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UPCOMING EVENTS

5
MAY

EDLR Meeting
Gentry 221
9:45am - 12:00pm

5
MAY

HESA Hooding Ceremony
Student Union Ballroom
at 3:00pm

6
MAY

Master’s & Sixth-Year
Commencement

7
MAY

Undergraduate
Commencement

 

8
MAY

Doctoral
Commencement

Calendar linking to more upcoming events for EDLR

 

RECENT ALUMNI & STUDENT NEWS

What Being a High School Dropout Taught Me About Teaching

Editor’s Note: The following piece — written by Neag School doctoral student Kristi Kaeppel — originally appeared on the UConn Graduate Certificate in College Instruction blog

Kristi Kaeppel
Kristi Kaeppel is a doctoral student in the Neag School’s Learning, Leadership, and Educational Policy program with a concentration in Adult Learning.

I recently began working on a project that looks at how teachers form their beliefs and conceptions of teaching. Like so much of learning, it seems teachers’ beliefs develop incidentally through experience and observation. Perhaps we model our beloved high school science teacher or we imagine ourselves rousing students from boredom a la Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society.”

When I got reflecting on my own conceptions of teaching, it struck me that so much of how I conduct myself as a teacher comes from having been a failing, disengaged student in high school. When I stepped into my first teaching role in Adult Basic Education, my main objective was to avoid creating the kind of educational environment I so loathed as a teenager.

“I spent a long time hiding the fact that I dropped out of high school. … I think I have finally overcome the stigma and can instead turn my early experiences failing in school into a strength.”
— Kristi Kaeppel, Doctoral Student

Two anecdotes illustrate my loss of faith in schooling that led, along with a slew of other factors, to my eventual dropping out of high school. Looking back on them now, they also make good case studies of what NOT to do as an instructor (especially the first):

  • It was sophomore year, and I was just starting to check out of school, but finally, we were reading a book that captivated me: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I hadn’t done many of the assignments all year, but I applied myself to an essay assigned on the book with rare enthusiasm and concentration. I was proud of my work and eager for feedback. When I got my paper back, I had failed with a note saying that it was “very, very, well-written” and that I must’ve plagiarized. And like that, I checked back out beyond return.
  • It was senior year. By this time I was merely a seat warmer in school on the rare occasion that I showed up. Again, there was a glimmer of hope in my high school English class as the teacher held up two books — Go Ask Alice, a (in my opinion) poorly written piece of anti-drug propaganda and The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, a masterpiece and (sadly for me since it features a depressed teenager) one of the books I most identified with. The teacher asked the class which one we should read. I think I was the only one who voted for The Bell Jar. This confirmed that I did indeed have nothing in common with my classmates and that I would be better off staying home and reading.
Empty Classroom
“I had curiosity and a love of learning. I just didn’t find a home for it in school,” says Kaeppel. (Thinkstock Photo)

Adolescent angst and arrogance aside, these two stories illustrate some teaching approaches I was determined not to replicate:

First, I would trust my students and give them the benefit of the doubt. I would not make accusations; I would listen and approach them with compassion. Even if someone does cheat, why are they cheating? What is going on with them that cheating is a viable option and how can I make authentic learning more attractive to them?

While the teacher in the second story did at least try to have a democratic classroom and allow student choice, I think one could go a step further by allowing even more autonomy and choice in assignments. If some people were drawn to one book and others to another, why not have book groups?

The larger point I took away from both of these stories was to always look for those signs of student interest and curiosity and try to kindle, not extinguish, them.

This is easier said than done. It was much easier to be the failing student with my head down in class who muttered insults about the class under my breath than to become a teacher and have one of the most important responsibilities in society.

“My goal as a teacher is to try and create those conditions where … natural-born, inherent curiosity can thrive.”

I spent a long time hiding the fact that I dropped out of high school. Now that I am in a Ph.D. program, I think I have finally overcome the stigma and can instead turn my early experiences failing in school into a strength.

Perhaps one difficulty for many instructors is that they were model students, and so it’s hard to conceive of the mindset of those students who appear lazy, disengaged, and unmotivated.

I was that person. But I had curiosity and a love of learning. I just didn’t find a home for it in school. My goal as a teacher is to try and create those conditions where that natural-born, inherent curiosity can thrive. If hadn’t been for my own experiences failing out of school, I may not have appreciated just how much potential and dormant academic interest can be concealed under the guise of an apathetic student.

