Archive for the 'Spotlight On…' Category

Changing the Game: How Julia Magnasco Has Redefined What Teaching Looks Like Outside of the Classroom


Julia Magnasco, Education Director for First Stage

In March 2017, Marquette University’s College of Education launched its new undergraduate major and minor, Educational Studies. To highlight professionals working in the field, the college profiled Community Advisory Board Member Julia Magnasco of First Stage. For 30 years, First Stage has been transforming lives through theater. As one of the nation’s most acclaimed children’s theaters and the second-largest company in Milwaukee, First Stage runs academies for children and schools while also producing plays and musicals for the city’s entertainment.

Julia Magnasco serves as First Stage’s Education Director and is a member of the College of Education’s Educational Studies Community Advisory Board. A program for students interested in education but not the traditional licensure of a classroom teacher, Educational Studies will prepare graduates to work in non-profit organizations or informal learning institutions such as First Stage. We sat down with Julia to learn more about her day-to-day life both on and off the stage along with her insight into what this new program could mean for our students and Milwaukee.

I’m very excited for this new major. There is a great need for educators outside the normal realm, whether it be an artist in schools or in community centers.

College of Education (COED): Thank you, Julia, for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about First Stage, your role in the organization, and what your day looks like?

Julia Magnasco (JM): I feel very lucky because my world is play! I’m the Education Director for First Stage. We are a professional theater for young audiences in Milwaukee. We are the second-largest theater company in the state and one of the largest theaters for young audiences in the nation. We have this incredible commitment to our community, but also to the field of theater for young people and families.

At First Stage we say we have three pillars. We have our productions where we put on shows for young people and families from three years old all the way through high school. Something we do that is really unique is “age-appropriate” casting. We use young performers side by with professional actors. It’s important to us that when young people are watching a show that they see themselves and their stories. They’re able to do some social bridging and social bonding from the experience of seeing productions. Young people have to see themselves on stage. Part of that is the need to see someone their age playing that character.

JM5The second pillar is theater academy. Our motto is teaching life skills through stage skills. The real goal of all of our programming in the academy is to nurture those socio-emotional abilities, EQ skills.

Our third pillar is education. We go into schools and community centers throughout the Milwaukee area with different workshops and opportunities right within that setting. We primarily use a method of teaching called “arts integration.” The idea of arts integration — and in our case, it’s drama — is looking at the process and actually teaching the standards that go along with it. The arts, like every other curricular subject, has its own set of standards and skills that need to be learned, and they need to be taught appropriately with that. We’re teaching the drama process while simultaneously teaching another curricular or social subject.

COED: How many students do you interact with in the course of a year? How do you work with schools and with community organizations?

JM: We end up facilitating over 2500 workshops every school year in over 750 classrooms, so we reach about 20,000 students. We want our students and community to have three touchpoints and come into the First Stage family. You might enter from coming to see a show, you might enter from First Stage coming to your classroom, you might enter by taking an academy class, but the idea is the connection with all these different levels in First Stage.

COED: How do you think our new program can be effective for tomorrow’s educational landscape?

JM: How do you look at education in a nontraditional setting? We’re looking at what the educational mandates are, what the new, exciting initiatives are — how we connect with those and how we can be game-changers both in the local community and on a national level. I think now more than ever our classrooms are so diverse, and it is important as educators to acknowledge that. We need to be responsive in our teaching and use the proper tools, giving opportunities to acknowledge and embrace that diversity — and to take the next generation to that level.

I’m very excited for this new major. There is a great need for educators outside the normal realm, whether it be an artist in schools or in community centers. This opportunity for engaged conversations and art has great power; art has the power to change. K-12 education for me looks different from what I experienced to what my daughter is experiencing now. There’s not a lot of art specialization right now in education, but that does not mean art is not present. We’re looking at it from a different lens. There is an opportunity to partner with school, teachers, and other organizations to bring these experiences to our community.

Want to learn more about the College of Education and its undergraduate educator preparation programs? Visit us online today!


