On Point e-Newsletter: Winter 2016

On Point with the School of Education

A Message from the Dean: Committing to Inclusive Education

This past fall, I had the opportunity to spend part of my sabbatical in the Netherlands where I was hosted as a visiting professor at Driestar Educatief, a faith-based teacher education college located in the city of Gouda. During my time there, I learned that inclusion as it relates to the education of students with disabilities is currently a significant issue in the Netherlands, largely driven by recently revised policy by the Dutch government that will stop funding for special education schools and adopt school funding formulas that would encourage the inclusion of children with disabilities in general education schools and classrooms. Not surprisingly, this new direction to encourage more inclusion has resulted in varying thoughts and opinions, which include strong supporters on one side and those who are highly skeptical on the other.

Shortly after my arrival at Dreistar, I was invited to write a short blog that offered my perspective on the topic. I would like to share part of it with you.

The inclusion of learners with disabilities has been an important issue in both American and Dutch schools. This September and October I have the opportunity, as part of my sabbatical, to carry out research comparing inclusive education as a guest of Driestar Educatief.

Though the concept of inclusive education for all students is complicated and often ill defined, the motivation for such practice can be articulated more clearly — children with and without disabilities should be educated together. It is my belief that all children benefit when children with disabilities are educated in the same settings as those for children without disabilities. This does not necessarily mean that all children with disabilities need to be educated full-time in the general education classroom, though many can and should be. However, it does mean that all children with disabilities should be educated in settings where they have regular opportunities to interact with children without disabilities.

As a result of some initial meetings with Driestar staff and recent news reports I have begun to develop an understanding of the current status of inclusive education in the Netherlands. I was very encouraged to find out that Driestar staff are currently engaged in research on the topic of inclusive education, especially as it relates to students with emotional and behavioral disorders. I look forward to engaging with these faculty members and learning from them. I have also become aware of specific concerns that some Dutch educators have regarding the inclusion of learners with disabilities. Concerns that classroom teachers do not have the knowledge and skills needed for educating students with disabilities, that the only motivation is financial, and that the process will never work are identical to those often expressed by American educators. These are valid concerns and are certainly correct when inclusion is done poorly.

When inclusion is done correctly, support services are in place for the classroom teacher. Such supports could include an aide in the classroom, regular consultation, or other types of assistance. Since special education services should follow the student when moving from a segregated setting to a more inclusive setting, it is unlikely that inclusion would result in any financial savings. Successful inclusion requires thoughtful and intentional efforts to modify the types of services and supports that meet the unique challenges of inclusive settings. Such efforts ideally involve regular collaboration and implementation between classroom teachers and special education staff.

I learned much from my colleagues and friends in the Netherlands regarding their unique situation as they seriously grapple with the issue of inclusion and how to best meet the needs of all learners, including those with disabilities. In the end, what impressed me the most is that, like their colleagues in America, these educators are committed to providing the most effective education for all children and youth.

In this Winter Quarter issue of On Point, we feature faculty and alumni who are committed to working through these same questions of inclusion — endeavors that are both crucial to local school systems and serve as a thread that connects us to a global community of educators who are actively engaged in God’s calling to prepare and support teachers for the education of all children.

Rick Eigenbrood Rick Eigenbrood, Dean
School of Education

Faculty Highlights

Faculty/Staff Highlight: Q&A with Dr. Robin Henrikson

Dr. Robin Henrikson Dr. Robin Henrikson is assistant professor of education and faculty chair for the MEd in Teacher Leadership program at SPU. Henrikson first came to SPU seeking a ProCert program at the beginning of her teaching career, but later returned to pursue an MEd and PhD. While in the doctoral program she felt drawn to becoming a professor, though that had not been her intention as she began her studies.

“I realized this was where I was meant to be,” says Henrikson. “I always had a passion for teacher leadership and enabling teachers to realize their capacities and importance as leaders in their schools.”

Henrikson describes serving as chair of the MEd in Teacher Leadership as a “natural fit,” and adds: “I absolutely love being a leader for a program that I believe in with all of my heart.” She was also recently elected to the Sequim School District Board, and serves as its vice president. Here she answers questions regarding her roles both teaching educational leadership and serving as a leader herself.

How does the SPU Teacher Leadership Ed Program build the educators needed in schools today?

