On Point e-Newsletter: Fall 2018

SPU School of Education at International Conference

A message from the Dean: Still the same but different

This seems to be an apt description of where we are as an SPU community and certainly in the School of Education. After a lot of thought and effort, SPU has a new look. Those who are new to SPU may simply shrug their shoulders. For those who have more of a history with us, you may also be shrugging your shoulders for different reasons. There are mixed reactions to the new brand. I personally found that learning more about the process to get here helped me appreciate this re-branding. As a side note, if you look at the flame closely you will see it spells SPU and if you take away the SEA and the LE in Seattle Pacific you will see our beloved torch lives on! Cool, right? The same, yet different.

A lot has been going on in the School of Education as well. The conference on Education for Excellence, Diversity and Respect cosponsored and organized by the School of Education together with the Korczak Association of the USA, was held in August. It was a great success and it was a wonderful time for participants to learn and network.

There have been some additions to our team and some shifting of roles. In the words of my grandson, I am “super excited” to open this new chapter in the SOE as we continue to educate our students for competence and character. Onwards and upwards!

Nyaradzo MvududuNyaradzo Mvududu, Dean
School of Education

Faculty & Staff highlights


Krystle Jalalian-Chursky

Krystle Jalalian-Chursky joins the SOE as a full-time faculty member after serving as an adjunct professor for the School of Education since 2016. During this time, she was a practicum supervisor and taught classes in both general and special education. Krystle also worked as a behavioral therapist at the University of Washington’s Experimental Education Unit at the Haring Center. She currently serves as a board member for Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT), a nonprofit organization with a mission of helping children with autism reach their full potential.

Recently, Krystle finished up her doctorate in Applied Linguistics with a specialization in Special Education and Bilingualism at University of London, Birkbeck. During her PhD studies, her emphasis was to better understand bilingual language development in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). More specifically, she investigated social communication abilities and behaviors among bilingual and monolingual ASD and typically developing (TD) children aged 2–5 years old. Her study focuses on the connection between disabilities and English language learners (ELL) in order to develop educational programs and resources to help children with autism grow academically and developmentally. Krystle received a bachelor of science degree in Education with a concentration in Special Education and ESL, and a master’s degree in Education in Teaching English as a Second Language K–12 from St. John’s University.

As a passionate educator, Krystle believes in giving all students a place where they feel supported and safe, and remains sensitive to students’ unique needs by developing effective plans through individual and group support, positive encouragement, and reinforcement. Krystle’s favorite expression is “Pay It Forward,” and she hopes to instill generosity in every student she teaches. Krystle resides in Seattle with her husband, Alex, and their son, Lennox. They all enjoy soccer, fitness, cooking, and the outdoors.

Erin Rooney

Erin Rooney is our new certification advisor for undergraduate students in the School of Education. Her primary role will be working with undergraduate students as they navigate the state and SOE certification requirements while completing their bachelor’s degree. Erin comes from a family of educators (both her parents are middle school educators), so she has grown up in the classroom and is passionate about spaces being equitable, creative, and accessible. Erin recently graduated from SPU with her master’s in Reconciliation and Intercultural Studies. During her time at SPU she interned with SoulCare, a program that provides individual and group pastoral care, leadership, and spiritual direction to undergraduate students. She enjoys drawing, reading, going on walks, and talking with others about where theology finds its intersection in justice, the arts, and worship. You can find her on the third floor of Peterson Hall if you’d like to stop by to say hello.

Mamta Ouyoumjian

Mamta Ouyoumjian joins the SOE as the continuing education coordinator. Mamta is a native Texan, born and raised just outside of Dallas. Although she has lived all over the country, from Juneau to Hawaii to Williamsburg, VA, she now calls Seattle home and hopes to stay here permanently when her husband retires from the Coast Guard after a 20-year career. Mamta has two beautiful girls ages 8 and 12 and a crazy dog who escapes at least once a week! When she’s not at work or writing papers for her MPA program through WSUV, she enjoys hiking, watching old Bollywood movies, and spending time with her family. Mamta is overjoyed to be part of the SPU family!