Introducing Dr. Karisse A. Callender

Photo Jan 20, 11 20 16 AM copy

The College of Education is pleased to introduce you to one of our three new faculty members for the 2017–2018 school year. Dr. Karisse A. Callender is an Assistant Professor in the Counselor Education Counseling Psychology department. She holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi. We caught up with Dr. Callender to ask her some questions about her views on education, Milwaukee, and her favorite books!



I want to prepare my students with the foundation to go into their respective communities with knowledge to help them develop behaviors and skills that are holistic, and career-sustaining, as they work with their clients and colleagues.

Tell us a little more about yourself! Where did you grow up? What’s your favorite book?

Dr. Karisse Callender: I am from the beautiful island of Tobago, the smaller of the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. As a child, I loved reading and that hasn’t changed in my adult life. Two of my favorites for this year are The Compassionate Achiever by Christopher L. Kukk and The Prophet by Kahil Gibran. I don’t drink coffee but I love hot teas and usually drink several cups each day! My education began with an undergraduate degree in behavioral sciences (psychology with a sociology minor), a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling (concentration in alcohol and other drug abuse) and a doctoral degree in counselor education. I am a licensed professional counselor and substance abuse counselor, and I worked with adolescents, adults, couples, and families in both outpatient and residential settings with presenting issues related to mental health, substance use, and trauma.

How long have you lived in Milwaukee?

KC: I am new to the Milwaukee area and so far, I love the many activities I can enjoy outdoors and being in a vibrant city. Although it will take some time to adjust to a bigger city, I am excited to call Milwaukee my new home and look forward to creating many happy memories here. I would like to learn more about the culture and explore outdoor activities, community organizations, and anything that is local to Milwaukee and the surrounding areas.

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

What is your favorite educational experience?

KC: When I teach and I observe students struggling to understand the concepts in their textbook or from materials in class, my favorite thing to do is to draw from my clinical experience to provide them with a real-life example and interpretation of what they read. It’s amazing to see how their eyes light up when they finally experience the “aha!” moment. As a doctoral student, one of my favorite educational experiences was learning how to design, implement, and manage a fully functional online class and teach a module online.

What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

KC: I am excited to get into my research agenda and collaborate with students, colleagues and community organizations. I look forwarding to playing a role in bridging the researcher-practitioner gap as I learn about the needs within the community. I want to prepare my students with the foundation to go into their respective communities with knowledge to help them develop behaviors and skills that are holistic, and career-sustaining, as they work with their clients and colleagues.

What are your research interests?

KC: My research interests are grounded in three primary areas: trauma, addiction, and clinical supervision. I am interested in studying the effects and implications of trauma and addiction across the lifespan and interventions that are most appropriate for this population. As counselors and counselor educators we often supervise individuals at different stages of their professional development. I want to find out about specific supervision needs and interventions for students and counselors who may be in recovery, and those who work primarily with clients with trauma or addiction diagnoses.

Across my research agenda, my intention is to find out what works for whom, how it works, and under what circumstances. I’m also interested in discovering ways to bridge the researcher-practitioner gap through my teaching, research, leadership, and service.

What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

KC: The mission of Marquette resonates with me on a personal and professional level. I share the belief that through excellence in my work, faith in myself and others, and compassionate leadership and service, I can inspire and encourage others. The COED has a nurturing and caring environment which indicates that this is a place where I can flourish as part of the faculty and as an individual. I believe I am very fortunate to be part of Marquette University, the COED, and especially the CECP department.

Dr. Callender will teach “Group Counseling” along with “Human Growth and Development” this fall. Want to know more about the College of Education? You can learn more about our new faculty and degree programs by visiting us today!

Welcome Back, Dr. Terry Burant!

The College of Education is excited to have Dr. Theresa J. Burant return as our new Director of Teacher Education this year! Whether she’s teaching, swimming, or dancing to country music, Dr. Burant is loving her return to Milwaukee. Read on to learn more about one of our newest faculty members!

Tell us about yourself!