There is an increase in the number of instructional coaches needed within districts. District leaders are finally realizing that in order to support, grow, and sustain excellence in teaching within their districts, they need to empower educators from within. Trying to improve teaching through sending teachers to workshops is not sustainable, nor is it an effective model that improves the collective capacity of teachers. When I had the opportunity to chair the MEd in Teacher Leadership program, I wanted the design of the program to mirror effective professional learning as much as possible. Embedding cohorts within districts benefits the teachers as well as the district as a whole. Teachers can take classes alongside their colleagues and learn collaboratively.

What is unique and most exciting to you about the MEd in Teacher Leadership Program?

The most unique part of this program is the cohort model, where teachers are working alongside their colleagues and taking courses within their own district. Instructors align the district initiatives, instructional frameworks, and other district-embedded goals within their coursework. I think this is definitely a highlight of the program! I love that teachers are taking courses from both School of Education professors and also instructors who work to uniquely align the content of the courses to fit the needs of the teachers within a particular district. This includes an emphasis on building leadership and advocacy skills in most courses, which truly empowers teachers and gives them the self-confidence to be educational leaders.

How have you grown and been challenged while teaching and serving as chair in Teacher Leadership?

I want to ensure that all of the teachers in the program are receiving the best experiences in each of their courses, so one of the challenging aspects of my work is to continue to refine and improve all courses in the program. Things in education are always changing, so the coursework needs to change with it. It can be challenging when working with so many instructors to maintain rigor and excellence in coursework that reflects not only sound educational theory, but also up-to-date educational issues and resources.

What values/principles that you seek to instill in your students will be key to your service on the Sequim School Board?

One of the greatest areas of learning for me over the past few years working at SPU has been social justice issues; I feel that I am personally still just scratching the surface in my own understanding. I strive to advocate for this principle not only with my students but also in my work on the school board. I think that probably one of my greatest potential contributions to the school board is knowing how to view topics from a variety of perspectives to help create comprehensive and long-term plans for improvement. This aligns with one of my goals for the teachers in my program — to enable them to see issues from multiple perspectives in order to leverage the resources they need for systemic improvement, not just immediate, quick classroom-based adjustments. I want the teachers who graduate from the Teacher Leadership program to have the self-confidence, tools, and knowledge to become leaders through collaborative improvement on a systems level. As a school board member, I want to be able to encourage all educators, no matter what their role, to become leaders within their district and also encourage authentic and trusting relationships with parents and our community. Serving on the school board is an entirely different perspective and role for me within a district and one that will continue to challenge and grow me.

Learn about SPU’s MEd in Teacher Leadership, or view the graduates share their stories.

Dr. Julie Antilla Receives 2016 AILACTE Scholar Award

Julie Antilla The Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education (AILACTE) has selected Dr. Julie Antilla, SPU assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, to receive their 2016 Scholar Award.

The award is given to a faculty member at an AILACTE institution to conduct research related to the impact of teacher preparation.

Antilla’s proposal “Embodying Justice: Supporting Teacher Candidates with Disabilities” questions whether teacher education programs are doing their part to support teacher candidates with disabilities, including “invisible” conditions such as learning and psychiatric disabilities, and explores the moral dimension of inclusivity.

Antilla writes, “Potential future teachers — students succeeding with disabilities — are out there, and they are entering our teacher education programs. The more we know, the more we can explicitly shape the dominant discourse on abilities of individuals with disabilities. We’ve been teaching our students to promote this among the P-12 population; now it is our turn to promote this for our teacher education participants. If liberal arts education ‘aspires to promote human flourishing, and explores what it means to be fully human in order to experience a more enriched life’ (Lederhouse, 2014), and if we believe in a sociopolitical construct that positions disability within the parameter of full humanity, then we must model for our teacher education students what it means to support those with disabilities in our educational communities. This is how we embody justice in our teacher education programs.”

The scholar Award will allow Dr. Antilla to conduct research that will more fully engage these issues. She received her award at the recent AILACTE Annual Meeting and Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and will report the results of her research at the 2017 AILACTE meeting in Tampa, Florida.

SOE Welcomes Certification Officer Jessica Bosley

Jessica Bosley In January SPU welcomed Jessica Bosley as the new certification officer for the School of Education.

Jessica holds a bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama, and a MEd in Educational Leadership from Samford University, where she spent six years as a staff member. In addition, she held several roles throughout different schools in Alabama, most recently as assistant certification officer in the Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education, where she gained experience helpful to her new position at SPU.

