year, directed the Student Entertainment Board. He ran for ASWSU president at the encouragement of a fraternity brother who had the job in 2010-11.

Myklebust also credits fraternity brothers with nudging him onto a different career path. He had been majoring in finance with an emphasis in real estate, then started to have second thoughts. He remembered how much he liked working with kids.

“I had three fraternity brothers who were in elementary education and they’re like, ‘You know you want to do this, just give it a try for a semester.’ I did, and I was hooked,” he said.

In family footsteps

He’s following in the footsteps of many family members. “My uncle was a superintendent in Coeur d’Alene and Montana and Idaho … My cousin teaches on an Army base in Louisiana … Another cousin coaches college baseball and is a high school teacher in Kansas. Oh, and my aunt was a teacher forever in Central Valley District.”

Along with his bachelor’s, Myklebust is working on a middle school math endorsement from the WSU College of Education. His specialization is partly pragmatic—math teachers are in demand even in a tough job market—and partly where his heart is leading him.

Riley Myklebust with ASWSU colleagues
Riley Myklebust with ASWSU colleagues

“When I had a math teacher who was passionate about students in a class, it just made a huge difference, said Myklebust, a graduate of Lewis and Clark High.

“I had great math teachers. Mrs. Marker in seventh grade was one of those,” he said of Kellie Marker at Sacajawea Middle School.

Myklebust came to WSU in part because his mom and stepdad, Barbie Riva and Grant Riva, are Cougar alumni. In fact, his room at Sigma Phi Epsilon is next to the one that Grant Riva occupied.

He plans to graduate in December 2012. Between now and May, his ASWSU work will help fill any hours not occupied with studying. The position pays 100 percent of his cost of attending the university.

‘That’s tough’

He spends a lot of time fielding questions from students. The top issue on students’ minds is rising tuition due to state budget cuts. That’s a problem that Myklebust, to his frustration, is powerless to do anything about. “When they say ‘Hey, I’m not going to be able to go here next semester’ … that’s tough.”

Since WSU’s largest-ever freshman class enrolled this fall, he’s also heard a lot about limited space in campus facilities such as the Compton Union Building and University Recreation Center.

Another issue this fall has been a reduced budget for the distribution of free newspapers around campus. ASWSU sought feedback on which papers the students most wanted to keep, Myklebust said, ultimately deciding to buy fewer copies of The Spokesman-Review and USA Today and leave The New York Times numbers alone.

Whatever decision student government makes, Myklebust said, someone is bound to be unhappy.

“You’ve got to keep a positive attitude in student government,” he said. “You’re never going to make everybody happy. You want to, but making the best educated decision is what’s most important.”

Myklebust thinks the experience will help him in future jobs, even if those don’t involve elected office.

“At ASWSU, we have a staff of eight and over 30 students who volunteer each week. We get together and talk about issues. There’s probably not a single student who sees thing exactly as I do,” he said. “Working with people who aren’t like me definitely has given me some skills.”

Determined math scholar likes ‘light bulb moments’ of tutoring

Nicole Fukuhara, WSU student
Nicole Fukuhara

College students who aspire to teach mathematics are a pretty small subset. Among secondary education majors at Washington State University, Nicole Fukuhara might even be an “N” of one. She wants to be a tutor, not a classroom teacher.

Not that Nicole wouldn’t do a great job instructing a classroom full of students. She absolutely shone in her secondary teaching methods course, says instructor Francene Watson. Francene, a veteran teacher, recently wrote a letter of support as part of Nicole’s application for a General John A. Wickham Scholarship. In it, she recounted the first lesson that Nicole gave in the methods course.

“She was incredibly professional, poised, attentive and interested in how her ‘students’ (peers) were learning. She possessed a kind of ‘with-it’ teacher presence,” Francene wrote.

Francene is nudging Nicole to consider a classroom career. She’s considering that, but remains attracted to tutoring.

“In the one-on-one setting, I can really tell if someone understands the lesson,” she said. “I really like those ‘light bulb’ moments.”

Nicole, a Silverdale resident, is a graduate of Central Kitsap High School. She got her first tutoring experience with a much younger student.

“One of my mom’s friends asked if I would tutor her daughter, and I did that off and on for three or four years,” she said. “After graduation, I got a job helping out in summer school as a teacher’s aide. I’d walk around and help students with their work.”

These days, she tutors college students in math at WSU’s Academic Enrichment Center.

After arriving in Pullman to study math, she contacted a tutoring company to ask what kind of credentials she’d need to work for them. That’s when she decided to pursue the degree in secondary education.

Wherever career path she takes, Francene is sure Nicole will be succeed—just as she succeeded in landing that $2,000 Wickham scholarship.


Education faculty member leads Vancouver chancellor search

Clinical Assistant Professor Gay Selby
Gay Selby

Gay Selby knows a few things … OK, a few thousand things … about educational leadership.

So it’s only fitting that she is leading the search for the next chancellor of Washington State University Vancouver. She chairs the  committee that will make final recommendations for a successor to the founding chancellor, Hal Dengerink. Its 17 members also include WSU College of Education Dean A.G. Rud.

Gay is a clinical assistant professor for the College of Education in Vancouver, where education programs are a vital part of the growing campus. She  teaches in the educational certification programs for principals, program administrators and superintendents. She served 12 years on Washington’s Higher Education Coordinating Board. She worked in the Kennewick, Pullman, Spokane, and Kelso school districts in roles ranging from assistant principal to superintendent. She was awarded the 1992 Washington Award for Excellence in Education (Superintendent of the Year) by the State Board of Education and OSPI.

And she’s a Coug (Ed.D. ’80) who has received WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award.

In the announcement about the chancellor search, Gay said:

“The search committee is focused on finding the person who is the right ‘fit’ for the university and the community,” said Selby. “The right fit is a person who will continue to lead WSU Vancouver in its mission to provide world-class higher education opportunities in southwest Washington through high-quality programs with a strong research base and positive working relationships with constituents throughout the region.”