Terry Burant: I am a Milwaukee native, although I left for the west coast as soon as I earned my high school science teaching credentials. I started teaching and coaching swimming in southern California and taught in New Mexico, earned my Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in Tucson, then taught at the University of Wyoming. Although I am new to the position of Director of Teacher Education at Marquette, I’ve been teaching here off and on since 2001.

In addition to this amazing opportunity in the College of Education at Marquette, being in, around, and on water drew me back home to Milwaukee. I lifeguard, swim, and canoe as often as I can. I also walk and (sort of) run along Lake Michigan; even my workout studio is on the river in the 3rd ward. One of my favorite rituals every summer is swimming in Lake Superior near the Apostle Islands. My lifelong dream is to paddle the perimeter of Lake Superior; moving back to Wisconsin gets me a little closer to that dream!

I’m also a huge lover of Summerfest and music of many kinds; every summer I try to see how many times I can get to the fest. I only made it six times this summer; so, this gives me a goal for next year. One of the highlights this year was spending about five hours with my niece, in the pouring rain on opening night, to see Frankie Ballard (a country singer). Now that I live near my niece again, I’m sure I will be seeing more country shows with her as she’s my go-to country girl! I started taking her to concerts when she was 12, and she’s now 27; we’ve seen so many artists over the years. It’s impossible not to have a great time with Sarah next to me singing and dancing!

While it might not be fashionable to say this, I also love Wisconsin winters. After living in sunnier places for so long, I look forward to those long stretches of gray and damp days from November to March when I can wear my favorite coats, boots, hats, and scarves. Pretty sure you will find me back in the Polar Bear club on New Year’s Day. I’ve been told that my winter enthusiasm is a little annoying so I apologize in advance.

What is your favorite educational experience?

TB: In a formal school setting, the first one to come to mind is my Urban Studies class at Wauwatosa East a long time ago. Our teacher made the city and its issues come alive for us; his enthusiasm, humor, love for the city, and inquiry-based methods remain with me today. Another would be my doctoral program at the University of Arizona. I had the most helpful, wise, and caring committee members. This school experience felt like the best of kindergarten as I was free to design and explore topics and projects of interest to me, although, of course, the responsibility for learning was literally all on me!

What do you see as an exciting opportunity for the College of Education this academic year?

TB: We have so many; but, the new Core Curriculum gives us the perfect opportunity to rethink our programs and review where we’ve been and where we hope to go. We have such a talented, thoughtful, and passionate faculty and staff, and I look forward to our work together in the coming year.

I’m also excited to reconnect with alumni and make connections between and among them and our current students. I’ve always been happiest playing a connecting role, and I am driven to strengthen the Marquette College of Education’s presence in the city. I wholeheartedly believe in cura personalis and hope that this will be evident in my daily work.

Can you tell us about the time you talked to Taylor Swift?

TB: I will always be a Swiftie! It’s kind of a long story; but, while teaching chemistry, I was explaining the steps of a problem to my students and somehow the abbreviation for the steps brought T. Swift to mind. On the spot, I got a little carried away and dramatic in my explanation and created an acronym associated with her as an aid for my students’ memories. Over time, we started calling the problems “Taylor Swift” problems (although I was, of course, careful to make sure that my students understood what the problems were really about and were using the language of the discipline as they described their work). A few weeks later, Taylor was in town at a radio station and I called her up to tell her how my Marquette High sophomores had problems named after her in our class. With that signature T. Swift enthusiasm, she exclaimed, “that’s the best story ever!” and she gave us an autographed picture for our classroom. So yeah, I’ve been to see her three times in three different cities, and I look forward to whatever she’s cooking up next!

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

Dr. Bob Fox Honored at Community Engagement Symposium



Dr. Bob Fox and Penfield Children’s Center were honored at the first Community Engagement Symposium held on Marquette University’s campus on November 15, 2016. The award for the Community Engaged Partnership Award recognizes a “faculty/community organization partnership that demonstrates excellence in respectful, bidirectional collaboration; makes a positive difference in the community; and enhances knowledge.”