Rick Eigenbrood

There have been some shifts in the School of Education as well. As he shared with you in the last newsletter, our dean for nine years, Dr. Rick Eigenbrood, has stepped back into the classroom. Besides teaching courses in special education, Dr. Eigenbrood now also serves as the director of assessment.

Nyaradzo Mvududu

Dr. Mvududu is succeeding him as the dean of the School of Education. While she will certainly miss being in the classroom, Dr. Mvududu is looking forward to serving the SOE in this new role. One thing she can say with utmost sincerity is that we have a remarkable team in the SOE — talented and committed to serving our students and the education community at large. “I know God will continue to use us to serve his children in the fullness of who they are.” 

Jill Heiney-Smith

Dr. Jill Heiney-Smith has stepped into the role of director of graduate teacher education. Dr. Heiney-Smith served as the director of field placements at SPU for four years after over 10 years as a teacher educator at the University of Washington. Prior to transitioning to academia, Dr. Heiney-Smith taught language arts in Vermont and Mukilteo, and all subjects in an alternative high school setting in urban Seattle. At SPU, she strives to incorporate her values around social justice teaching into all of her courses.

Dr. Heiney-Smith’s current research interest focuses on the University’s responsibility in making mentors feel valued and supported in their important roles as clinical teacher educators. Since 1996, Dr. Heiney-Smith has attended St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill where she serves with the One Parish, One Prisoner stakeholder group, in partnership with Underground Ministries. She is married to SPU alum Steve Smith ’89, and they live in Shoreline with their two teenage children.

Kristine Gritter

Starting January 2019, Dr. Kristine Gritter will be SOE’s new chair of the MEd in Literacy program. Kristine Gritter spent 10 years as a middle school English language arts teacher in Miami, Florida. She has a daughter and a husband who is a high school history teacher. Dr. Gritter received her PhD from Michigan State University and her teaching credentials from Calvin College. She has taught at SPU since 2007.

Dr. Gritter’s research interest currently focuses on censorship in young adult literature. She is currently the Right to Read editor of The ALAN Review, a flagship journal of young adult literature produced by the National Council of Teachers of English. She has published in several International Literacy Association and NCTE journals.

Dr. Gritter teaches children’s literature, young adult literature, secondary English methods, and disciplinary literacy courses for undergraduate and graduate students.

Emily Huff

Emily Huff is our new director of field placements at SPU. She brings eight years of K–12 teaching experience in Seattle and Tukwila along with 14 years of teaching supervision work from Vanderbilt University, University of Tennessee, and Seattle Pacific University to the position. Emily has also been teaching in the SOE since 2012, and she is excited to start her seventh year here at SPU in this new role building partnerships with schools in the greater Seattle area and coming alongside candidates, mentors, and supervisors to support their work in teaching and learning.

In addition to working at SPU, Emily has served since 1994 as the director for an educational nonprofit called Children of the Kingdom, raising funds for school fees for children in India and Kenya.

She and her husband have been married 22 years and have a daughter in 10th grade at Roosevelt High School and a son at Eckstein Middle School.


Pete Renn

Dr. Pete Renn serves as the assistant dean for certification programs in the School of Education. He is entering his third year at SPU and 27th year in education. A sixth-grade teacher at heart, he has taught in schools in California, Nevada, and Washington. Prior to joining SPU, Pete served as a faculty member and international director at Concordia University Chicago. His research interests include teacher education; social foundations of education; and mind, brain, and education studies. He and his wife have two sons and two rather troublesome dogs.

Scott	Beers

Dr. Scott Beers is in his 15th year at Seattle Pacific University, following the completion of his PhD in Education in 2004 at the University of Washington. In the School of Education, Scott developed the MEd in Literacy program in 2007 and has served as chair of the program for the past 11 years. Scott teaches a variety of literacy-related classes in the SOE, sharing his passion for reading and writing development with graduate and undergraduate students alike. For the past 14 years, he has been conducting research in reading and writing development, with a focus on struggling readers and writers. Most recently, Scott served as a co-investigator with an NICHD-funded Multidisciplinary Learning Disabilities Center, using both keystroke logging data (for writing fluency) and eye tracking data (for reading behaviors) to explore the literacy behaviors of students with dyslexia and dysgraphia. This work has led to recent publications in the Journal of Writing Research (2017), Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal (2018), and International Journal of Educational Methodology (2017).

