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Dear Future Teacher

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Wise Words From Our 2019 Commencement Speaker: Dr. Phillip Ertl

On May 19, 2019, the College of Education and all of Marquette University celebrated the graduating Class of 2019. At our college ceremony, we were inspired by the words of Dr. Phillip Ertl, Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. We are grateful for his wisdom and would like to share his speech with you, our readers!

0011_optimizedCongratulations to the Marquette College of Education graduates from the class of 2019 – and congratulations to all the family and friends of the graduates as I know nobody does this alone, and you have all had an impact on these graduates.

I would like to thank Dean Henk and the rest of the College of Education at Marquette University. I am incredibly honored to be here with you today on the most exciting day of the year for any educational institution–graduation day. We all know commencement means “a beginning or a start.” But of what? That is up to each of you and THAT is what makes graduation so exciting.

For me, being able to see what the students of the Wauwatosa School District do in the years after graduation is very gratifying–knowing that in some way we have had an impact. This year’s graduation has an extra special meaning for me- not only is my oldest son graduating from Wauwatosa West High School, but his time in Tosa schools also coincides with my time as Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District. So, I guess I am the only one the class of 2019 can blame if things do not go well for them!

I have had the good fortune to be in education for over 30 years with 19 of those as a superintendent of schools. My path was certainly not linear. I struggled as a student and, as many that have a similar story, was not encouraged to attend college by some staff in my school that I think should have been doing that. My real motivation for going to college was to play football. It was not until a couple years into my college experience that something clicked–I really wanted to become a teacher. After graduating from UW Lacrosse, I left for Texas for my first teaching and coaching position and loved it. I had some incredible mentors, in particular Tommy Rhea, my principal. He encouraged me to follow my dreams. I guess my dreams took me back to Wisconsin after a year, and I landed in Tomah where I also had the opportunity to work with some top-notch administrators who encouraged me to get my Master’s Degree in educational administration. After completing that degree, I thought I would give my new license a try and applied for two jobs. I interviewed and was offered an associate principal (AP) position in Menasha. I spent one year as an AP and was promoted to the middle school principal position the following year. My superintendent, Bill Decker, saw something in me that I did not. He encouraged me to pursue my doctorate, something that honestly never crossed my mind until I understood that he really believed in me.

Principals and teachers that I have worked with over my time in education have had such a profound impact on me–I could talk about each of them, but I am sure you would like to get out of here today at some point–but I think you get the jist, I had a lot of great mentors and I think it is important for all of us to serve as mentors so that others have the same stories. There are a few challenges we face in education–funding, public perception, declining numbers entering the teacher workforce, testing accountability, increasing demands on our time and energy, and mental health issues. One could argue that most of these are longstanding challenges we have faced for many years in some way, shape or form.

However, mental health concerns have become one of the most prevalent. More and more students are coming to school with significant mental health challenges, that if not addressed, will stand in their way of learning and succeeding. Everything is not known why more and more students are facing those challenges but what we do know is that we must find new and innovative ways to address those needs. I am thrilled to hear that there are a number of graduates here today in clinical mental health and counseling. We need more of you working with and supporting our students. But…with all the challenges in education there are a few things that I have learned that have made a difference in my career to help me overcome those challenges and others.

First: we are in a relationship business. We don’t make widgets or ball bearings—we create relationships that lead to greater learning. Each and every person involved in education is creating relationships every single day–multiple times a day. I believe the most important relationship is the one between teacher and student. The ability to be a great teacher is based on the ability to develop and sustain positive relationships with students. To have the type of impact that we want with students we need to engage with students on many different levels (mentor, expert and friend). The old saying that “students really do not care what you know until they know that you care” is so true. Other relationships in the educational arena are critical as well. Principal leadership matters, and that leadership can only be developed through relationships with many constituencies including staff, students, parents, and the community. Find me a great principal, and I assure you their stakeholders will talk about the relationships they have with that principal. School Boards need to gain the trust of the community and have to have trust in the superintendent. Those relationships need to be healthy for a school district to thrive. There is a reason we have moved to a more collaborative model in education– it is a critical skill that all students need before they leave our doors, and in life–and we must be committed to making sure everyone understands, supports and values strong relationships to help realize that goal.