While there are differences between the state certification processes in Alabama and Washington, Jessica is up for the challenge: “Coming from a similar Christian institution at Samford University, I understand and appreciate the atmosphere of serving beside other believers in their pursuit of excellence in higher education,” she says. “I have truly enjoyed the transition from living in the Southeast to the Northwest and believe I will love my new life in Seattle and at SPU.”

Dr. William Prenevost Named WCEAP Chair

Dr. William Prenevost Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Supervision and Chair of Educational Leadership Dr. William Prenevost was recently named chair of WCEAP, the Washington Council of Education Administration Programs. WCEAP is a collaborative of preparation program directors and faculty who meet face-to-face four times a year to support statewide efforts to develop high quality educational leaders.

Alumni Highlights

Principal Pat Larson Enacts Change at Foster High School

Pat Larson On January 2, 2016 the Seattle Times published an article about academic turnaround at Foster High School in the Tukwila School District. The school, which is one of the most ethnically diverse public schools in the country, is headed by principal Pat Larson, who has been integral to transforming school achievement, particularly in mathematics, and creating an educational environment that supports students from all over the world.

Larson received her superintendent certification at SPU, which she says helped her learn about the bigger educational picture. “It’s not always common,” she says, “that a principal in a large district knows what the decision-making process is and how the system works outside the building. This makes leveraging change a challenge.”

While in SPU’s program, Larson was able to able to form relationships at the district office and learn about budgeting, grant writing, and other ways to acquire resources that would increase equity among individual schools.

She also benefited from the program’s cohort model, which allowed her to create a network of friends from across the state who represented many districts. “It opened my mind to different issues that arise is non-urban areas,” she says.

During Larson’s internship at SPU she worked with a district partner to create a system of supporting new teachers from inception through their professional development, and has maintained a deep passion for finding ways to support new teachers so that they stay in the profession and feel confident through their first year — because that first year is a tough one.

When Larson started at Foster, she recalls staff meetings that made her quickly recognize there was a lot of frustration with the lack of teacher support. Foster High School had seen 12 principals in 10 years, so the staff had experienced a lot of change. After recognizing this need, Larson used the same intentional systems approach she used in her internship to create a program that provides all new teachers ongoing internal support from colleagues.

Larson is also quick to praise her staff, whom she calls “the easiest staff to work with” and “amazing people who are deeply invested in their students.”

“It takes a certain kind of person to teach at Foster,” she says, “with all of the languages and challenges that ELL students bring. But all of the students are interested in doing good, and this makes Foster a very special place.”

It’s also the place Larson feels is the right one for her. After completing the SPU certificate program, she applied for positions at the central office, but now is glad she made her way to Foster, which is also the school she, her grandparents, her parents, and her children all attended — four generations of Foster graduates.

Last year when the school celebrated its centennial anniversary, Larson worried no one would show up to the big celebration. But over 2,000 attended the event — including Larson’s mother and daughter, themselves alums of the school. Pat reconnected with old friends she knew from her student days at Foster, and was blown away by the turnout and support for the school.

It’s those kind of connections that can turn a student body with diverse backgrounds into a unified community. “I feel energized by the students and staff every day when I come to work,” Larson says.

Lance Gibbon Spreads Joy in Oak Harbor Schools

Lance GibbonLance Gibbon earned his EdD from SPU, and now serves as superintendent of Oak Harbor Schools. It’s serious work, but Gibbon also knows the value of being a bit more lighthearted. Find out how he uses music to connect with students and staff.

News & Events

2016 Martinez Scholarship Awarded to Sasha Yanak

Sasha Yanak

SPU student Sasha Yanak, an SPU student currently enrolled in our Alternate Routes to Certification (ARC) program and working toward a graduate degree with English Language Arts and English Language Learner endorsements, is the recipient of this year’s Martinez Scholarship — an annual award given to a student or students of color enrolled in a graduate level teacher preparation program at SPU.

The Martinez Foundation, created by Edgar and Holli Martinez in 2008, is dedicated to creating more equitable learning environments in public classrooms by improving teacher diversity — an important goal in Washington state, where 42 percent of students are students of color, compared to only 9 percent of the 60,000 teachers.

Yanak, who earned an MATESOL degree from the University of Washington and is the daughter of first-generation immigrant parents, understands the need for multicultural awareness in the classroom. “As a pale mixed-race woman of half Latino, half Euro-American ancestry,” she says, “I do not look like how most folks in the United States picture a person of color. In my view, individuals are the carriers of their heritage and the ones who represent how they identify, whether that is in terms of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, or gender.”