Since 2003, the Behavior Clinic has served inner-city families with young children with developmental disabilities. Offering mental health services for children who are experiencing significant behavior and emotional problems, the Clinic also offers specialized training and supervised clinical experiences for graduate students. In addition, research in the clinic contributes regularly to the field of pediatric mental health.

Congratulations to the Behavior Clinic and Dr. Bob Fox, making a difference in the lives of Milwaukee’s youngest children.


Dear Cassidy: A Case for Senior Year

Dear Cassidy*

I must admit, when you told me a few weeks back that you want to graduate a year early to get a jump start on college, an immediate and somewhat surprising sadness washed over me. I tried not to show it, but I think you may have noticed.

I’m also pretty sure that when you asked me for a letter of recommendation this isn’t what you had in mind. Fear not, I wrote two letters: one to the Office of Admissions and another (this one) to you.

In the official letter, I praised your academic achievements, your talents as a thespian, musician and athlete. I also recommended your admission into college, since that was your wish.

And while I stand by every laudatory word I wrote in that letter, it was not my complete recommendation. An unadulterated version would include my recommendation that you stay in high school next year, that you don’t live your life in fast forward, that you experience (dare I suggest treasure) your senior year.

Why? Because the thing about senior year is that there’s only one of them.

My fear is that if you don’t experience senior year, you’ll miss out on one of life’s great experiences, like someone who’s never slurped a shave ice at the beach, never made a snow angel, never read a Harry Potter book, and has to go through life wondering what all the nostalgia is about.  

There’s so much in senior year that’s celebratory, cumulative, and icing-on-the-cake-ish. It’s a chance to celebrate you and the culmination of 13 years from the moment you walked into kindergarten with your velcro shoes and Little Mermaid backpack when telling time and writing your name were your biggest challenges to the moment you walk out of high school in yoga pants and leg warmers (yes, they’re back) able to quote Shakespeare, explain the double helix, and play Take Five on the saxophone. A journey worth completing, a rite of passage worth celebrating.  

Pondering this, I recently reruited the wisdom of Facebook friends, asking their thoughts on senior year and early graduation. Here’s a sampling of their responses:

from recent HS grads:

  • I feel like if I had needed to go to college after junior year I probably could have done it but senior year gave me time to really be ready to move on. I think it would have been a shock to move to a huge campus setting a year earlier than I did.
  • Senior year was my favorite year of high school! I got to take classes that I really enjoyed and these classes gave me skills that I’m currently using in college. Besides academics, I felt that my extra curriculars, like theatre and choir, were the most rewarding during my senior year. I’m incredibly thankful I had all of that time to spend with my favorite people.
  • Being able to graduate and experience those “lasts” of senior year with the people and friends I grew up with from grade school is important, I think. I’ve always believed that with anything in life the journey is just as important as the destination (as cliche as that might sound), especially when you’re young.

from Adults (friends and colleagues):

  • I think it’s indicative of a problem in our culture, no one lives in the moment, they are constantly looking forward to the next thing. No one enjoys the here and now.
  • I really became comfortable in my own skin during my senior year. I stopped caring so much about what other people thought of me. I grew out of that teenage funk and sprouted grownup wings.
  • Senior year is when it all somehow came together for me. Without realizing it, I become a leader and became responsible for myself. And by the end of senior year, I was finally ready to leave it, the perfect confluence of events.
  • Frontal brain development! No matter how mature or intelligent someone seems, that frontal lobe is just not developed. Only time can do that.
  • Hurry up and finish high school so you can hurry up and get through college so you can hurry up and work for the rest of your life?! It’s about the journey–not about racing to the finish line. And college is a whole lot more expensive – financial aid and scholarships just aren’t there for early grads.
  • One year at that time in your life is HUGE. I wasn’t ready for the freedom and risks and temptations at college. I probably thought I was, but I wasn’t.

