Getting to Know Courtney McNeal

McNeal_CourtneyThe College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Mrs. Courtney McNeal is the Program Coordinator for the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center. Read on to learn more about Courtney!


Tell us about yourself!

I live in Kenosha, Wisconsin and work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am married to a high-school history teacher who also coaches cross country and track (all in Zion, IL). We have a lovely little house and the BEST cat you could ever ask for. His name is Sputnik, or Spud. Follow him on Instagram with #spudthestud. He is so fast, so tall, and so awesome. I do not have a green thumb. I enjoy baking cookies, pies, cakes, and other dessert items. I love to ride my bicycle on adventures. I am the best aunt ever and enjoy visiting my nieces and nephews in California and Washington. I love to play soccer and swim.

Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I grew up in Willits, California, which is three hours north of San Francisco. It’s a small town in beautiful northern California. I attended Ripon College, in Ripon, Wisconsin for undergrad and after graduating with my teaching certificate, I moved to Marquette, Michigan, to work at Northern Michigan University as a Residence Hall Director. While at Northern I completed my Master’s in Psychology, Training and Development. I then moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where I worked as the Johnson Hall Director and Director of Community Service and Leadership Development at Carthage College. I started working for Marquette University in 2015 and still live in Kenosha. I have “lived” in the Midwest for 16 years (including when I was at Ripon College).

Whoa, you’ve been to so many places! What is your favorite educational experience?

One of the reasons that I started working in higher education instead of teaching high school social studies was because I really enjoyed the extracurricular learning opportunities that I had as an undergrad. I loved my classroom experience as well, BUT I really appreciated the way that my extracurricular experiences enhanced and enriched my classroom learning. I wanted to share this enthusiasm for learning both in and outside the classroom with students and that is why I enjoy working in Higher Education.

What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

I was looking for a position in higher education and came across the job in the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center. I knew that this was a job that I could excel in with my teacher training as an undergrad and my work at both Northern Michigan University and Carthage College. I was excited to be a part of Marquette University and to have a hand in such a great program (the Hartman Center) for Milwaukee and our COED students.

You’ve definitely made a difference here at Marquette! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I have applied to the Master’s in Public Service program here at Marquette. I am looking forward to learning a new subject matter and how to apply this knowledge to my role at Marquette and in my volunteer work for the Kenosha Public Library.

So what do you do when you are outside of the office?

I am lover of libraries. I am the Vice President of the Kenosha Public Library Foundation and work to create community partnerships to increase funding for the Kenosha Public Library. I am also a member of the Friends of the Kenosha Public Library where I volunteer at their book sales and events to promote the library. And I love to volunteer for Outreach Services and the Bookmobile sharing the amazing resources that the library has with the community. Sharing all the amazing services that the library provides and does to support the community is what drives me to volunteer in these many ways for the Kenosha Public Library.

I am also a knitter, cross stitcher, and sewist. I have made many different knitted gifts for family, friends, and coworkers over the years. I started knitting in high school when my mom first taught be and have been knitting ever since. I occasionally take a class to learn a new technique but mostly, I rely on YouTube to show me the way. I really started cross stitching when I was between jobs and got into subversive cross stitching. I have been able to sew since I was in middle school and have recently started to sew my own dresses (with pockets). It’s tough work but I am learning and will one day be able to show off my skillz a work by wearing one of my outfits.

Tell us more about what your hobbies mean to you!

I enjoy knitting in while watching shows on NetFlix or AmazonPrime (we don’t have cable and can’t seem to get any reception for an antenna in our house). I have knit many a hat, kitchen towel, scarf, shawl, and blanket while binge watching detective shows. Cross stitching is what I do when I want to listen to a book on tape, because I have to be visually focused on the work, I can’t watch television. Sewing is coming along to either books on tape or watching shows on my laptop.

Any advice for readers who are interested in your hobbies?