Next: every interaction will have an impact — you have to believe that! We have all been in a meeting or class or professional development activity where we are asked to think of someone that has had a great impact on our lives. Often times the people we think about never knew that they made a difference in our lives. I, personally, have gone out of my way to make sure that those people in my life, know it. For each of them it was things they said or did that they did not think were a big deal–but really did have a profound impact on me. They were simple interactions with people I looked up to and trusted. I try to think of that when I talk with students—as well as colleagues, parents and community members. You never really know what people take away from each and every conversation or interaction—- I always want it to be something positive.

Treat people with compassion and respect as it will come back to you — In 1992 when I was teaching in Tomah, I also served the school as the head football coach. We had great student athletes that I was able to get to know and work with. I had this one young man that was our starting right tackle. He was also a hockey player, really good student and a great overall kid. That student, Dr. Eric Jessup-Anger, is now my School Board President in Wauwatosa! Of course my first question to him when he came on the Board was “did I ever make you run or yell at you too much–or is that why you wanted to be on the Board?” I really do believe that what goes around comes around with how we treat people. I think that holds MOST true with how we treat students. If we don’t show them respect–those relationships that I talked about earlier will never be as good as we would like.

Be the voice for others – The focus on equity in schools may be one of the most important shifts to ever occur—and one of the most difficult to implement. Everyone says they believe all children can learn but very few schools have been able to raise expectations for ALL students and meet those expectations. Our previous school structure was not set up for all students to be successful, it really was for “many” to be successful. We must raise expectations for all students and do everything humanly possible to ensure they meet those them. We have to change societal beliefs, challenge our own biases, and push like we never have before. It is not easy work, it is not quick work, but it is work that we need to do to be successful. There are too many students that do not have a voice in their education and we need to be that voice for them by believing in them, having high expectations and helping them meet their goals. I am proud to say it is the overriding focus of all our work in the Wauwatosa School District- and it is making a difference.

Know your “why” – We really need a strong conviction and understanding of why we are in this business. For some folks, their why is to make a difference in the world or simply that they love kids. I still have never gone to a day of work: I am still going to school. I love approaching every day with the opportunity to make a difference and that is my why. In education we are tasked with selling the why to everyone. Students say “why do I need to learn algebra?” Teachers will say “why do we need to change the reading curriculum?”, school boards say, “why should be adopt this policy?”, community members will say “why should we pay this amount of taxes?” We spend our days talking about the why so we better be pretty clear on what our “why” is and what our school communities’ is.

Failure is critical for success – This is a statement I make in every interview and ask for a response. Most of the success I have had in life is because of learning from mistakes. We must encourage students to be risk-takers and not be afraid of failure. “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I am not big on living by quotes, but this is one that I believe is important for living with a growth mindset. Too many students come to us without the willingness to take risks or the ability to deal with adversity, and we have an obligation to teach them.

Celebrate successes – People that go into education generally are humble and want to serve others. Often what goes along with that is an unwillingness to talk about accomplishments. We need to take every opportunity we can to celebrate the great things going on in our schools, whether it is an individual accomplishment of a student, a group of students accomplishing something they never thought they could, a team winning a competition that was unexpected, a whole school reaching a milestone, or a whole district implementing a new policy well. We need to make sure everyone knows the great things happening in our schools. Simple emails to parents about the good things their children are doing may be the most effective communication you make!

Focus on controlling what you can control – There are so many things that we deal with that are out of our control. As I get further along in my career, I understand that there are more things we may not have control over, but we still can impact. There are a lot of state statutes that impact what we do on a daily basis, from minutes of instruction, school start dates, standards, standardized testing, how much money we have to use in schools, as well as what subjects must be taught. I have learned even some of THOSE have flexibility in them! More importantly I think we need to understand that we don’t control who the kids are in our classes – with all the intelligences, attitudes, backgrounds, and beliefs that come with them. We need to meet them where they are and take them to greater heights. All parents send their children to us hoping and expecting us to give them our best. And we owe it to the parents to do just that.