I must also note one of my FB friends who veered from the “pro senior year” camp, wisely pointing out that “not every student has a perfect home life…and moving on is in their best interest.” She also pointed out my central contradiction: that if I didn’t think early graduation was a good idea, perhaps I should consider not writing you a letter of recommendation.  

As your teacher, though, I believe it’s my job to teach you, support you, and prepare you for your next step, whatever that may be. It’s my job to write a letter of recommendation that honestly represents you and conveys your abilities. It’s your job to decide what those next steps are.

So now, two letters are complete: one about you as a student, someone who can, if she chooses, face the rigors of college one year early; and one to you as a person, someone I care about, someone whose ultimate decision I will wholly respect.

Best of luck to you, Cassidy.*

With Fondness, 
Mrs. Felske


*Name has been changed to protect the scholarly.

Célébrez le District Scolaire Public Milwaukee

By Bill Henk – Humility prevents me from claiming to be fluent in French.  Well, that plus the fact that I’m not.

So, don’t be fooled by today’s title, which means “Celebrate the Milwaukee Public School District.”  Truth be told, I used a web-based English-to-French translator to create themere  illusion of foreign language competence.  Apparently I’m willing to stoop to almost any length to capture our audience’s attention for a post that hopefully deserves to be read.

No matter, as you’ll soon learn, the inspiration for today’s blog entry grew out of a tour I took last week of two MPS schools arranged by the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC).  I’m a new member of the GMC’s Education Committee, and jumped at the opportunity to spend time with school kids again.  I always do, because I miss working with them.

For the record, we were accompanied on our visits by district superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton and Roseann St. Aubin, Communications Director at MPS.  Also, the previous day other Committee members toured two MPS high schools:  Pulaski and Ronald Reagan.  Unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow me to participate that day.

Aiming Hi

Our group was first treated to a visit to the Hi-Mount Community School, one of the few remaining neighborhood schools around these days.  Let me start by saying that the building itself qualifies as an exceptional facility, beautiful on both the outside and inside, and meticulously maintained.

Even more importantly, my fellow committee members and I were impressed both by an informative and skilled presentation made by Toni Dinkins, the school’s principal, and by the robust teaching and learning we observed.  The school fit the district’s designation of ‘high value/ low attainment,’ which means that strong progress is being made,  but achievement levels need to coninute increasing.  Given the school’s vision and strategic direction, as well as its talented leadership and teaching staff, I genuinely like its chances of moving the achievement needle to high attainment.

Parlez-vous français?

It’s true that I took two years of French in high school.  And to this day, thanks to my passionate teacher, Mr. Randall Lafferty, I can read French text aloud with such precision,  inflection, and conviction that most listeners would swear I was a native speaker.  The problem is that I have almost no idea what I’m actually saying.  Neither could I express a single, complete, original thought in French if my life depended on it.

Sure, I can usually figure out the meaning of a few words in a French text from their roots.  But after that, it doesn’t even amount to guesswork.  Both my oral expressive and receptive facilities in French are laughable.  Shamefully, I’m THAT clueless.   Poor Mr. Lafferty would be mortified.  If he’s now in a grave, he’d be turning over in it.

Anyway, my own shortcomings are  why I’m truly impressed when people are conversant in another language.  I’m even more impressed when those people happen to be elementary school children.  And last week I experienced just that.  Why?  Because the second stop on our tour was MPS’s French Immersion School (FIS) and what I witnessed there blew me away.

You see, in the FIS the teachers talk to the children almost exclusively in French.  Admittedly  there are some exceptions within the curriculum, and the instruction is developmentally-paced so the younger kids can grow more gradually into the experience.   But overwhelmingly, teachers and students are communicating in a foreign language.

No doubt the novelty of the situation contributed to my amazement.  I had never seen anything quite like this before.  And I’ve been in this business a long time.

My shock began with a visit to one classroom that was either third or fourth grade.  The teacher sat on a stool at the front of the room talking  children through the completion of a worksheet of some kind.  The kids followed along, fully engaged and staying on task throughout — actively responding to the teacher’s comments, prompts and questions — all in French!

