August 2012 Archives

Gotta Keep Reading: 2012 Summer Reading and Writing Academy

By Pamela Van Halsema on August 31, 2012 12:41 PM

written by MaryAnn Nickel, Professor


Fifteen graduate students and 56 kids had an exciting two weeks of adventuring with reading and writing at the Summer Academy held on the Roseland Elementary School campus. The Academy ran from July 9th through July 20th. Guest readers shared their favorite books to close each day. Children worked in a small groups with two or three graduate teachers selecting books to read from a wonderful collection of rich multicultural children's literature and authoring an original story or non-fiction piece to be published in the Sonoma State University's Academy 2012's annual Academy Magazine. At the SSU Author's Tea in the fall, students and their families will come to campus to receive their copy of the magazine. For many it is their first time on a college campus.

Dean of Education Carlos Ayala reading to Summer Academy kids

The Academy is a supervised practicum for Reading certificate and Specialist candidates. Using a Reading and Writing Workshop format, candidates work with students from 2nd to 9th grades under the supervision of and in collaboration with faculty and Specialist candidates. An emphasis is placed on assessing the strengths of readers and writers from all levels and ages with an obligation to inform the students of what they can do well. Informal assessments and planned instruction utilizes learners' strengths in order to address their needs. Candidates participate in professional conferences and write reports in which they summarize and critique assessment findings. Opportunities are available for candidates to work with beginning readers, struggling readers at different levels, English language learners, and successful readers and writers.

Academy Philosophy


Language is learned through its functional use. As our students engage in purposeful literacy experiences they learn language, learn about language, and learn through language (M.A.K. Halliday). Literacy is a dynamic and multidimensional human process that enables individuals to express, communicate, and reflect on their experiences and their potential next steps. Reading and writing involve constructive strategies of communicating, composing, and meaning making.  Language and literacy vary according to regional, historical, social, cultural, political, and economic influences; these and other factors must be interrogated and taken into account when making instructional decisions. Teachers who understand the linguistic, cognitive, socio-cultural, and developmental dimensions of literacy in authentic contexts can better address students' next places to learn and roadblocks in language arts, reading and writing. The course focuses on assessing, planning, teaching and collaborating with fellow graduate candidates to best meet the needs of readers and writers at all levels of skill and ability. The end goal is deep preparation of graduate students who will return to their classrooms and schools and become more successful literacy professionals and educators.

Department Chair Changes in ELSE Department

By Pamela Van Halsema on August 30, 2012 9:02 AM


The Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education welcomes Dr. Viki Montera to the position of Department Chair for the Fall 2012 semester.  Dr. Montera is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership for the ELSE Department which offers both advanced credential and master's degree programs for the preparation of principals, superintendents and education administrators. In addition, Dr. Montera is taking over the role of co-director of the CANDEL Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership this semester as well. Joining her in a department leadership role this semester is Dr. Sandy Ayala, who will serve as the program coordinator for the Education Specialist Credential program. Fellow ELSE Department faculty member Jennifer Mahdavi, on sabbatical through the end of this term, will move into the role of department chair in Spring 2013 upon her return.


This change in leadership follows former Department Chair Professor Emiliano Ayala's departure from Sonoma State University to a new position at our sister institution Humboldt State University as Associate Dean of the College or Professional Studies. Dr. Ayala was a member of the Sonoma State faculty since 2000, teaching in the Education Specialist Credential and Special Education Master's Degree programs. In addition to his recent role as department chair, he wrote and directed two grant projects here on campus related to adaptive technology and Universal Design for Learning, first as Project Co-director and Co-principal Investigator for Access by Design (AxD) funded by the National Science Foundation, and later, from 2005-2012, as Project Director/Principal Investigator for Ensuring Access through Collaboration and Technology (EnACT~PTD) funded by the U.S. Department of Education: Office of Postsecondary Education.

Dr. Ayala has been a valued scholar and leader at Sonoma State, and will be missed here on campus. Department colleague Professor Paul Porter remarked that "Emiliano is one of the brightest and most talented faculty members in the School of Education. His great organizational skills, vision, student-centered outlook, and always positive attitude will add so much to Humboldt State. We will miss him very much."

CSSE Department Welcomes Megan Taylor

By Pamela Van Halsema on August 16, 2012 10:56 AM

Megan Taylor

The CSSE Department in the School of Education welcomes new Assistant Professor for Mathematics Education Megan Taylor this semester.  She comes to Sonoma State having just completed  a post-doctoral research fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Education for the TESLA Project (Transforming the Engagement of Students Learning Algebra).  Immediately prior to the postdoc, her doctoral work at Stanford focused on the way mathematics teachers use and adapt textbooks in the classroom.

We asked Megan tell us a little about herself and her journey to becoming a mathematics educator:

*Math was never easy for me. If you had told me, as I was struggling through freshman Algebra (and hating every minute), that I would become a mathematics teacher, I would have laughed hysterically (and probably cried a little, too). But I AM a math teacher today in spite of and because of the teachers I had along the way. Teachers who ignored my needs, who frustrated me, who saw me as a lost cause. Teachers who inspired me to challenge myself, try my best, and never give up. Teachers who helped me realize I wanted to BE a teacher.

Today I work with mathematics teachers and study mathematics teaching so more people can help more students be successful in mathematics. In my dissertation research I studied how four teachers worked to use their textbooks more effectively, and observed fascinating changes in how they adapted and created curriculum materials over time. In my postdoc the past two years I developed curricula and a professional development experience for over 400 teachers, as part of a project designed to understand motivation in middle-school mathematics. One of the most recent findings emerging from the data is that the "best" lessons were not necessarily those from teachers implementing our materials the way we expected them to.

I couldn't be more excited to join the SSU team and get to know the Seawolf culture!"