Magazine for McKendree - Winter 2018

McKendreans Address Issues, Challenges in Education

McKendree University is proud of its reputation for graduating students who go on to become award winning, highly respected P-12 teachers, superintendents and school administrators. Others bring years of experience as former teachers or administrators to the University as members of our faculty and staff. Among the region’s best, many have earned accolades from state and national professional organizations. We asked five recently honored McKendreans about challenges facing today’s educators. Despite their diverse experiences and perspectives, common themes emerged: the importance of parental involvement, creating an environment of acceptance, the need for continual improvement, and doing more with fewer resources. Meet the panel:

Reginald Duncan, M.A.Ed. ’12
Reginald Duncan, M.A.Ed. ’12 is a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He teaches fifth grade math, science and social studies at Wingate Elementary School in Mascoutah, Ill.; is an I-STEM area teacher leader for the Regional Office of Education #28; and serves on the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors.



Hattie (Doyle) Llewellyn ’94

Hattie (Doyle) Llewellyn ’94, principal at New Berlin High School in New Berlin, Ill., is president of the Illinois Principals Association.




Tiffany (Schneider) Niedringhaus, M.A.Ed. ’08

Tiffany (Schneider) Niedringhaus, M.A.Ed. ’08, special services coordinator at the O’Fallon Township High School Milburn Campus in O’Fallon, Ill., received a 2017 “Trailblazer Award” from Region 5 of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education.



Dr. Jim Rosborg

Dr. Jim Rosborg, director of the Master of Education degree program at McKendree University, received the 2017 Herman Graves Award for outstanding support and service by the Illinois Principals Association, Southwestern Region. He is the former superintendent of Belleville District 118 in Belleville, Ill.



Dr. Steve Webb ’92

Dr. Steve Webb ’92 represents Illinois on the Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators. He is a past president of the Illinois Association of School Administrators and the Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools. He is the superintendent of Goreville Community Unit School District #1 in Goreville, Ill.





What is your greatest challenge as an educator or administrator?


Niedringhaus: Lack of parental involvement. Students are coming from so many different walks of life that it is sometimes difficult to determine a best course of action for educating the “whole” child. A  solid home environment that includes parental involvement in the school day can go a long way to help foster the home-school connection for a student.

Duncan: To continually improve my professional development and abilities without succumbing to the inevitable feelings of “burn out” while juggling responsibilities inside and outside of the classroom. This has become increasingly difficult over the years as retirement age increases along with the cost of living, requiring many educators, such as myself, to continually supplement their income with out-of-classroom activities and professional responsibilities. This is a delicate dance many educators face as we strive not to take anything away from our primary responsibility as educators for our students.

Llewellyn: I really thought I had a solid perspective on what a principal did when I was a classroom teacher, and felt like I was really prepared through my administrative coursework; however, I have to admit, it did not take long for me to discover that I was REALLY wrong! The role of an administrator is so complex. After 12 years in this position, I am faced with challenges on a daily basis that I mentally add to my list entitled “Things for Which NO Administration Program Can Prepare You.” Overall, my greatest challenge is improvement and all of the requirements that come with the areas we need to focus on: improve communities, families, schools, teachers, students, achievement scores, self. This is a big challenge, and thankfully, support and resources are available to help me.

Webb: As an administrator, it is making absolutely certain that our expectations for ALL of our students are extraordinarily high because they look at us for reassurance that they will be prepared for a tomorrow that is still being discovered. We must constantly be looking to improve on what we do, such as exposing students and teachers to state-of-the-art technology, innovative environments, and individual-centered learning so we concentrate on what I call “need-based” educating rather than simply “norm-based.”




How do you create an environment of anti-bias and acceptance in your classroom or school?


Niedringhaus: Social media, I think, has desensitized our students so much. As frequently as we address academics, I also feel it is imperative to teach lessons in empathy and understanding. We pair students a lot in my building. As a special educator, I feel it important for students to see each other as peers, regardless of their ability or disability. We have extracurricular clubs that focus on pairing general education students with special needs students, as well as clubs that operate during the school day that pair students of all ability levels in order to decrease stigma.

Rosborg: An educator needs to provide opportunities for all children no matter what their ethnicity or socio-economic background. The best way of providing the proper environment is to give equal academic effort to all and insist on discipline rules that are consistent to all students based on the district’s code of conduct.

All staff members should look for the good in each child and reinforce positive behaviors. Parents need to be part of this process. Educators should provide parents with positive components of their child’s behavior. In the classroom, take time to talk individually to each child to find out what is going on in their lives and to stress strengths that the child has. It’s important to make sure that basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and safety are met, as a child will not maximize their learning in reading, writing and math if basic needs are lacking.

Duncan: This is of utmost importance to me and should be the top priority for all professional educators. Diversity of thought and ideas are what, in my opinion, make our country the greatest in the world. Our culture is built upon a foundation and rich history of multicultural traditions, languages, ethnicity, genders, religions and people.

I strive to provide high quality, equitable mathematics instruction to my students by reinforcing the importance of utilizing multiple representations and paths towards solutions. Among my colleagues and through presentations at workshops and conferences, I stress the vital role we have as facilitators of information not to subconsciously emphasize or accentuate our own preferred strategies during instruction, effectively skewing our students’ thought processes towards our own way of thinking.

Llewellyn: We strive to create a place where students are tolerant of differences and are free to express themselves, resulting in culture that fosters confidence in being unique. Our classroom teachers work hard to ensure the type of learning environment in which students show mutual respect and openly express their opinions without of being harassed or bullied.

Webb: Schooling does not take place in a vacuum. However, society seems to try to define “normal” and then tries to create an assessment to determine who is normal and who is not and compare those findings. We must teach kids that they are each unique and that they set their own bar on normalcy—not some bureaucracy who sets arbitrary cut scores. When that finally happens, we will be helping shape a world that embraces diversity and uniqueness—a world that stops gauging normalcy and starts appreciating that the talents of a child should not be measured by a test, but by their passion to make a difference.



As schools encounter reduced funding and tighter state budgets, what are educators doing to stretch limited resources?

Niedringhaus: We collaborate with one another to turn something that one teacher is doing into something that another can use. Today’s tech also allows for a ton of resources online, many of which are free.

Duncan: Teachers have always been a frugal and resourceful group, able to utilize our creativity and problem-solving skills to make feasts out of famines where necessary. I have noticed an increase in teachers relying upon free online resources and materials to provide quality instruction.

Llewellyn: Our district has reduced support staff positions, reduced teaching positions, moved from a block schedule to a traditional schedule in grades 6-12, reduced transportation expenditures by combining routes, and made many changes to other departments to streamline and reduce expenditures.

Webb: Unfortunately, schools with limited resources, generally those with low local assessed valuation, have been forced to cut back on the very curricular and social programming that research suggests helps kids the most.

They have increased class sizes, cut vocational programs and fine arts programs, and limited quality professional development for teachers. All the while, those districts with high property values continue to flourish. We, as a society, must do a better job providing resources to schools so that they can offer more than just a basic academic foundation and so that they can attract and retain high quality teachers—the two areas that are perhaps the most unambiguous of all research findings when determining excellence. “Making do” should never be good enough.



What is the difference between “learning” and “instruction” in today’s classroom? In what ways are educators incorporating more active learning strategies?

Niedringhaus: Instruction is teacher-focused. Giving students knowledge that they will need for their greater good—for the development of their mind and body. Learning is whole-student—mind, body, and spirit are all engaged and the person they are becoming in this world is changing. I am proud that our students “learn.” We have known for years that very few students learn by being lectured TO. we are working more with the whole student—incorporating tactile lessons, utilizing technology, getting kids out of their seats. Finding success at every angle!

Rosborg: As a 46-year educator, I feel that learning and instruction are definitely tied together. While it is sometimes tough for an educator to overcome a negative environment in the home, the impact of the teacher and the principal is only second to a good parent in a child’s academic learning process. A good teacher assimilates academic learning using interdisciplinary procedures to cross subject matter to maximize a student’s learning. In today’s society, that has incorporated so many multimedia opportunities, the good teacher is creative to use these tools, along with basic skills that have been in education for a long period of time.

Duncan: It’s often attributed to Mark Twain as saying, “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” I believe this axiom applies to this question. When I was a student, we were instructed. Information was disseminated throughout the classroom and the students that were most successful at recalling said information, or were the best at “playing school,” were considered our best and brightest.

We have moved toward a student-led model for discovery and investigation of information, while the teacher facilitates versus dictates the information throughout the lesson. Students learn by doing versus watching and repeating what they are “taught,” allowing for more engagement and involvement. Children are inquisitive by nature and this student-based model nurtures high-quality learning experiences in school versus stifling independent and diverse thought.

Webb: There was a day when teachers and administrators believed that “instruction” was the dissemination of information. In today’s world, instruction is more coaching kids on how to understand problems that are posed and how to attack and solve the problem on their own using their talents and unique abilities. This differentiated approach is only possible when a school has a culture and a passion for allowing teachers the autonomy to create an atmosphere of need-based learning where a child WANTS to learn.

Llewellyn: The purpose of teaching is to see what the students are learning, which is accomplished through effective formative assessments, effective questioning techniques, and providing the opportunities for students to speak and share their learning. Educators incorporate more active learning strategies through technology integration, literacy strategies, such as think-pair-share, and their role changes from that of an instructor to a facilitator.



Rosborg Receives IPA's Herman Graves Award

In 1971, Dr. Jim Rosborg was student teaching at Marion (Ill.) Junior High School when he met Herman Graves, a man who not only showed him what it meant to be a good educator, but also inspired an award that Jim would receive 46 years later. The late Mr. Graves was principal of Marion Junior High when Jim, then a 21-year-old college student, got to know him and the importance of personal attention in an education leader. “Mr. Graves was constantly visiting with teachers during their planning time and was very supportive of both staff and students in good and bad times,” he said. “He always had a smile on his face and didn’t let one bad situation ruin his day or affect his dealings with other issues. He also took the time to get to know me and offer his support. I remembered this when I became a principal myself at Jefferson School in Belleville in 1985.”

An active member and leader of the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), Mr. Graves continued to share his enthusiasm for the field with others beyond his own school. He advocated for children’s education at local and state levels and promoted the IPA’s role in developing quality administrators and schools.

To recognize his passion for students and the community of education leaders, the IPA created its highest honor, the Herman Graves Award in 1991, with its namesake as the first recipient. In September, Jim was surprised and thrilled to receive the same honor as his former student teaching supervisor when the IPA presented him the 2017 Herman Graves Award.

An IPA member since early in his career, Jim says he is grateful for the support he received from the organization right from the start and has sought to return that guidance to his fellow educators. Only two years into his role as principal of Jefferson School, he encountered an unexpected challenge when the first child with AIDS in southern Illinois enrolled there. Jim leaned on the experience and support of IPA leaders and has since contributed his own efforts to prepare school administrators through workshops and state initiatives.

“My association with the IPA has helped keep me in the loop with current educational trends in the field, which is very important to strengthening our M.A.Ed. program here at McKendree,” Jim said. He spent 33 years as a teacher, principal, school administrator and superintendent for Belleville District 118 before retiring in 2005. He continues Mr. Graves’ mentoring legacy by preparing future teachers and administrators as the director of McKendree University’s Master of Education degree program.