Scott has been married for 25 years to his wife, Kristen, who works as an instructional aide in a K–2 special education classroom. He also strives to keep up with his two teenage sons in high school. When not working, Scott loves hiking, camping with his family, improving his skills as a photographer, and playing the guitar (and ukulele!). Dr. Beers is looking forward to serving the SOE in his role as assistant dean!

Alumni highlights

Alumna selected as Regional Teacher of the Year and finalist for Washington State Teacher of the Year

Karen Doran

Karen Doran is a 19-year veteran of teaching who began her career in Mountainair, New Mexico. Karen has a true sense of adventure and desire to experience different cultures around our great country. She has spent time in New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, and Washington, and currently teaches highly capable 5th and 6th graders at Roosevelt Elementary in Port Angeles.

Karen earned her Elementary Education degree with an endorsement in Science from the University of New Mexico in 2001. She recently worked with Dr. Robin Henrikson, Tamera Smith, and Dan Bishop on her coursework for a Middle Level Mathematics endorsement through Seattle Pacific University. Karen is also currently working on her National Board Certification and master’s in Elementary Mathematics Instruction. In addition, she is part of a statewide program to implement Number Talks as a regular routine in the classroom. Karen Doran has a love for math and believes that every student can learn math at any level. She continually strives to improve her instruction around mathematics through research, education, and collaboration. Karen enjoys providing professional development to staff that meets their individual needs and is engaging. As a result of her work, she helped create a building culture that is focused on improving instruction in the field of mathematics in her district.

Assessing a need for capable mathematics teachers on the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsula, the Olympic ESD 114, in partnership with Seattle Pacific University, offered teachers in rural areas a grant-funded opportunity to add an Elementary Mathematics Specialist endorsement to their certificate. The promise to not only enrich mathematical content knowledge but also refine and practice leadership skills for future career opportunities as an advisor and/or instructional coach intrigued Karen enough to pursue the opportunity. In order to receive 12 graduate level credits through Seattle Pacific University, the commitment included spending the summer immersed in content and taking information learned back to the teacher’s district and building in a yearlong internship, leading and supporting other teachers in their math instruction.

This opportunity was the catalyst for Karen’s continued involvement in educating teachers about the shifts in instruction around mathematics. The project started with her willingness to dig deeper and be honest with herself about her own lack of understanding about mathematics and good instruction. Over the last few years, Karen has heard more and more students complain about math and express how they are not good at it. Karen became more aware of the number of teachers that share this fixed mindset, “I am not good at math.” As she dug deeper in her own teaching, Karen revealed her own math phobias leading to her own fixed mindset in math. As Karen states, “my mathematical mindset hindered some of the success I could have seen from my students.”

Through the learning that Karen gained from this opportunity, she designed a series (28) of professional development (PD) sessions for Port Angeles School District staff and Roosevelt Elementary School teachers, creating a safe environment for people to learn and grow as mathematicians and math instructors. Karen aimed to educate teachers on the 8 Mathematical Practices (MP8) of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), highly effective math tasks in the classroom, and the shifts in math instruction, including the importance of mathematical growth mindset. What she did not anticipate is the drive teachers had to receive PD in math instruction aimed at increasing students’ engagement in math. Where she thought a few teachers would sign up for the sessions, 20 teachers attended regularly.

In the PD sessions, teachers engaged with one another, brought in evidence of math instruction and student learning, collaborated with grade-level and vertical teams to hear and apply instructional methods found to be successful, and discussed personal ideological shifts and how they could apply their new beliefs about the importance of a growth mindset when approaching mathematics to instructional delivery. Resulting from the focus of professional development in math, the energy and excitement around mathematical instruction increased. In the end, more than 125 staff members participated in the PD. Teachers are now spending more time on the planning of mathematics, implementing more engaging math tasks, and giving students time to struggle and persevere when solving challenging math problems. These shifts in instruction are making our students better problem solvers and mathematical thinkers.