Yanak currently holds an internship at Whitman Middle School in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle, where she has realized that “part of being a teacher, especially of at-risk students, is being aware of struggles which can be symptoms of greater issues. Teachers … may be the first to pick up on warning signs of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and learning disabilities. Our knowledge of our students’ individual behavior, our knowledge of the families and community, and our knowledge of how to intervene while keeping the child’s best interest at heart are a really important part of our job.”

Her own inspiration for teaching came from teachers she had in school who provided stability and support when she was struggling in adolescence, and who gave her a safe space to talk about her experiences and explore ideas.

After graduating, Yanak would like to teach middle and high school English Language Learners in an international school or orientation center. Her educational goals are “to further develop my ideas and strategies around tranformative and multicultural education and empathetic classroom management, and to make connections with educators I can learn and grow with.”

With a shared commitment to equity and social justice, the School of Education and the John Perkins Center at SPU are dedicated to supporting students of color and connecting them to a future in teaching. Learn more about the Martinez Foundation and its partnership with SPU.

You can also join this effort with a gift to help deserving students through Diversity Education Scholarships.

Dearborn Park Fifth Graders Return for 12th Annual Visit

Dearborn Park Students More than 50 fifth-grade students were greeted on SPU’s campus last October by 50 undergraduate teacher education students eager to share what life at college is like.

Going to College in the Fifth Grade has been one of the most anticipated events on campus each year since it was founded by Ruth Adams, now the vice president for academic affairs, and her husband Ed Adams, a PE teacher at Dearborn Park Elementary. The October visit, supported by a SERVE grant, was the twelfth for the school.

Fifth graders first gathered with their SPU buddies in Emerson Lounge for a greeting from SPU staff and a talk about college planning from Ruth Adams. The students had many questions about SPU, including what it was like to live on campus, and whether any Seattle Seahawks had graduated from the school.

Students participated in lessons on conflict resolution prepared by SPU freshman in a USEM 1000 course and went on a scavenger hunt in the library before the highlight of the day — lunch in Gwinn Commons. This year’s program also added a new activity: a tour of one of the dorms. Fifth graders were led in groups through Arnett Hall to get a close-up look at a dorm bedroom, study rooms, and common living areas. The day concluded with PE activities in Royal Brougham led by Health and Human Performance students, after which the group of tired-but-happy fifth graders boarded their buses to return to school.

SPU students later reflected on their experience as hosts, exploring how the day had been meaningful to their developing sense of vocation. One student wrote, “I felt like this was an amazing experience because it was great to see how excited the students were, and how I was able to positively shape my buddy’s experience of college. I think that after spending the afternoon with them, it really confirmed my desire to become an elementary school teacher.”

And what did the fifth graders think of their day? In one thank-you letter a student notes, “SPU is awesome. Too bad I’ll be going to middle school next year.”

Director of Field Placement and Professional Partnerships Jill Heiney-Smith, organizer for this event, adds, “Envisioning themselves as college-bound helps students begin to realize the importance of decisions they make now, and guides them in selecting sixth grade or middle school courses that open an academic path toward college. In a community so impacted by poverty, students will remember positive experiences such as this when they plan for the future.”

SERVE grants are administered through the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development and are designed to support programs like the fifth grader visits. Specifically, the grant seeks to back exploration of theological aspects and implications of Christian vocation, with a special emphasis on student vocational exploration, discernment, and preparation.

John and Pearl Olson Leadership Scholarships

In the upcoming year, 15 new $5,000 grants funded through the John and Pearl Olson Leadership Scholarship will be made available to teacher education students: an annual total of $75,000 in student support. The scholarship is available for students seeking teacher certification in their junior, senior, or fifth year.

New Grant for Alternative Routes to Certification for School Employees

A grant application to support graduate students enrolled in the Alternative Routes to Certification program recently approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) will provide a total of $360,000 in funding to be distributed over the next two years, including 12 scholarships of $11,000 each year. The grant is targeted towards ARC students who are already school employees working as paraeducators, instructional assistants, or on conditional certificates. Grant partners include Tacoma Public Schools, ESD 113, and PSESD. Learn more about the Alternative Route to Certification for School Employees.


Like you, we believe in our mission to engage the culture and change the world … starting in the classroom. That’s why SPU’s School of Education is always looking for new ways to help you connect with the future of education in our state and beyond. And there’s more than one way you can get involved. In fact, here are four ways to give!