Kristi Kaeppel is a doctoral student in the Neag School’s Learning, Leadership, and Educational Policy program with a concentration in Adult Learning. She works as a graduate assistant for the UConn Graduate Certificate in College Instruction (GCCI) program. GCCI is a nine-credit program for individuals interested in expanding their preparation in and understanding of college teaching. 

10 Questions With Educational Leader and Alum Miguel A. Cardona

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on the Neag School website and was written by Shawn Kornegay.

In our recurring 10 Questions series, the Neag School catches up with students, alumni, faculty, and others throughout the year to give you a glimpse into their Neag School experience and their current career, research, or community activities. 

Miguel Cardona at UPPI Meeting
Four-time alum and adjunct faculty member Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP, who serves assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools, participates in a meeting earlier this year regarding the University Principal Partnership Initiative, a project supported by the Wallace Foundation. (Photo Credit: Ryan Glista/Neag School)

Four-time Neag School alumnus Miguel A. Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP is the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at Meriden Public Schools in Meriden, Conn. Prior to that, he was a performance and evaluation specialist and also served for 10 years as a principal for Meriden Public Schools. In 2012, he was recognized by the Connecticut Association of Schools as Connecticut’s National Distinguished Principal and, in 2013, by the Neag School’s Alumni Board as Principal of the Year. Today, Cardona also serves as adjunct faculty in the Neag School’s UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP). 

What drew you to the Neag School of Education?
As a fourth-grade teacher, I heard about a program that was being offered at UConn for a master’s degree in bilingual/bicultural education. After looking into it, I was hooked. Soon after, I was encouraged to join a leader preparation program. After researching different programs, I felt UCAPP was the best in the state, and I was honored to be accepted. Similarly, the Ed.D. and Executive Leadership programs were the ones that I felt best prepared me for a successful future in education and leadership. I feel blessed to have had the great learning opportunities at UConn over the last 20 years. The Neag School is a tremendous resource, not only as a school of education, but as partners as we work to improve education in Connecticut.

“Great educators build relationships with students and set a high bar for their growth. Great educators believe in the potential of their students, even if the students don’t yet. Great educators pay attention to detail and … value the importance of preparation.”

What led you to choose to pursue the field of education?
Kids. There are few things as gratifying as knowing that your hard work will improve the lives of children. Coming from a family who modeled service to others, I knew I wanted a profession that would give me the opportunity to serve others and help strengthen my community. Teaching did that. Initially, I wanted to become an art teacher. I love the arts and the important role it plays in the development of a person, but I gravitated toward elementary education once in the program. Being an elementary teacher is akin to being an artist, so I got the best of both worlds.

What do you believe makes a great educator?
Great educators are ones that do not look at their work as a job, [but] as an extension of their God-given gifts. The passion and commitment from great educators comes from within … Great educators build relationships with students and set a high bar for their growth. Great educators believe in the potential of their students, even if the students don’t yet. Great educators pay attention to detail and, like any other profession, value the importance of preparation. Whether that is lesson design, or getting to know their students, great teachers invest in their work — and they reap the benefits of their students’ success. … The role of teacher is the most important of all. Teachers shape lives.

How did the Neag School prepare you?
The Neag School prepared me in many ways. I had the fortune of learning from some of the best professors, latest research, and driven cohorts. Neag instructors balanced research and practice well, whether it was through program design that required field experience, or through partnerships with some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the state. The coursework was enhanced with seminars, invitations to functions in the state, and guests that provided unique perspectives from which I grew.

What do you like about working with the Meriden School District?
I love being a part of the Meriden team. As a lifelong resident, and product of its schools, I love being a part of the important work for this city. I work with amazing people, and it is really important to me to remember that the decisions I make in my role as assistant superintendent affect all children, including my own.

What have you enjoyed about serving as an administrator?
It is about relationships. Working with adult learners and a greater number of families was a highlight of serving as building principal for 10 years. I enjoyed working with driven teachers whose input always made our building better. I learned so much from my colleagues and feel that my success is a result of the collective experiences I had as a teacher and school leader.

