Faculty News Archives

Call for Nominations for the 2015 Jack London Award for Educational Innovation

By Pamela Van Halsema on January 13, 2015 8:59 AM

The 28th annual Jack London Awards for.png

"He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars."
Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Inspired by London

Local hero Jack London was a brilliant writer who pursued life with a sense of adventure much like the characters in his books. He took a non-traditional approach to living and learning, and embraced risk to spur his imagination.Tapping into those experiences, he was able to spin classic tales like The Call of the Wild, White Fang and dozens if not hundreds of other stories, novels, poems and plays.

Here at Sonoma State it is London's rogue ambition and creative fervor that we memorialize in the Jack London Award for Educational Innovation program.  For 28 years, the award has celebrated exceptional programs and the creative people who took risks, energy and time to make them successful for the children of Sonoma County public schools. 

Call for Nominations

We now invite nominations for the 2015 Jack London Award.  Representatives from throughout Sonoma County are invited to nominate innovative programs for this honor. Nominated programs may serve early childhood, elementary or secondary education populations either as part of the school day or as an extra-curricular program. 

Think about  what creative risk-taking is happening in the classrooms, labs, art rooms, playgrounds, gymnasiums and auditoriums at your schools. Have you launched any new and innovative  programs that build student engagement and advance learning? Tell us about them! Our advisory committee reviews all the applications and selects a few finalist programs for a team of judges to visit and evaluate in person.

Nominations Due February 12

Apply by Thursday, February 12, 2015; application is posted on our website at www.sonoma.edu/education/jack-london

Direct questions about the Jack London Award for Educational Innovation to Pamela Van Halsema at 707-664-2132.

Webinars Explore Making in Schools, Features Panel of Maker-Educators

By Pamela Van Halsema on December 2, 2014 10:38 AM

Making in K-12 Schools Webinars: Part 1, Wednesday, December 3 and Part 2, Wednesday, December 10, noon PST

To join the webinars, go to http://educatorinnovator.org/webinars/

2 webinars december 3 and 10 for Making in K-12 Settings

Join School of Education Assoc. Professor Jessica Parker, along with several Bay Area maker-educators as they discuss the role of "Making" in schools.  Set up as a forum, these teachers will share stories from their own experiences in the classroom--from elementary up to high school--incorporating making into the curriculum and both creating and maintaining a culture of creativity

In Part 1 of the two part series, on December 3, the panel will focus on how to set things up to foster hands-on, interdisciplinary maker projects and events which successfully support student learning.

In Part 2, on December 10, they will discuss the kind of professional development that they themselves need as educators to implement these programs and adopt a 'maker mindset' as a teacher.

The Maker Movement

Making emphasizes learning-through-doing In a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Makers encourage taking risks and experimentation with materials from simple to high tech equipment, they set up opportunities to build and tinker and create. Robotics, woodworking, crafting, 3D printing, and machining are just a few examples of projects used in Maker Spaces all over the world top inspire through project-based learning.

The notion of tinkering and Making has become popular world-wide and is now truly a movement capturing the imagination of young and old, across cultures and disciplines. Maker Media, based here in Sonoma County, has been the hub and helped build this movement around the world with their publications and their Maker Faire events.

This global community consists of inventors, artists, engineers, and many other types of people with all kinds of backgrounds. This movement is taking many in the direction of successful independent creativity that is allowing for outside the box thinking and knowledge expansion and growth.

This kind of thinking is a great fit for project based learning and creative problem solving curriculum in schools, as well as creative and artistic development.

The Maker Educator Certificate Program

This webinar is hosted and produced by the National Writing Project's Educator Innovator initiative (educatorinnovator.org), and is affiliated with the Maker Educator Certificate Program offered by The Startup Classroom at Sonoma State University. The certificate program offers a selection of mini courses to help educators of all kinds (not just school teachers) learn how to start and maintain MakerSpaces in their own setting, and become part of a network of Maker Educators.  

To learn more about the Maker Educator Certificate Program visit www.thestartupclassroom.org/maker-course/ 

Math Educator Megan W. Taylor on KQED to Discuss Innovative Professional Development Models for STEM Teachers

By Pamela Van Halsema on October 8, 2014 12:18 AM

Mentor teachers and teacher candidates working together at a table

Today's KQED public radio program Forum with Michael Krasny brought together education experts to discuss the best models and reforms in teacher preparation programs.  Sonoma State School of Education's Asst. Professor Megan W. Taylor was a featured guest on the program along with SFSU's former Dean of Education Betsy Keane, Stanford's Linda Darling-Hammond, and EdSource executive director Louis Freedberg. 

The radio discussion was prompted by a new report from EdSource entitled "Preparing World Class Teachers". This particular report is intended to highlight the most promising reforms to create a more effective teaching workforce. The article suggests that such induction programs could benefit from innovation and reform.