I don’t often take the opportunity to reflect on my career as I still have a long time left, but taking this opportunity to do so has reminded me of how fortunate I have been to be around some great students, teachers, administrators and school supporters – and even better people. I hope all of you have the same experiences as you go through your career.

So, as you leave here today, I challenge you to do one thing: to be THAT person, that person that makes a difference for each and every student —every day. YOU may not know you were that person—but they certainly will!!

Congratulations again and best of luck to you in the future! And if that future involves applying for a job in the Wauwatosa School District, give me a call or shoot me an email to remind me that we met today!

Thank you.

Dear Future Teacher

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A Few Words from Dr. Ellen Eckman

This May, Dr. Ellen Eckman is retiring from the College of Education where she celebrated over 20 years of service, including serving as chair of the Educational Policy and Leadership department. At a joint retirement party with Dr. Bob Lowe on Tuesday, March 14, Dr. Eckman shared the following sentiments and memories of her time at Marquette University.

ellen-eckman-2019As I thought about what to say this afternoon, it became clear to me that my research on women in leadership actually provides a framework that describes my experiences. I have lived the very research that I do.

My career followed the trajectory that many women in education experience and in fact women still face today in many fields.  I began as a teacher, stopped out and went part-time when my children were young, then returned to teaching and began thinking about and preparing for an administrative position as a principal. I should add here that I had wanted to go to Law school, but my father — a lawyer — discouraged me because as he explained, he had never seen female lawyers only female legal secretaries. This was before Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Such discouragement is something many women experience as they explore career opportunities. And though the situation seems better today for women – women are still underrepresented in leadership positions in many fields. We still talk about whether or not women are “likeable” enough to be president and, in our state, governor.

After 15 years of teaching, I became an assistant principal and then as is the customary career trajectory, began seeking a principal position. Lots of applications to school districts in metro Milwaukee and even in New England, lots of final interviews but it was always the other candidate who was hired: the man. It was never clear to me what experiences or credentials these men had that were significantly different than mine. I began to see that it was because I was a woman – I was the one that was different.

Researchers have noted that what helps women in moving into leadership positions is a “tap on the shoulder” or encouragement to try a new role. I did receive encouragement at just the right time and it helped me come to Marquette. I was working as an Assistant Principal, working on my PhD at UW-Milwaukee and in my fourth or fifth year of applying for principal positions. I actually thought if I had the PhD credential I could get a job as principal – a little naïve, I know. In my search for positions I was reading the classified ads in the Milwaukee Journal – that’s how we did job searches 20 years ago!   There was an ad for a visiting assistant professor in Educational Administration at Marquette. I thought what an interesting opportunity – I could teach, apply my experience and research on administration, and finish my dissertation – I could move into higher education. But I didn’t know if my credentials would be acceptable, and I didn’t really want to face another rejection.

Then I remembered someone I could call for advice – this is, of course, the important concept of networking that women are beginning to use successfully. The person I knew had taught with me at Shorewood High School, we knew each other through our families and children ran into each other in Shorewood. I knew she had finished her PhD and was now at Marquette. So, I called Joan Whipp. And she encouraged me – she told me that I should apply, that I should send her my CV, and that they would be interested in me. Without her supportive answer and encouragement, I don’t know if I would have applied. I have a special memory of Joan.

Researchers of women in leadership positions have reported on the need for strong reliable mentors that women can trust to provide clear advice and support.  I have had that! As a new assistant professor, I had role models like Christine Weisman and Nancy Snow, whose gender and diversity committees I served on. I served on committees with Cheryl Maranto and could call her with questions and concerns. When I became department chair, I had the expert advice and mentorship of my good friend Bob Lowe. I also have women leaders like Anne Pasero, Professor and Chair of World Languages and Literatures, and Barbara Silver-Thorn, Emeritus Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Anne has helped me problem-solve and has provided expert advice and information on how to handle things as a chair and also shared many lunch conversations. Barb Silver-Thorn, who couldn’t be here today, taught me how to organize and write and direct a grant and along the way gave me advice, perspectives, and guidance on leadership issues. I thank them for the significant role they have played in my career at Marquette.

As a department, we also owe a special thank-you to an outside mentor who had deep experience in serving as a chair, though he was often stymied in offering advice by the differences between private and public universities. That is my husband Fred – who willingly shared his wisdom and perspective on all things concerning being a department chair. He often joked that he could become an outside consultant for department chairs – which is not a bad idea, Leigh, if you need a consultant.

Researchers on women leaders offer various definitions of women’s leadership styles or what has been called a feminist leadership style. They most often describe women as collaborators who bring groups together as teams to share leadership or women as servant leaders, who quietly work to support those around them.

As chair of the department for the last 10 years, I have sought to lead as both – a collaborative and a servant leader – one who works to bring faculty and staff together in decision-making, all the while serving them, getting them recognition, balancing their course assignments, preparing their dossiers for promotion and tenure, respecting their needs, and bringing together an exciting eclectic group of individuals that has kept our department moving forward for the most part with great success and, of course, laughter and joy.

I couldn’t end this talk without a special recognition to someone who has taught me about hard work, loyalty, kindness, calmness in a storm — and even some environmental stuff – Melissa Econom. She quietly keeps me on task – all those due dates for scheduling and bulletins and graduate forms and hiring and dossiers and meetings and, of course, getting names and lists and photos and music for this wonderful event. I have relied on her immensely, as I know many others do. I couldn’t have done my work without Melissa. Thank you for your leadership. Your career parallels that of many women leaders, and you too have places you can go and the skills to take you there.

Finally, my career is not over. I have too much energy to just go quietly into the night! My next stage is to return to teaching courses that I love and to taking courses that I never got to take earlier – like law courses. So be prepared to see me on campus going to classes – either to teach or learn. And know that I will be more than willing to provide mentorship and networking and a good laugh over lunch or coffee to you.

We’ve done a lot together. Thanks so much for being with me.

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Patrick Witt

This year, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Patrick Witt, one of our post-baccalaureate students studying to be a secondary education teacher!

E8A99178-4CAC-400A-BD2F-3B5C5B9D1F22I am a first-year post-baccalaureate student. My field is broad field social studies, secondary education. I grew up in Whitefish Bay until I was twelve, when my family and I moved to La Jolla, CA. I pledged to my parents that I’d come back to Wisconsin, and I kept my promise!

As an adult, I spent six years in Milwaukee earning my Bachelors and Masters degrees in History. I also returned in the summers of 2011 and 2012 to work with Marquette University’s Freshman Frontier Program. So, I’ve spent a lot of time here. My wife and I moved back permanently last August. In truth, my heart never left Wisconsin. When I’m not in class or working, I love being outdoors, from doing something simple like working on my garden to hiking with my wife and dogs. Anything outdoors is therapeutic.

My family is wonderful. My wife is my best friend and an inspiration. She serves our community as a social worker. Her selflessness and work ethic pushes me to better myself daily.

I enjoy being in the classroom, where I can see theory in action. I love interacting with students and witnessing learning firsthand. In the upcoming academic year, I’m looking forward to going out and implementing what I’ve learned over the last two semesters. I was drawn to the College of Ed because I believe that teaching is my vocation. I’ve always loved MU’s cura personalis philosophical approach.

My content area is Social Studies, but my true passion is history. I love studying, teaching, and writing about history. The study of history is the best way humanity can come to understand our current condition, our problems and our triumphs.

Reflections on my First Year of Grad School

downloadBy Jordan Mason

As spring begins to make its appearance, a semester draws to a close. While there are still a few projects and assessments to be completed, I find myself in awe of how quickly this past year has flown. As a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program here in the College of Education, I have almost successfully completed two of our four semesters. In that time, there have been several people and things for whom and which I have been grateful. I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

  • Our top-notch faculty: I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality of faculty I am taught by. Dr. Jody Jessup-Anger is an outstanding wealth of knowledge; she encourages us to think critically and pushes us to explore other perspectives. Fr. Andy Thon brings his years of experience in Student Affairs and on Marquette’s campus to provide us with a better understanding of how institutions of higher education operate. Dr. Karen Evans provided our cohort with a solid foundation of research concepts to utilize in our courses and careers to come, and Dr. Jodi Blahnik of Marquette’s Counseling Center has prepared us to navigate the world of helping students more effectively. I am grateful to our faculty.
  • The opportunities this program provides: I have also been impressed by the immense opportunities available to us as SAHE and COE students. For example, a cohortmate of mine is taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland. Two of my classmates serve on executive boards for higher education organizations. Our practicum requirement ensures we will gain valuable experience in a Student Affairs environment, and the variety of assistantship opportunities allow us to explore our interests and passions. I am grateful for the experiences I have had in the SAHE program.
  • My wonderful cohortmates: Most importantly, I am grateful for the individuals I am experiencing this program with. I appreciate the conversations we have regarding topics in higher education. I appreciate the support we provide one another during a stressful week. I appreciate the laughs and the friendships built to last long after graduation. I am grateful for my cohortmates.

I am grateful every day for choosing Marquette University as the institution to pursue Student Affairs. Thank you, Marquette!

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Kathryn Rochford

This year, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on our blog series. Read on to meet Kathryn, a member of our freshman class!

krHi! My name is Kathryn Rochford, and I am a freshman studying Secondary Education and English and minoring in Spanish. I grew up in the very heart of central Illinois in Morton, a small suburb of Peoria, about four hours away from Milwaukee. However, I was born in Singapore and have lived in Washington, Illinois, Denver, Colorado and Morton. This is my first time living in Milwaukee, or a big city in general, and I’ve been here for about eight months now. My family has always been kind and supportive and as I am the oldest of four kids, it was hard to leave them first semester. I have a brother who is a junior in high school, a sister who is a freshman in high school, and a brother in fourth grade currently. My mom stays at home to manage our super busy family but spends a good majority of her time volunteering in my home parish. My dad is the general manager of gas and medium speed engines at Caterpillar, Inc. I am blessed to have grown up in a family that was so close and helped me pursue my passions, whatever they may be.

My favorite educational experience was during my senior year of high school where I had the opportunity to spend two hours a day, three days a week working at the local grade school to help a Spanish-speaking student in his classes. I would translate his classes for him, help him with his homework, and even helped him to learn a bit of English. It was one of the most rewarding experiences to watch him grow in his fluency and understanding of his schoolwork. I saw how much my work impacted him and his family when his mother came up to me one day to express her gratitude and thanks for helping her son. Just hearing how my simple volunteer work impacted their family was heartwarming. It was also interesting because I conversed with her in Spanish only and my friends that were standing around me were like “What just happened?!” and it was fun to impress them like that.

An exciting opportunity I see for this upcoming academic year is field experience. I am excited to be in a classroom during the day interacting with students instead of after-school programs like my service-learning opportunities have been thus far. What drew me to Marquette and the College of Education is the fact that I would be interacting with students almost immediately with my education major, whereas other universities I looked at wouldn’t have me in a classroom until I was a junior. Marquette’s whole mission statement of “Be the Difference” really struck me as unique in my college search process, and I felt it hit at who I am as a person.

Outside of the classroom, I am quite busy! I am currently on the club rugby team with practices twice a week and tournaments every few weekends. I also am a part of the book club here on campus, so I am usually somewhere reading a book. Soccer is also one of my passions and has been for almost ten years now, so I play intramural co-ed soccer when I can. My weeks are usually packed but it’s so fun to be involved in so many things, especially rugby, which was a completely new sport for me! My advice for readers who are interested in any of those activities is to put yourself out there; I did not get as involved first semester, so at O-Fest for the spring I had a mission to get involved in sports/clubs that interested me. It can be difficult to try a new hobby, especially an established one such as rugby, but it can be so rewarding in the end when you do.

My inspiration for my work is the countless teachers and administrators who made a real impact on my development in grade school and high school. Especially in high school, I became close with a lot of the teachers through my work in student council, participation on the varsity soccer team, and the curriculum advisory committee for the district as a student representative. My teachers and administrators would check up on me from time to time, and even made an effort to come support me outside of school at my soccer games, which made me feel like they saw me as a person, not just as a student. I hope to make a similar impact on my future students one day.

Want to learn more about our undergraduate education programs? Head on over to our website for more information– or, even better, come visit us on campus!

 


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