Do not ask me to teach you how to learn a new skill. I find it hard to teach someone how to knit, cross stitch, or sew. I generally direct interested parties to YouTube videos or their local knitting, sewing, cross stitching shop for one-on-one instruction. Once you have learned the basics, then I am a much better teacher of certain skills or a project consultant.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

One Space After a Period. That’s all. Period.

Full_stop.svgBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Between sixth and seventh hour, a colleague, at least two decades my senior, sat in a student’s desk. “I was taught it is always two spaces.” She wolfed her peanut butter and jelly sandwich before her next class began.

“That was when people used typewriters and a monospaced font. Now, computers use proportional type, so one space after periods is the rule.”

“What? How do you know this?”

“Modern typographers—The AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style and the US Government Printing Office Style Manual—agree: only one space after a period.” Extra spaces add unnecessary geography for the eye, I told her. “You have an iPhone, right? In Messages, hit the spacebar two times in quick succession. The period and one space will automatically be added.” Even iPhone agrees: only one space.

Am I a grammar snob? Maybe. But isn’t it an English teacher’s job to obsess over grammar rules, over evolving style guidelines? Isn’t it my duty to not only know about, but also embrace modernity?

Hoping to find resources to pass along to my colleague, I researched space rules. I found a Business Insider article by Mignon Fogarty: “Why you should never add two spaces after a period.” Fogarty writes, “In HTML and many blogging platforms, no matter how many spaces you type, they get turned into one space. If you want multiple spaces, you have to hard code it in using the HTML code.” Modern writers, publishing on web platforms, follow the same rules as hardcopy publishers, essayists and journalists. HTML, style guides, newspapers agree: only one space.

Am I elitist? Do I care about something trite? As an author and writing teacher, I care about details. I encourage my students to care about details too: how the essay looks, how the words sound, how the language evokes emotion. I want to see a passion that shows in intentional language, action verbs, uniform tenses and varied punctuation and sentence structures. And consistent, single spaces.

I sent my colleague these articles:

Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period” by Farhad Manjoo

Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!” by Jennifer Gonzalez

In Gonzalez’s article, I learned that “although APA guidelines at one time reduced the required spacing after a period from two down to one, they returned it to two in 2009 in the 6th Edition (see section 4, first bullet)…In the legal world, two spaces is still the norm.” Gonzalez suggested, “Although both of these exceptions are irritating, they don’t surprise me, as academia and law are not exactly areas where design reigns supreme. I’m almost positive that in both cases, the spacing is being held onto for the sake of tradition.” I know students (especially math and science brained students) find this difficult to grasp. How can the rule be right sometimes, but not always? I am reminded of the colleagues (I wrote about in a previous blog) who sighed at my attention to Oxford comma inconsistencies. The math and science teachers wanted one right answer. But in writing, like art, often there fails to be one. I remind my students that every choice communicates thoughtfulness, research and attention to detail (or a lack thereof).

Do I believe my generation is right and my colleague’s generation is wrong? No. I realize language evolves. I realize what was once commonplace is now an error; what was once a rule is now opposite. And I empathize when students struggle with English “rules that don’t make sense” or “rules that always change.” I also know when I say one space after a period, some students might not realize I also refer to spaces after exclamation points and question marks.

Just like my previous blog about the Oxford comma, one or two spaces after a period (or exclamation or question mark) can technically be right and wrong (depending on the style guide or purpose). But the key is design and ease. How a paper looks impacts how a reader feels. Think of the way a chef prepares a plate. Presentation either excites or horrifies us, meets or exceeds our expectation. Fogarty’s information about HTML alludes to style as well—it matters how text on websites looks, feels, sits.

After reading the articles I sent, my colleague said, “I will have to use find and replace to help me. Using only one space is a hard habit to break. It’s been imprinted in my brain—and fingers—for forty years.”

“Now, if we can only get everyone in our department to do the same…”


Getting to Know Dr. Leigh van den Kieboom

VandenkieboomDr. Leigh van den Kieboom is  an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL). She teaches Elementary and Middle School Mathematics as well as Teaching in the Middle School. All throughout this semester, we’ve been getting to know our faculty a little better by sitting down to see what makes them who they are!