And here’s the thing.   She spoke at an adult-like pace, never once slowing down in deference to the students’ young age or to the fact that they were  second language learners dealing with regular grade-level subject matter.

Although there is a somewhat different student demographic in the school, racially and socioeconmically, and the FIS rates as ‘high-attainment’ status, it still has a large proportion of urban children who would still typically be at-risk for school failure.  These are kids who many adults would predict can’t learn much.  Well, not only were they learning, but they were doing so at an exceptionally high rate — and in a foreign language.  In a word, “WOW!”

Frankly, I found myself being caught up in the learning environment.  “Hello” wouldn’t do for my greetings any longer.  No sir, now each staff member had to endure my saying “bonjour.”   Equally pretentious, while leaving some classrooms, I turned to the teacher and said, “Merci et au revoir.”  And I felt right at home “dans la bibliothèque” listening to Gina Bianchi, a first grade teacher, do a great job talking to us about the school and answering questionis as a pinch hitter for principal Virginia McFadden who could not join us.

By the way, one of the things I noticed at each school was the wonderful way Dr. Thornton interacted with the kids.   His warm acknowledgments left no doubt how fondly he regarded them.

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  At one point he said to a cute little girl, “Hello Baby.”  Before you knew it, I blurted out, “Excusez-moi, monsieur.  Il est bonjour, bébé.”

I had no idea where this stuff was coming from.   It was either a flashback, a demonic possession, or an out-of-body experience; I couldn’t tell which.  Thankfully I don’t think Dr. Thornton heard me.

Either way, sit up and take note, Mr. Lafferty!

Un dernier mot

OK, I admit to using the translator once again, this time to come up with the last  subheading – “A final word.”  But although my facility with French is phony and I’m a colossal pretender, the sentiment of celebrating MPS ranks as authentic for me.  Many success stories exist in the district, and my sincere hope is that some of them might be told on the Marquette Educator in the near future.


Personnel Passions Project: Dr. Sarah Knox


These are just a few of the many words we could choose to describe the way in which Dr. Sarah Knox approaches her love for choral music.  When she’s not teaching or conducting research related to relationships in the counseling profession, Dr. Knox uses her love for music to transport listeners into a space where song begins to blur the line between the temporal and divine.

She started singing in a community-based choir while in graduate school. During her last year, she also sang in her first of what would turn out to be five Episcopal Church choirs.  She has always loved the ritual and tradition of the Episcopal Church and — to her — their worshipful choral music is especially lovely.

She candidly remembers many a Christmas eve, waiting with her parents and brother for the BBC broadcast of the Kings’ College Festival of Lessons and Carols, from Cambridge, England. The broadcast begins with a boy chorister as soloist, singing the first verse from the back of the church with the voice of an angel.   The rest of the choir then joins in for the next verses as they process into the nave, and eventually the congregation sings as well. She still can’t make it through the opening hymn (“Once in Royal David’s City”) without crying.

To her, “it’s just unspeakably beautiful and moving. And to be a part of that in my own church is indeed a blessing. I have always been moved by music, so, week to week, singing in an episcopal choir is a vital part of any connection I have to a divine presence.”

When asked what she finds most challenging about choral music, Sarah states that it’s usually easy enough to learn the notes, but to “make music” is often another matter entirely.  What is often difficult to achieve as individual can be even more challenging to achieve in communion with others.

But, despite its challenges, Dr. Knox notes that there are rare (and treasured) moments when all the voices in the choir come together and operate as one — when they all unite in an ironically mindless way (in great part because they’ve allowed themselves to enter into the very soul of the music, rather than remaining on the outside, thinking things through note by note).  These are the moments that bring true joy.

They are also the moments that most reflect Dr. Knox’s thoughtful philosophy when it comes to music: “We are individuals, yes,” she says, “but we find meaning and joy — NOT as individuals– but in our deep connections with others. And perhaps it is in those connections that the divine exists. Donne was right: no man (or woman) is an island.”

For more photos of Dr. Sarah Knox in action, click here.

What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter