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College of Education

Jon Bickelhaupt

College standard bearer carries on family teaching tradition

WSU graduate Kayla Hutton with her parents Dan and Kathy
Kayla Hutton with her parents, Dan and Kathy

Dan Hutton’s success as a teacher and role model was on display at Saturday’s Fall 2011 commencement celebration. His daughter Kayla, who was also his student for six years, was the standard bearer for the WSU College of Education. She earned that honor with her 3.93 grade point average–the highest among graduates from the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Kayla was among 41 graduates picking up College of Education bachelor’s degrees. Eight education masters and seven education doctorates were also conferred. There was plenty of tradition and holiday sparkle in Beasley Coliseum and one giant new ornament– the digital scoreboard that gave everyone a closeup view.

Kayla’s personal cheering section included Dan, who teaches at Tekoa High School and is one of several teachers in the family; her mom, Kathy; and her fiance, Ryan Burchett. Ryan is a 2009 WSU graduate and agriculture educator in Cle Elum.

Kayla Hutton carries college banner
Kayla Hutton, teacher and standard bearer

Come spring, Kayla will be doing her student teaching at Woodard Elementary in Spokane. Besides landing a teaching job, she looks forward to more studies in her interest areas of human development and reading. And she’ll always look back fondly on her days learning and laughing with other students in her “block” or cohort of education majors in Pullman.

“The things I will remember most about the College of Education are the relationships I’ve established with my ‘block mates’ and teachers,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together and gotten to know each other really well.”

As educators, Kayla and her classmates are well positioned to heed commencement speaker Brig. Gen. Julie Bentz, who encouraged them to “do what is right, love what is good and leave the world a better place than you found it.”

Alumni researcher delves into Alaskan culture, education

Caitlin Montague-Winebarger lives in a cold place but has a warm spot in her heart for kids. So when the WSU alum went to teach elementary school in  Manokotak, Alaska, she paid special attention to the large number of students who seemed uninterested or were just plain quiet. She’d been told to expect that, and some of her teaching colleagues were troubled by it.

She learned that non-verbal communication was a big part of the local Yup’ik culture, and she adapted.

“Many of my students were using facial cues rather than spoken responses to acknowledge their understanding, or to let me know that they didn’t understand a concept,” she recalls. “It took me awhile to key in on this style, and it required me to be in close proximity to the students, which I wasn’t used to. But soon it became habit. I find myself using still using those cues even though I live in a completely different part of the state.”

Caitlin Montague-Winebarger bundled up on an Alaska hike
Caitlin Montague-Winebarger

Caitlin is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her dissertation research focuses on how pre-service teachers describe culture and cross-culture, and then apply those understandings. The subject is vitally important in Alaska, where there are many distinct native cultures and at least 20 native languages.

Caitlin, originally from Cheney, Wash., headed to Alaska after earning her education degree at the WSU Tri-Cities in 2006. She met Eric Johnson, assistant professor in the Tri-Cities since 2008, at the recent American Anthropological Association conference in Montreal.

“As I told Eric, I really do appreciate the foundation that I received there,” Caitlin said in an email. “It has served me well (so far!).”

Eric and Caitlin have strong common — and interdisciplinary — interests. Her Ph.D. program is based in the School of Education at UAF, but includes coursework in anthropology, cross-cultural studies and English. He has taught in departments of anthropology, foreign language, and education and helps future teachers learn how to succeed in multilingual, multicultural classrooms.

Caitlin’s master’s degree research focused on teacher isolation and technology in a rural Alaskan school district. She also worked as a research assistant for the Alaska Native Teacher Preparation Project, which supported Alaska Native and American Indian students pursuing teaching degrees.

Speaking of another kind of degree … Caitlin says it was minus 25 Fahrenheit when she took a hike the other day and a friend snapped the picture posted here. “But it was sunny!”

SMARTKIDS curriculum links minds, bodies

Associate Professor Jennifer Beller is known for her expertise in physical/moral connections, particularly ethical issues relating to sports. But she’s also keenly interested in physical/intellectual links, as the Moscow-Pullman Daily News explains in this recent article about one of Jennifer’s projects, headlined “St. Mary’s students learn outside the box.”

By Holly Bowen
Daily News staff writer

Pam Wimer teaches a geography lesson using an outdoor map
Pam Wimer teaches geography using an outdoor map (Geoff Crimmins photo)

Children in Pam Wimer’s third-grade class at St. Mary’s School in Moscow enthusiastically ran to, then jumped on, a multicolored map of the 50 United States painted on the playground courtyard.

The map didn’t list the names of the states, but the students had no trouble determining where they were standing or which directions they needed to walk and hop to go further north, south, east and west across the map.

“We’ve never learned the states this early (in the school year),” said Wimer, who has taught at St. Mary’s School for 18 years.

However, the students are participating in the school’s new “SMARTKIDS” curriculum developed with the help of Jennifer Beller, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology at Washington State University.

The teachers and professor developed the Smart Kids concept last year when thinking of a favorite game from their own childhoods – jacks – which they said children aren’t familiar with anymore.

Unlike most school curricula today, SMARTKIDS integrates physical activity with cognitive tasks, a philosophy that goes back thousands of years, Beller said.

Jennifer Beller
Jennifer Beller

“Plato never sat,” Beller said. “He always walked.”

Every grade at St. Mary’s School participates in Smart Kids activities for about 15 minutes two or three times per week, in addition to their regular physical education classes.

During SMARTKIDS sessions, students complete academic drills – like multiplication tables, spelling or memorization – while performing physical tasks like juggling, jump-roping, balancing on a beam or inflatable workout ball or jumping on a map.

Beller and Wimer said the third-graders spent four weeks jumping onto and naming the states on the map. When the students took a quiz to gauge their knowledge, all but one student passed with flying colors. Wimer said it usually takes much longer for all the students to demonstrate proficiency.

Better than flash cards

Beller said the idea is to open up more neural pathways in the brain that enable students to recall more information than if they had simply sat at a desk and memorized flash cards.

She said learning to ride a bicycle is an example of using those additional neural pathways. People tend to fall a lot when they first begin riding, but eventually their brains remember how to stay balanced, even if they take a break from cycling for several years.

Wimer said sometimes the students are a bit fuzzy-headed when trying to recall things they’ve learned weeks ago, but once they begin performing the associated physical tasks, that fuzziness disappears.

The strategy seems to be paying off – Beller said the children easily memorized the names of 22 different bones, which usually takes several weeks.

“They all got it in five days,” she said, adding that the physical activity opens up more areas of the brain from which to recall information.

Beller said she and a colleague at WSU recently worked on a study of 200 preschoolers that found strong ties between balance activities and perceptual awareness, quantitative ability and other cognitive skills.

She said it’s not exactly cause-and-effect, but the students’ higher academic performance is correlated to the combination of cognitive and physical tasks.

“The kids can do pretty complex tasks in the process of it, and the more they do, the better they get,” she said.

WSU students collect, assess data

She said she and her own students at WSU are collecting data and assessing the children’s progress in fundamental motor skills and test scores. Tracking that progress will enable the older students to develop more complex activities for when the current crop of children grows older.

Another major bonus of the SMARTKIDS curriculum is the students seem to really enjoy it even when they’re performing memorization drills. Beller and Wimer recalled how one parent said her two boys came home and started playing “Smart Kids” on their own by reading flash cards while balancing on a workout ball.

“They’re willing to practice these flashcards and things excitedly,” Wimer said.

Kid-approved approach

Third-graders Jessica Smith, Megan Cornish, Brigid O’Sullivan, Kirstin Wambeke, Thomas Curet and Eliza O’Murphy were all excited to talk about SMARTKIDS on Wednesday afternoon. They described the curriculum as fun but sometimes challenging – in a good way.

“You get to learn while doing something fun,” Wambeke said.

Curet said he likes to turn SMARTKIDS activities into competitions against his classmates.

O’Murphy, Smith and Cornish said they especially enjoyed learning the states by jumping around on the map.

“I only knew like four states, but now I know all 50,” Smith said with a look of pride on her face.

For those who are interested in learning more about the mind-body connection, Beller recommended a TED Talk lecture by neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, which is available online.

Reprinted with permission. Article originally published Nov. 10, 2011.

Temple Grandin’s wisdom stems from science, experience

Temple Grandin speaks at the "Family Is Important" autism conference
Temple Grandin speaks at the "Family Is Important" autism conference in Pullman

One of the world’s most influential people is bullish on breakfast sausages and laments that kids don’t have paper routes anymore. She is NOT in favor of coddling. And as for people who conduct inadequate experiments with medication on 5-year-olds … well, don’t get her started.