Learn more about Karen and the Teacher of the Year and regional winners.

Alumnus releases book: A Special Education in Anxiety

Brad Smith at an A Special Education in Anxiety book signing

Bradley Smith is an SPU graduate and a special education teacher at Chief Umtuch Middle School. Smith has suffered debilitating bouts of social anxiety throughout his life. However, he praises his students with helping him to confront a crisis. It was the acceptance and the lack of judgment that he felt from his students which provided the confidence that he needed to realize that he would be able to thrive as a teacher and that his problems were something he could overcome. Smith recognized the usefulness of writing as a way to liberate himself from crushing doubts and disquiet. Four years later, he published A Special Education in Anxiety, a novel about a middle school special education teacher who copes with devastating cycles of social anxiety. As the story develops, the protagonist’s students are key factors in remedying his anxiety and returning him to feelings of inner composure and tranquility. Smith's novel is a useful tool for teachers working with neurodiversity and the broader subject of special education. For more information, read this Clark County Today article on Brad Smith.

News and Events

Patricia Whitney Blumenthal Scholarship Endowment for Literacy

Patricia W. Blumenthal Scholarship Endowment

The School of Education is thrilled to announce the development of the Patricia W. Blumenthal Scholarship Endowment! Created in honor of Patricia Blumenthal’s distinguished career as an educator and advocate for literacy, this endowment will fund scholarships for students in the MEd in Literacy program.

Patricia (Pat) Blumenthal has a strong connection to Seattle Pacific and the School of Education, beginning in 1982. Shortly after receiving her MA from California State Polytechnic University, Pat moved to Seattle with her family and soon began teaching at Seattle Pacific as an adjunct professor in the SOE’s Continuing Education program. Drawing upon her 30 years as a classroom teacher, Pat taught a variety courses in the 1980s for teachers pursuing professional development. In these courses Pat blended her expertise in neuroscience and learning theory with her own classroom experience, equipping teachers to provide excellent literacy instruction for all students, including those with special needs.

In addition to her teaching, Pat developed highly regarded, innovative educational conferences focusing upon neuroscience and education. Due to Pat’s efforts, renowned neuroscientists and cognitive scientists (such as Howard Gardner) came to SPU to present cutting-edge research to educators in the Seattle area.

Following her years at Seattle Pacific, Pat continued her work in education as a consultant, focusing upon assessment and instruction for students with learning disabilities and education for incarcerated people seeking a GED.

The School of Education is grateful for Pat’s contributions to the SPU community, and for her career-long dedication to education. We are honored to receive this endowment, and excited to see how it supports our MEd in Literacy students in the future.

Transforming Professional Learning in K-8 Math grant wraps up

This project was funded by a grant from the Washington State Achievement Council (WSAC) to Seattle Pacific University in partnership with Olympic Educational Service District 114. The district serves both public and private schools across Washington State, with particular attention to districts classified as high needs. The purpose of the grant was to improve student learning by providing an opportunity for K-8 teachers to earn an Elementary Mathematics Specialist endorsement and to dig deeper into the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s Digital Library to promote the use of a formative assessment cycle within professional learning communities.

EMS endorsement candidates took a variety of content, curriculum, and pedagogy classes in both mathematics content and professional development. With the goal of creating ongoing and sustainable mathematics professional learning, each candidate developed and implemented an internship experience within their own school context to improve mathematics content and pedagogy for their fellow teachers.

Originally this project’s duration was only the 2016–17 school year, but an extension allowed program directors to improve the design and implement a second round during the 2017–18 school year. One additional extension enabled a larger group of teachers to engage in an online course focused on effective models of leadership and professional learning within their given context. In all, approximately 155 teachers, 14 principals, and a handful of paraprofessionals were served by this project. Designed for sustained impact, it is exciting to consider the potential, long-term positive impact on student learning brought about through transformative shifts in practice.

International conference at SPU great success

International Conference group at Seattle Pacific University

The long-anticipated international conference on Education for Excellence, Diversity, and Respect: Transformative 21st Century Innovations was put together in cooperation with the Janusz Korczak Association of the USA, Honorary Polish Consul Teresa Indelak Davis, and SPU’s SOE, and was held on the SPU campus in August 2018. Now it is time to reflect on some key accomplishments.

Preparations began with a realization of how valuable the humanistic ideas and inspiration of Janusz Korczak (1878-1942) is in this time and age. Janusz Korczak was one of the authors of the first Declaration of Children’s Rights as well as a pediatrician, educator, and author who dedicated his life to orphaned children in Poland. We planned to introduce his legacy to the broader educational community and to inspire participants with his groundbreaking ideas, to share his innovative concepts and international practice-oriented projects, and to exchange ways on their possible implementation in the United States. We also hoped to stimulate a caring and creative atmosphere among the participants, which would give them the opportunity to experience Korczak’s spirit in practice.

This last objective of creating a unique atmosphere of friendship, openness, sharing, and respect was probably the greatest achievement. There were many beneficial factors, including the presence of a group of high school students, who made the discussions more meaningful and goal-oriented. It was no longer a “pure” academic talk but a frank and serious conversation about how to support our schools as they face new challenges, how to assist teachers in providing their students with more opportunities for social-emotional learning and moral development, and how to promote cooperation between these two groups.

Equally important was the high quality of keynote presentations and sessions, the warm and creative atmosphere of evening gatherings, the music and puppet show performances, and of course the wonderful guests and organizers. Set in the lush atmosphere of our tranquil SPU campus, with its well-manicured lawns, beautiful flowers, and inquisitive squirrels, the conference was practically destined to succeed.

The participants represented a diverse community: world-famous psychologist Darcia Narvaez (USA), and curriculum specialist Alicia de Alba (Mexico); distinguished Korczak researchers Marc Silverman (Israel), Sara Efrat Efron (USA), Ewa Jarosz (Poland), and Roza Valeeva (Russia); pioneers in the field of social pediatrics Gilles Julien and Helene Trudel (Canada); children’s rights advocates Marek Michalak (Poland), Bernard Richard (Canada), and Patrick Dowd (USA); innovative teacher trainers and teachers’ proponents Jonathan Levy (France) and Ken Bedell (USA); Korczak Association representatives from around the world, including Korczak International Association Chairperson Batia Gilad (Israel); authors of best-sellers about Korczak from the United Kingdom and Canada, together with SPU faculty and students and local teachers. Overall, we had participants from 22 countries and from virtually every continent.

Among the highlights of the conference program were panel discussions on protection of children’s rights; engaging different faiths to make the world a better place for children and youth, led by Seattle Rabbi Weiner and with the participation of Dr. Markuly, Aneelah Afzali, and Dr. Poppo; interactive workshops by Jonathan Levy; Colleen Bell and Susie Oppenheim (USA); Helma Brouwers, Alsu Nikonorova, Aliya Shakirova, and Alina Talmanova (the Netherlands), and many more.

The post-conference workshop designed specifically for practitioners brought together 20 enthusiastic Washington state teachers and school administrators. It gives us hope that Korczak’s ideas have found a new home to flourish and grow throughout the United States.

This conference would not have been successful without the faculty and staff at SPU who made it happen: President Dan Martin, Dr. David Woodward, SOE’s Dean Dr. Nyaradzo Mvududu, Dr. Rick Eigenbrood, Susan Siverson, Assistant Dean Pete Renn, Dr. Art Ellis, Dr. Jill Heiney-Smith, Laurie Fryett, Conference Services staff, SOE graduate students, and volunteers. Very special thanks goes to graduate assistant Stephanie Tichelaar, whose professionalism and dedication allowed us to conduct an informative and beautiful conference program as well as to organize high school and college students while preparing all conference facilities, decorating the dorm, arranging the registration, and making sure that everything went smoothly. If you did not have a chance to participate in person, you can still watch a few short video clips on the homepage of the conference website.