What are some recent initiatives of which you are most proud?
Serving as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force has been a great source of pride. It has resulted in legislation and practice that works to support student success in ways that make it truly the great equalizer it needs to be in this country. Supporting and advocating for quality programming for our youngest is some of the most rewarding work there is. At the local level, establishing systems that empower teacher collaboration and systematically raising the bar for tier 1 instruction have given me great pride. Another local initiative that brings me great pride is being able to bring community partners into the educational process. Whether that is a local agency aiming to improve the experiences of children after school or a local college that wants to collaborate to create a dual enrollment program for our high schoolers —connecting the K-12 experience to the community is a great source of pride and satisfaction.

Miguel Cardona
Miguel Cardona gives his acceptance speech for Outstanding Principal during the 2013 Neag Alumni Awards. (Photo Credit: Tom Hurlbut/Neag School)

What are your thoughts on the Neag School’s participation in the new University Preparation Program Initiative (UPPI) and how it will help school administrators?
I am thrilled we have an opportunity to partner with UConn in Meriden and know that the UPPI program will only enhance our work with leadership development. As a tier 1 research university, the resources we will benefit from will ultimately enhance the experiences of our learners in Meriden. Given the history I had with the educational leadership department at UConn, I look forward to a great partnership with the Meriden Public Schools.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I hope to continue in this role in Meriden for the foreseeable future. I enjoy what I do and love that it is in the same community in which I live. I feel my role is an extension of my commitment to this community, my family, and to the children in Meriden. I hope to also continue teaching at the university level. The courses I teach at UConn for prospective leaders inspires me. I love the passion and energy of the students whose role will be to shape the educational landscape for the next 30 to 40 years. In my plans, I also expect to enjoy my 10- and 12-year-old as much as possible, and never miss a school concert.

What were some of your favorite moments at UConn?
As the son of two parents who sacrificed so much so their three children could have more than they ever had, the favorite moment for me was being hooded and earning my doctorate. I remember filling up a school bus with family and driving up to Storrs, Conn., for my graduation. When I crossed that stage, it represented the hard work, sacrifice, and guidance that was given to me by my parents and those that supported me. It was a highlight for me as a father also. It sent the message to my kids that the sky is the limit.

Read other installments of the Neag School’s 10 Questions series here.

 

RECENT FACULTY & STAFF NEWS

Spring 2017 Teaching Excellence Honorees

Congratulations to the following Spring 2017 EDLR Faculty who received the Teaching Excellence Honor by the University Provost's Office:

Teaching excellence honoree, Erica Fernandez

Sandy Bell

Laura Burton

Miguel Cardona

Cathy Cocks

Joseph Cooper

Justin Evanovich

Erica Fernández

Robin Grenier

Kimberly LeChasseur

Jennifer Michno

Blanca Rincón

John Settlage

Jennie Weiner

Sarah Woulfin

Based on recent teaching evaluations, these individuals are among a select group of faculty who excel in teaching, which involves successfully engaging students and facilitates an environment of learning around a spirit of inquiry and intellectual curiosity. These educators are innovative and are consistently seeking new ways to improve as teachers.
Congratulations on this success as you continue to serve as a model for the students and peers within the department, keep up the outstanding work!

Shaun Dougherty on Trump’s Education Cuts

The White House released details of how it plans to pay for it all in its full budget request for fiscal year 2018: by slashing spending on pretty much everything else, but also by boosting economic growth enough to generate more than U.S. $2 trillion in new revenue over a decade.

What the President’s team is failing to consider is that many of its spending cuts, such as reduced investment in welfare and education, will actually impede the administration’s ability to achieve its target growth rate of 3 percent, up from about 2 percent today.

My own research focuses on how career and technical education (CTE) has implications for growth by promoting educational attainment, training, and productivity. Trump’s proposed cuts to CTE offer an illustrative example of the economic consequences of reducing social spending.

Taking an Ax to Education
The administration’s budget seeks to slash spending on the Education Department by $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, which is the biggest proposed cut since President Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully tried to gut the agency in the 1980s.

Given the administration’s preference for funding programs that promote economic growth, the cut to career and technical education – which disproportionately benefits Trump’s base of largely white working-class voters – is bewildering.