Tell us about yourself!

I am a mathematics teacher educator with twelve years of K-12 teaching experience who enjoys guiding pre-service teachers as they learn how to teach in our preparation program. I’ve worked in several school districts in the Milwaukee area and have been at Marquette University in the College of Education since 2000.

So where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Milwaukee area and completed an undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before finishing a doctoral degree at Marquette University.

Sounds like you’ve had many educational experiences! What is your favorite one?

As a K-12 student, I did not particularly enjoy mathematics. I found the subject challenging. I often asked my K-12 mathematics teachers to explain WHY the procedures I was using to solve problems worked. Most often, I received a repetition of the procedure rather than an explanation of the concept involved in the procedure. This was frustrating for me. While in college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, my views of teaching and learning mathematics changed as I began to study WHY the procedures for problem solving worked. I was fascinated as I revisited the K-12 mathematics scope and sequence with a view toward teaching and learning that included using multiple and hands-on approaches to solving problems. I learned how to use reasoning to explain the thinking involved in the procedures I used to solve problems. I became passionate about sharing what I had learned with others. As a teacher, while most of my colleagues, espoused teaching reading as the favorite part of their practice, I was drawn to teaching and learning mathematics.

Whoa, that’s an amazing change in thinking about math! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

The focus on social justice drew me to Marquette University and the College of Education. I was particularly drawn to a teacher preparation program that utilized a variety of urban school settings that provide pre-service teachers the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of K-12 students.

We’re glad that the COED was a good fit for you! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

Revisions to the Marquette University’s common core as well as change to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s teacher licensing has created the opportunity for faculty in the College of Education to reimagine the coursework involved in the teacher preparation program.

Who is your inspiration for your work?

My mom and dad were both public school teachers. They loved their practice and spent years serving the students and parents in the school districts in which they worked. I grew up in their classrooms, first learning about teaching from them! Their passion for teaching inspired me to continue the same journey.

We’ve heard a lot about what you are like as a professor, but what do you do when you are outside of the classroom?

I am an avid sailor. I am part of a family crew (husband Jan; two sons, Pieter and Willem) who race a 38’ sailboat named “Nighthawk” on Lake Michigan. We enjoy weekly course races as well as long-distance races, The Queens Cup (South Shore Yacht Club to Muskegon Yacht Club) and The Chicago-Mackinac Race (Chicago to Mackinac Island). You can find me out on the water most of the summer!

Tell us more about what racing means to you!

Racing on Nighthawk is a beautiful experience that combines time on the water with family. We work as a team in different kinds of weather conditions on Lake Michigan. The most exciting part of the summer racing season is the Chicago-Mackinac race. We join over 300 sailboats in Chicago and sail 333 miles north to Mackinac Island. The race, which usually takes three days, includes weather patterns of every kind, from sunny skies to dark thunderstorms. The crew works 24-7, taking shifts through the night to keep the boat sailing.

Any advice for readers who are interested in sailing?

Marquette University has a sailing club. Interested participants can learn how to sail (on Lake Michigan) with friends from Marquette University!

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Reflecting on Loss

digital_graphics_candle_flame_grief_light_dark_mood-1193516By Sabrina Bartels

This past month, I really struggled with inspiration to write something. Our family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away. My husband’s dad was a proud Marquette graduate; he was happy to be a “Warrior.” He had many great stories about his time at Marquette: Marquette winning the NCAA championship, “camping out” for season tickets, and meeting my mother-in-law, to name a few.

Oftentimes, death makes you reexamine life and get a completely new perspective. You start to re-evaluate many different things and re-prioritize your life. I remember pledging to spend more time with my parents, and enjoying every moment I get with them. Suddenly, things that seemed extremely important were not so crucial. I think everyone in our family walked around in a daze for the week between my father-in-law’s death and his funeral.

Seeing death up-close like this was a major shock. It also provided me with some interesting insight for when I talk to my students about death and grief. Here are some of my take-away points.

What is right for one isn’t right for everyone. The day after the funeral, I went back to work. For me, I definitely needed to get back into that routine. It was comforting for me to wake up early, drive to work, sit in my office, and chat with my students. Not being at work made me disoriented. However, it was a completely different story for my husband. Work was not the distraction that it was for me. When it comes to students, I always tell parents that sometimes, routine is the best thing for a student. But if that routine only causes more stress, we can find a different way to cope.

Grief looks different for everyone. Some people cry. Some do their best to keep busy, while others are more comforted sitting still. Some people choose to block everything out entirely. Some aren’t ready to discuss their feelings; some need another person to just listen to them. It varies. Just because someone in mourning doesn’t react the way you expect them to doesn’t mean they aren’t grieving. Grief can come out in all sorts of different ways, whether it’s crying in the halls or behavior issues in the classroom.

It takes time. Really, it does. Remember that the student you are speaking with has just had their world completely shaken up. Things will not be the same ever again for them. Some of my students bounce back quickly once they are back in school, but there are also those who struggle. My husband describes it as this “fog” that is always present in his mind. Sometimes, he can rise above it, but some days, he’s just in a daze. There’s no set time limit on long you can – and will – grieve. Give everyone the time and space he or she needs.

Questioning isn’t always a good thing. I used to ask my students how they were feeling, what was going through their mind, but after going through this whole process, I’m rethinking my approach. When my husband, his siblings, and all the spouses went with my mother-in-law to the funeral home, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of questions we were asked. They asked about flowers, a casket, the obituary, if we wanted a luncheon after, what we wanted for the luncheon, etc. They needed everything right that day. I never realized how exhausting questions can be after you’ve lost someone. I think going forward, I’ll ask if there is anything they want to share. I’ll do more listening than questioning. I think it’ll work out.

It’s okay to lean on people. So many times, people think they need to be “strong” when someone dies. I see my students doing that too. They don’t want to be sad or upset because their family members “need them to be strong.” It’s really tough to do that! I tell them that it’s okay if they are sad because someone died. I encourage them to talk to their families and friends if they are sad and need some cheering up. No one can be strong 100% of the time, and that is why we have family and friends to support us.


Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: What Happens Next

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the third of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

image 1By Michelle Fedran

The name of the village I am in is Tununak (sounds like two-new-nik). If I had the money and control over nature (nature is a HUGE factor out here and I’ll never stop mentioning that haha) I would pay for anyone who held an interest to fly out here to take a look for him or herself. It’s one thing to hear about it and another to experience it upfront. We are an hour flight out from Bethel and are right on the coast of the sea, surrounded by some mountains and cliffs so the views are breathtaking. A fun thing with being on the coast, I can still say Wisconsin still wins as one of the worst places I’ve been in when winter hits! Although besides the slightly warmer temperatures, the winds up here get pretty rough sometimes, but Wisconsin Avenue definitely help put in some good training for walking against the wind. It’s especially fun when the wind picks up to 50 mph, picking up and blowing snow, and I have to climb a hill up to school because the stairs have already been covered with snow. Some people would think I’m getting ready to climb a mountain if they saw the gear I sometimes have to put on before going outside! The closest village to us is about seven miles away through the tundra, and people normally travel back and forth by snowmachine, honda (ATV), or walking. There are other surrounding villages but when I travel to them it’s usually by bush plane. Something I have found out interesting by traveling to different villages is that it almost seems like everyone knows well, everyone!

image 4.jpgBesides physical characteristics, something I really love about it out here is the simplicity of how things seem to be. Especially coming from a bustling city with a booming market of the next generation car and little devices that control things around your house, it is refreshing to experience simple living. I have met some of the nicest people out here and have been able to experience, as well as witness, genuine happiness. I often feel that people get so caught up with work or media that personal relationships sometimes fall on the back burner, but that isn’t what I see. Up here, the people I have met so far exhibit tremendous respect and care for their loved ones, and it is really refreshing to see the happiness that good company can bring. Coming out here made me realize what I need to be truly happy and that doesn’t involve the latest high-brand purse, hottest sunglasses, or super cool kicks that just came out. I have realized it’s the little, simple things that really count and that loving friends and family are all that I—and anyone—really needs to lead a happy life.

If any of you are considering making a move to teach in a remote location such as Alaska, I would suggest that if the thought is lingering in your mind, take a chance and do it. Even if it terrifies you, that’s a greater reason to do it! I remember it was about a week before I was supposed to leave my home and fly out to basically the edge of the country (no really, look up my location on Google Maps), and I began to panic. Thoughts began racing through my head and my anxiety was about to burst through the roof! However, my friends and family told me if my dreams didn’t scare me, they weren’t big enough. So, I took those words, held them close, and now I’m truly experiencing some of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve created memories and friendships I know will last a lifetime and beyond that I will forever cherish.

Nothing is forever, things can always change, and so now is the chance to take control of your life!

sunset 1

Thinking about my future and looking five years down the road from now, I see a blur. Anything is possible! I could still be up here in Alaska, or I could be in a new location whether it be state, country, who knows! I have been asked this question quite a few times and every time I like to remind people that I’m just taking life one day at a time. You never know what can happen within 24 hours. One day you could be just fine and the next your world could be flipped upside down (good or bad). So for now, I try to focus on what I have in the moment. Although right now I am truly enjoying my time up here and am excited to say I’ll be returning next year!

Moving Forward

Reflection_in_a_soap_bubble_editBy Elias Vareldzis

As the semester winds down, I feel grateful that we’ve been given an opportunity to put our own teaching practices and development in the profession into perspective. With the end of the semester fast approaching, it feels good to take a minute to look back at my growth as a teacher over the course of the semester and to reflect on how I need to improve my practice going forward into my student teaching experience.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve learned a lot through gaining teaching experience in the field about what my own teaching practices and tendencies are. The process has provided me with opportunities to develop new skills, receive invaluable feedback from my peers, professor, and supervisor, and critique my own strengths and weaknesses in order to continue to better myself as an educator.

I feel that among my strengths as a teacher, foremost is my ability to develop an inclusive class culture and a positive learning environment based on a tangible respect between all of the members of the class and myself. I feel very good about my ability to create a good classroom environment that welcomes and encourages all students to participate and share. While I still have many ways I can continue to develop in this manner, I think it stands out as one of my early strengths as a teacher. I feel confident in my ability to truly connect and build relationships with my students as people, even given the limited time that I spend in the classroom on a weekly basis. My supervisor has told me that there is a clearly defined presence that I bring to the learning environment that has stood out as a positive aspect of my practice during each of our observations.

I feel confident in my ability to critique dominant narratives, as it is an incredibly important part of teaching history with social justice and the uncovering of the entire historical narrative in mind to provide a more accurate portrayal of historical events. I haven’t been able to exhibit my ability to address non-dominant narratives in our civics class aside from bringing to student attention ways in which the political system has and can exclude people of low socioeconomic status. I look forward to incorporating more dominant narrative critique in the sections of US history I will be teaching next semester.

I also think that I have done well to plan my lessons in a detailed manner in order to best meet student needs by providing varied forms of communication. I’ve implemented varied ways of presenting and engaging in content for my students ranging from think-pair-share activities, to drawing diagrams on the board, to providing students with the opportunity to participate in group work, whole group discussion, written argument development, and a simulation of a caucus. I do think that I need to work on making specific changes/modifications to lesson content to help better engage students of varied abilities engage in class material at a grade level that is the most appropriately challenging for them. This is something that I think I will become more practiced in doing once I am much more familiar with my own students that I will be able to get to know on a much more personal level than I am able to coming in just twice a week for a few hours.

In reflecting on these strengths, it is apparent that they are primarily the more basic skills associated with successfully teaching the social studies. I understand that Roman wasn’t built in a day, and that these are the basic building blocks that need to be developed to build a strong foundational teaching practice, but it still makes me have a “reality check” moment that makes me realize how much I have still to develop as a teacher before I feel genuinely confident in my ability to provide a truly quality educational experience.

In my time in the classroom this semester, I felt like I had a solid grasp on creating essential questions and concepts for ensuring enduring understanding, but once actually implemented during teaching, my questions seemed to often fall flat in terms of actually engaging the class and making them curious, questioning the prompt. We developed a very good essential question during our in-class mini teaching lesson, which felt good. But overall, I think I have a solid understanding of how they work and what their value is, but I just need to work on translating the knowledge I have on how to implement them into real life situations in different classes and subjects in the real world, a process that will take time and practice, but that I feel confident I can further successfully develop.

I feel that I have done a decent job of connecting content to students’ cultural and community assets, but I definitely have a lot of work to do in terms of developing a knowledge base deep enough (in terms of cultural and community relevance in a civics classroom) to be able to provide very good connections between the things we are learning about the government system and local politics and examples from our own community. At the end of the day, I think I could do more in my planning process to come up with specific examples regardless of lesson topic/content that relate the class material to the lives of the students. This is probably my biggest area of improvement to me at the moment. If I can’t connect class concepts effectively to student’s lives so that they can see how content is relevant to them, I’m going to have a problem. So this is one of my main areas of concern in terms of what I need to immediately work on improving.

In my teaching in during my observed lessons, I also didn’t incorporate as much authentic social scientific thinking and historical thinking into my lessons as I should have. I again think that this will change as I begin teaching groups of students every day. As I had mentioned above, two of my lessons introduced new concepts and vocabulary, and because of this I didn’t engage the classes in very rigorous activities that required intensive social scientific/historical thinking. My lessons incorporated these practices in smaller ways or in smaller portions of each lesson, but I think I need to work on improving my lesson design so that I can incorporate these types of discipline-based thinking activities as more central and continuous throughout all of my lessons.

All in all, I have a long way to go towards developing my skill set as an educator, but I’ve been provided with a solid basis and understanding of how to incorporate the core social studies practices into my teaching further. From here, I think that having more consistent practice teaching in the field will help me better develop and hone my skills through more experience.

Getting to Know Laura Bolger

bolger-3The College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Ms. Laura Bolger is the Director of Development for the College of Ed. Read on to learn more about Laura!

Tell us about yourself!

I am the Director of Development for the College of Education and the Graduate School. I am also a proud alum of MU’s Grad School as a student in the Master’s level Community Counseling program. I am a “Fur Mom” and a crazy auntie to three nephews and two nieces!

So where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I grew up in Crystal Lake, IL, where I lived in the same home for 22 years. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Milwaukee to start my graduate program at Marquette University. It’s hard to believe I’ve been a Milwaukeean for 12 years!

It sounds like you’ve had many years in school! What is your favorite educational experience?

I miss naptime as a kindergartener… those were the days.

Naptimes were the best! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

As a student, I loved the Jesuit mission of Marquette University, which was especially apparent in the Counseling program  I would say the same is true as an alumna returned to work at MU.

We’re glad Marquette was a good fit for you! What do you do when you are outside of the office?

I’m a volunteer at the Wisconsin Humane Society -Animal care volunteer- as a cat/dog walker and helper for special events. I am an Alumnae Advisor for my sorority- Alpha Omicron Pi, a beginning knitter, and a fur mom to 3 cats and a miniature dachshund.

That’s amazing! Tell us more about what these mean to you!

I love volunteering, it’s the best!

So you have any advice for readers who are interested in your hobbies?

Find your passion and go for it. Adopt, don’t shop, for your pets.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

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