What’s next? We will continue to promote Korczak’s legacy among school practitioners and SPU students, initiating new projects and seminars. The next opportunity is our Korczak Summer Institute 2019 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

We are now preparing for another exciting international event: The Association for Moral Education annual conference on Morality and Ethics for the Digital World to be held in Seattle, November 7–9, 2019. Don’t miss out on this opportunity, follow the Call for Submissions coming soon to register and participate. If you would like to learn more and volunteer, please contact Dr. Tatyana Tsyrlina-Spady at

Race & Pedagogy National Conference at University of Puget Sound

Thirteen staff and faculty members from the School of Education attended the Race & Pedagogy National Conference September 27–29 at the University of Puget Sound. Participants learned from dynamic keynote presentations by Valerie Jarrett, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors. SOE colleagues supported our own Dr. Jorge Preciado in his collaborative session on empowering the voices of African American and Latino parents. Additional sessions included topics such as the science of unconscious bias, multiraciality, and the implications of an overwhelmingly white teaching force.

SOE continues partnership with the Martinez Fellowship

Former Mariner Edgar Martinez and his wife Holli founded the Martinez Foundation in 2008 to develop programs supporting early-career teachers of color. The SOE was an early anchor partner, and has continued to nominate SPU graduate students each year to participate in this vibrant community. In 2015, the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) absorbed the Martinez Fellowship and has been working to grow the mission in leaps and bounds. SPU is proud to sponsor three Martinez Fellows in the 2018–19 school year. Visit the TAF Martinez Fellowship  online to learn more about this important work.

SOE professor leads Day of Common Learning workshop to promote STEM professional development

Day of Common Learning at Seattle Pacific University

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Dr. Julie Antilla designed a workshop for this year’s Day of Common Learning held on the SPU campus October 17. All events of the day focused on God’s creation and our role in environmental stewardship as Christ’s representatives. Dr. Antilla is one of 10 co-managers of a statewide, multi-organizational grant to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) teacher preparation in Washington, and the ecological focus of the Day of Common Learning provided an excellent opportunity to introduce the opportunities the STEM grant offers to university and P–12 educators.

Since much of our understanding of environmental stewardship and of creation is influenced by our K–12 teachers and college professors, the quality of our instructors’ knowledge and their effectiveness in teaching STEM concepts (in all content areas) impact our views of the environment and the role we should play in caring for it. Dr. Antilla designed the workshop to show how the grant money can be used to support SPU faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as in the School of Education to enrich STEM learning for all current students, especially for future teachers who will shape the next generation.

Dr. Minhee Lee from SPU’s chemistry department co-facilitated the Day of Common Learning workshop and provided an in-depth look at the power of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) for instructors. Dr. Lee has worked with Dr. Antilla and two other School of Education professors (Dr. Kris Gritter and Dr. Nalline Baliram) for the past two years developing tools and resources instructors can use to self-assess and strengthen their use of PCK in the courses they teach. Dr. Lee shared her personal testimony of how participating in the PCK working group helped her revise and improve her chemistry lessons for all undergraduates.

The next step in making this same improvement opportunity a possibility for all SPU faculty and teacher alums is to launch a university-based implementation team. This team will be open to all instructors who touch the lives of future teachers. University faculty in the sciences and in education, along with P–12 educators, will engage in discussions and be supported in their understanding of how the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards impact undergraduate courses at SPU, and develop a shared vision for increasing student success in STEM across all levels of education.

Members of the SPU implementation team will be eligible to participate in free professional development offered at universities across the state on the topics of Organizational Change, Diversity, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Clinical Practice, Education for Sustainability (EfS), Computer Science Integration, Engineering Integration, and M(ath) in STEM.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the SPU NextGen STEM Teacher Preparation Team, please contact Dr. Julie Antilla at or 206-281-2216.


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.

On Point

We would love to hear from you! Do you have news or know of any faculty, staff, or alumni that should be featured in the next issue? Please contact On Point editor Stephanie Tichelaar at