In K-12 education, the administration would like to eliminate at least four distinct programs – including Title II grants for teacher and principal training, and programs designed to help lower-income students transition to college – and make significant reductions to many others. On the other hand, there’s a big investment in a few programs to support school choice and vouchers, an articulated

Betsy DeVos
Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump want to put more money toward ‘school choice,’ but less in CTE and other areas that evidence shows bolster the economy. (Reuters/Mike Segar, via The Conversation) The Trump administration has some ambitious goals that include trillions in tax cuts, a significant military buildup, and a fresh investment in infrastructure.

priority of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The higher education budget faces severe cuts as well. Trump wants to eliminate subsidized student loans as well as a loan forgiveness program, and slash federal work study spending in half. These changes would substantially undermine efforts to help lower-income Americans attain a college degree, which would be a further drag on economic and productivity growth.

Of particular concern to me, however, is the $168 million, or 15 percent, reduction in block grants to states, called Perkins funding, that are used to support career and technical education in high schools and community college. Given the administration’s preference for funding programs that promote economic growth, the cut to CTE – which disproportionately benefits Trump’s base of largely white working-class voters – is bewildering.

CTE, also known as vocational education, exposes youth to practical, hands-on skills as a complement to academic coursework. Historically, CTE has included programs like auto mechanics and cosmetology, but increasingly also includes high-growth industries such as information technology and health services.

By supporting these kinds of career paths, CTE tends to train students for positions that could support small business growth, and that fill demand in the high growth fields of health services, information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

How CTE Helps the Economy
Though CTE is on Trump’s list of cuts, it is the area of education spending that my research suggests has the most potential to boost economic growth. These benefits would be realized through better-paying jobs and fewer dropouts, which also help achieve other positive economic and social outcomes.

Career Academies, which began about 35 years ago, are one such approach to providing CTE in high school by integrating career pathways into the school curriculum. They boast some of the best evidence on the effectiveness of CTE. A 2008 report on the program suggests it can help students earn 11 percent more in wages compared with their peers.

My own recent work using data from Arkansas shows that students who took more CTE courses in high school were more likely to be employed and earn more money – about 3 percent to 5 percent – than their peers who took fewer. Furthermore, I also found these students were more likely to finish high school and go on to college, both of which improve job prospects.

Evidence from Massachusetts shows similar educational benefits of CTE. Specifically, I found that students enrolled in vocational programs were significantly more likely to graduate from high school and attain industry-recognized certificates in specialized fields like IT.

Increasing high school graduation is critical; there is ample evidence that higher levels of educational attainment result in higher wages and better long-term employment prospects.

Studies show that a high school graduate will earn 50 percent to 100 percent more in lifetime earnings than high school dropouts and will be less likely to draw on welfare or get tangled up in the criminal justice system. The graduate’s higher earnings also mean she’ll pay more in taxes.

Beyond improving individual outcomes, investment in education and training fuels broader economic growth by bolstering productivity. The decreased demand for social services and welfare also frees up more state and federal resources to be invested in other areas of the economy.

Ideology Over Sound Policy
The Trump administration has claimed the high price tag of its tax cuts will pay for themselves through higher economic growth. A budget that aims to gut important social programs – which not only improve individual lives directly but also boost the economy – would make that a lot less achievable.

In the end, the Trump budget, it seems, is motivated more by ideology than sound, evidence-based policy. In education, the administration is clearly prioritizing school choice at the expense of bedrock areas like CTE that are known to promote achievement and a variety of economic benefits.

As a result, education development will suffer, as will the administration’s rosy economic growth projections.

Originally published in The Conversation.

Five Questions with Dr. Dale Bernardoni, UCAPP Clinical Supervisor

Within an hour of her retirement back in 2010, the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program offered distinguished principal Dale Bernardoni, Ed.D., a position as a clinical supervisor. Dr. Bernardoni has been with the UCAPP Program ever since, working alongside other outstanding faculty to prepare the next generation of school leaders in Connecticut. Earlier this semester, we spoke with Dr. Bernardoni about her career as an educational leader.

1. How did you start your career in education?ucapp books

Like so many others who are teachers, my mother was a second-grade teacher. From a very early age, I knew that I loved children and that I thought teaching was a very special profession. I knew I would, in some way, shape or form, be involved in education. Interestingly my first teaching role, because I was an avid ballet dancer and later a performer, was teaching ballet for several years when I was in high school. I loved that so much that I went onto college with a double major in education and dance, not knowing which direction I was going to go in. I went in the dance direction for a little while, and then came back and finished my undergraduate degree.

2. What led you towards educational leadership?

I had been a teacher for 16 years, and during that time, I organized a student newspaper, facilitated a student council, and taught classes after school just for the fun of it. From early on I was told,

“You ought to be a principal, you ought to be a teacher leader.” After my third year of teaching, I was selected to design and implement a program for gifted and talented in Cheshire, which was where I was teaching at the time.

From thCT Association of Schools logoat point on, I was given opportunities to present professional development, both within the district and on the state level. It was at that time, even before I became a principal, that I became aware of the Connecticut Association of Schools, and became involved with a variety of things through the CAS workshops. It was a very seamless transition for me, and I’m one of the few people who went directly from being a classroom teacher to being a principal.

3. You were the founding principal at Wintergreen K-8 Interdistrict Magnet School in Hamden, CT. What was that experience like?

It was one of the schools in the late ’90s that was started in response to Sheff vs. O’Neill. Approximately 30 interdistrict magnet schools were opened in the state at that time. As one of the few magnet schools in the New Haven area, it serviced the towns of Hamden, New Haven, Wallingford, Woodbridge, [and] now also includes students from Meriden as well as choice students. Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School was unique in that it was the only school in Connecticut developed in partnership with Edison Schools and the only Interdistrict Edison school in the country. I often described the school design, curriculum, and professional development structure as being intelligent and elegant. I got to hire the entire staff, which was such a unique opportunity. A lot of people were very interested in what we were doing and how we were doing it. It was very exciting to be part of that.

4. Today controversy surrounds school choice, vouchers, magnet schools, and charter schools. Where do you see Connecticut heading with its choice programs?

Providing a variety of school designs strengthens educational opportunities. Theme focused magnet schools, for example, enable families to match their child’s skills, talents and needs with schools that offer specialized programming. However, I personally question the belief that offering vouchers will improve education overall. It has the potential to take badly needed funding from schools that serve students with the greatest challenges therefore broadening the gap between privileged and less privileged students.

5. Your final principalship was at McKinley Elementary School in Fairfield, a school with a very diverse school community. School leaders sometimes struggle to create home and community partnerships. How were you able to successfully build partnerships with your parents and community?

I was invited to go to McKinley specifically because that’s a school, unlike one might picture in one’s mind about Fairfield schools; filled with immigrant children. There was a year when there were 42 different languages spoken by McKinley families. It was an honor to work with such a beautiful community with a real sense of global respect and appreciation for each other. It’s a model of what schools can become [and] for how people who have come together from all over the world can live together and appreciate each other’s cultures and languages. There was a highly functional PTA, not just raising funds and doing fun things with kids and their families, but actively supporting numerous cultural activities. We also were able to take advantage of a lot of community resources, which is part of what my work there was about. I did presentations at General Electric to help them understand that, at least in this one section of Fairfield, there were a lot of people from various other countries. Many of the parents of the students had been professionals where they came from and they left because it was no longer safe to live there. I also worked with the United Way, [who] designated McKinley as a School of Hope. They provided resources for us. We started a Title 1 funded preschool for children whose families spoke another language at home, and we added text materials that supported the work with early literacy. We also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Coastal Fairfield County, who provided high school students who tutored some of our students after school four days a week. Because there were so many high school kids that came into work with so many of our identified students who needed just an extra boost, they hired a coordinator who oversaw that program for our school. Between our three biggest community donors and grants that we received, we were able to really create a very comprehensive and energized school.

Dr. Richard Gonzales, UConn Director of Educational Leadership Preparation Programs, appreciates the guidance and wisdom Dr. Bernardoni shares with aspiring school leaders.

“Our participants continue to benefit from accomplished educators like Dale Bernardoni who’ve dedicated their careers to improving teaching and learning across our state.”

As for Dr. Bernardoni, she will continue to help the program evolve to meet the needs of UCAPPers in an ever-changing education landscape.“I love it,” she beams.

“I tell everyone it’s absolutely the best administrator preparation program in the state of Connecticut. I’m unabashedly biased in that regard. I’m honored to be a part of it.”