“I don’t have enough swear words for what I’d like to do to them,” autism expert Temple Grandin told Washington State University faculty this month.

Moments later, she told a story that would make a 10-year-old double over with laughter. She admits to cracking herself up regularly. “My emotions aren’t complex.”

But when it comes to intellectual complexity, Grandin’s audiences are well-advised to buckle their seat belts and turn on their tape recorders. In Pullman, she spoke to nearly 500 people at the autism conference sponsored by Families Together and the WSU College of Education. The night before, a campus crowd of more than 1,000 heard her lecture.

Grandin impresses with plain talk and a mind that works like Google, pulling together related ideas from vast stores of data. At the conference, she shared information on learning challenges, nutrition, medication, career choices, parenting, teaching and animal behavior. She acknowledged the wide range of abilities represented by people on the autism spectrum. On one end are children and adults who need constant care; on the other end are high-functioning people with Asperger’s syndrome, such as Grandin.

She was full of advice, based on experience and science, for educators, counselors, students and parents. Much of it came from observing what she calls “old Aspies like me” who have worked all of their lives. Some tidbits from her torrent of wisdom about kids:

  • Make sure they get protein for breakfast to fuel their brains. “Nuke a couple of those frozen sausage links.” Oh, and “cut out the 20-ounce Cokes!”
  • Get them doing jobs that people want done, which teach responsibility, at an early age. Some examples: walking dogs  or managing a church website.  “Any job on a computer you can start teaching at age 10.”
  • If they need medication, start out with the tried-and-true drugs that have been scientifically proven and have limited side effects. Consider anti-depressants, like the one she takes, to dampen anxiety. “Fear is the main emotion of autism.” Use very small doses. “Doctors are raising doses when they should be lowering them.”
  • Teach them social skills and survival skills. “Johnny’s got to learn how to order food. Get him a debit card. He’s got to learn that when the money’s gone, the card won’t swipe anymore.”
  • Tap into their fixations. If a child draws nothing but horse heads, get her to draw a person on a horse. Then the house the person lives in. “Get them to draw pictures of people’s pets.”

Grandin urged everyone to accept the tears of people with autism, be they children or grownups.

“I had to replace anger with crying,” she said. “The geeks that cry keep their jobs. They’re not going to get by with throwing tools in the equipment room.”

For more information about Temple Grandin, see her website. For photos from the conference and her breakfast with College of Education faculty, click here.


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.”

Japanese educator brings smile, eagerness to Pullman

Fumiko Tamura, visiting educator from Japan
Educator Fumiko Tamura from Nishinomiya

Each fall, one of the brightest smiles at the WSU College of Education is on the face of a Japanese educator who is visiting the Pullman campus thanks to a 24-year-old partnership between the college and the Nishinomiya Board of Education.

Our visitor this year is Fumiko Tamura. She’s here to improve her English language skills and teaching techniques, so spends much of her time in WSU’s Intensive American Language Center and also observes in College of Education classrooms. She’s eager to share what she learns with colleagues back home. In the picture here, she’s sitting in on Assistant Professor Hal Jackson’s classroom management course.

Fumiko is a supervisor at the Nishinomiya Board’s Study and Research Division. Last year, she taught elementary school. Her district has just started English activity classes for fifth and sixth graders.

“I’m very, very happy to be here. I appreciate everything and everyone.” says Fumiko, whose husband, Masataka, was here for a week during her first visit to the United States. Fumiko arrived in August and will leave Oct. 15.

As part of the Nishinomiya partnership, WSU doctoral candidate Mari Stair is spending a second year teaching in Japan. For information on this and other WSU College of Education international connections, click here.

A blast-from-the-past visitor

George Boyko with granddaughter and wife
George Boyko with Paige and Wyn

What a great way to end the work week — with a visit from someone who helped thousands of WSU College of Education students.

George Boyko ran the WSU student teaching center in Tacoma from 1970 until 1996. When he dropped by Cleveland Hall in Pullman on Friday, he was surprised to find people who remembered him. He got an especially warm greeting from Director of Field Services Chris Sodorff, who gave him hugs and a college souvenir. “George took care of the entire west side of the state,” Chris recalled.

Now he has a special interest in one of of our elementary education majors: his granddaughter, Paige Thomson.

George lives in Sammamish with his wife of 59 years, Wyn. Also visiting Pullman was Paige’s mom, Keren Thomson, who earned a fashion merchandising degree at WSU in 1979.