Listen to the Forum podcast from KQED

 Implementing Innovative Models for New Teacher Support

Megan Taylor, Asst. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education at Sonoma State is a sought-after expert in mathematics education, teacher development, and curriculum design in the Bay Area and beyond. Her recent work with Sonoma Valley School District is notable.  Taylor worked with Sonoma State University teacher candidates and ElevatEd fellows (undergraduate and graduate students in Math and Science) at Adele Harrison Middle School in early September as part of a year-long pilot of a professional development school partnership between Adele Harrison and the Sonoma State University School of Education. 

Megan Taylor

Megan W. Taylor, Asst Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematics, SSU

In the program Taylor facilitated teacher candidates and ElevatEd Fellows as they observed lessons across the classrooms of the math teachers at the school, with an eye on rich classroom discussion, then participated in structured debriefs with each other and the teachers they observed. 

Principal Mary Ann Spitzer, Director of Curriculum & Instruction Karla Conroy, and ElevatEd CEO Zach Levine observed and participated in the work as well, reflecting the belief that teacher education "takes a village." 

As discussed on KQED's Forum on October 8, this experience is part of a long-term effort by SSU to strengthen the partnership between the mentor teacher and the student teacher candidate. The strong partnership is formed through key strategies, making the clinical experience for its students more effective and the return for mentor teachers more substantial. 

Another new innovative initiative, the CalCorps program strives to be the "gold standard" in teacher education and professional learning for secondary STEM teachers in California, guiding new teachers for a full 6 years from pre-service to in-service teaching. (much longer than the standard one year credential program plus two years of induction that most teachers experience) 

CalCorps focuses on creating the first, research-based, practice-focused, long-term program for the recruitment, education, support, retention, and development of outstanding STEM teachers. CalCorps is different from other models because it provides a cohesive trajectory of professional experiences for new a teacher that spans the moment they choose the profession to their 6th full-time teaching year. Find out more at: http://calcorps.squarespace.com.

To learn more about professional, university and research based teacher credential programs visit us at www.sonoma.edu/education

Professors Kathy Morris and Debora Hammond Honored with Goldstein Award

By Pamela Van Halsema on January 31, 2014 3:31 PM

Dr. Kathy Morris

Dr. Kathy Morris, Goldstein Award recipient

Sonoma State has named two faculty members as this year's recipients of the Bernard Goldstein Award for Excellence in Scholarship.  These faculty demonstrate a strong commitment to the teacher-scholar model here at the University.

The award recognizes the important connection between faculty professional development (scholarly creative activities) and enriched learning environments for students.

Dr. Kathy Morris received her Ph.D. in Educational Studies - Teacher Education from University of Michigan. Since joining the Sonoma State University faculty, Dr. Morris has authored or co-authored five peer reviewed publications, completed two book chapters and six other publications. In addition, she's participated in 38 conference presentations since 2003 alone.

Dr. Morris has been a Carnegie Fellow on two different projects; The Goldman-Carnegie Quest project related to elementary school mathematics teaching and the MSRI Carnegie Elementary Math Project. For the past five years Dr. Morris has been a Principal Investigator and Co-Director on grants totaling three and a half million dollars. This includes a current $500,000 State grant related to the California Common Core project.

This work has led to her current book project on effective strategies for implementing Math lessons. Dr. Morris was instrumental in the design of the MA in Mathematics Education through the School of Education. Graduates of this program are teachers who go on to take leadership roles in the K-12 education system.

Dr. Debora Hammond

Dr. Debora Hammond, Goldstein Award recipient

Dr. Debora Hammond received her Ph.D. in History of Science from University of California, Berkeley.  She is an international expert in the history of systems thinking; she has given plenary talks six times for the annual meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. She has over 20 publications on topics which range from systems thinking, to food, education, ecology and sustainability.

Her book, The Science of Synthesis; Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory was published in 2003. She has also been an invited speaker, workshop organizer or participant in over 28 conferences and events. Her two recent publications in 2013 are "Reflections of Recursion and the Evolution of Learning" and "Systems Theory".

Dr. Hammond works with graduate students in the Hutchins Action for a Viable Future MA program, and as Coordinator of the MS in Organization Development. Dr. Hammond has the honor to be selected as an invited participant to the 2014 International Federation for Systems Research Conversation which will be held in Linz, Austria. This biennial event gathers a team of researchers together to work collaboratively for a week on a shared theoretical paper.

The vision of Bernie and Estelle Goldstein is definitely reflected in this year's "Goldstein Awards for Excellence in Scholarship" winners.  Each recipient will receive $1,500 to support their ongoing scholarship efforts.  Debora Hammond and Kathy Morris will be formally recognized at the annual Exposition of Faculty Research event that will be held later this spring.

Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit Course Registration Open

By Pamela Van Halsema on August 2, 2013 9:39 AM

Entrepreneurs are known for their ability to seize opportunity and move forward toward their creative and innovative goals, usually taking substantial risks along the way.  With skill, they have an ability to keep advancing, pivoting on the path, avoiding obstacles and adjusting to the changing conditions to achieve success.  If they don't reach their goal, they learn from the experience and apply that new understanding to the next creative project.    


The Unleashing Entrepreneurial Spirit course will open up dialogue on innovation for participants from a variety of backgrounds.

In the course Unleashing the Entrepreneurial Spirit, teachers, school administrators and community leaders will learn how to apply entrepreneurial techniques to the domain of education, and put into action their own creativity. The four-session course offers participants the opportunity to build their own plan for realizing their creative vision.  The course will bring insightful speakers to prompt class discussions and inspire group collaboration as each participant builds and refines their strategic plan for innovation. The course is designed and delivered as a collaboration between the School of Education and the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University and ieSonoma.org.

The link to register and pay for this short course is now available online.  The course fee is $50, plus there is an option to register for 1 continuing education unit for an additional $55.  Instructions for payment are at http://www.sonoma.edu/education/ues/index.html

Here is a taste of what is in store each week in this course:


Tony Harris, left, with some of his students, receiving the 2013 Sonoma State University Jack London Award for Educational Innovation for NorthWest Prep's Multi-Age, Project-Based Learning Curriculum for grades 7-12.

Monday August 26, 2013

This session centers on the importance of establishing a compelling vision to guide our actions as educational entrepreneurs and creators.  

Discussion Topics: 
  • How to 'pivot' the way entrepreneurs do, making adjustments along the way toward reaching goals.  Almost every great innovator and entrepreneur finds that the initial plan requires adjustment as the work gets underway.  How can educators have that kind of flexibility and responsiveness in their environment without losing their way to the goal?  
  • Be ready to question the norm.  Norms are the sometimes subtle 'ways fo doing things' that are often unspoken but can have tremendous influence on how we see things and the productivity of groups and individuals.  The ability to see and question the norm is a key skill of entrepreneurial thinkers.
  • Consider different perspectives.  The skill to of being able to 'switch lenses' and view a situation from other perspectives can open up new approaches and ideas for problem solving.
Guest Speakers:  
  • Tony Harris, Director, Northwest Prep Charter School, Santa Rosa
  • Bonnie Raines, Teacher, Santa Rosa Charter School of the Arts

Monday, September 9, 2013

Working to realize a vision cannot be done alone.  Building a strong professional network can help get a plan off the ground, find resources to make that vision sustainable, and help the idea take root and grow.  Entrepreneurs are skilled at using networks to build collaboration, partnerships and remove obstacles.  

Discussion Topics:
  • Building the network--What are the elements of strong personal learning network.  How does one leverage digital tools to build their network
  • Breaking down silos--it will be important to reach outside of your sphere to build connections outside of your silo to form a truly strategic network.  How do you engage the non-education community in your professional network?
  • Accessing Resources--how can the network help you access financial, human and material resources, as well as the essential knowledge to make your plan a reality?
  • Networked Collaboration--How to recognize and optimize opportunity for collaboration in a professional network?  What do you have to offer?  What can you expect in return from this dynamic connection?

Guest Speakers: 
  • Kristin Swanson, a passionate learner, keynote speaker and the author of "Professional Learning in the Digital Age". She is also a founder of the EdCamp movement, adjunct professor at DeSales University, Google Certified Teacher. She has worked as a third grade teacher, RtI Building Leader and Teacher Trainer. She currently works for Bright Bytes to help people learn better using technology.
  • Catlin Tucker, Google Certified Teacher, CUE Lead Learner, 9th and 10th grade English language arts teacher at Windsor High School in Sonoma County. She is the author of the book, "Blended Learning for Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create a Student-Centered Classroom"

cli-photo-vertical.jpgMonday, September 23, 2013

Entrepreneurs face risks when starting a venture, and know that there will be obstacles along the way.  What can educators learn from how entrepreneurs adjust plans or strategically maneuver a landscape that could be a minefield?  The best entrepreneurs know how to turn those problems into opportunities.

Discussion Topics:
Problem identification and problem solving--Defining the problem in new and different ways is the first creative step in problem solving.  Many initiatives fail because people solved the wrong problem.
Failure as a vaccine--If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  How did the first, second or third failure teach you something that can inform your next attempt to realize your vision? How can you start viewing failure as something that makes you stronger and closer to success the next time?

Guest speaker:
  • Oscar Chavez, recently appointed Assistant Director of Human Services for the County of Sonoma, formerly Executive Director of the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County. In both his previous work experience and in his current position, Oscar has dedicated himself to establishing strong and positive ties between the County's low wealth neighborhoods, public entities, and the business community in order to raise awareness about the growing education, health, and income disparities that exist in our communities.  He is equally committed to finding solutions that get at the root cause of poverty.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Successful entrepreneurs build sustainable business models that can support themselves over time.  Educators need to consider sustainability too when building their innovations.  And, over time, as the project grows and the environment changes, the innovator needs to be open to receiving feedback and incorporating change to keep what they are doing relevant, true to their vision, and successful.

During this session, participants will share their ideas and action plans based on their collaborative work developed during the course.

More details on this session TBA

Ed Tech Tips: Student Authoring Tools

By Pamela Van Halsema on February 27, 2013 12:51 PM

Article by Jessica K. Parker, Assistant Professor

What's one of the best things about living in the digital era? With access to the Internet, we can all be authors! This wasn't always the case. I grew up a consumer and I watched TV and listened to the radio. The only things I created were mixed tapes and video recordings of athletic events. Today, youth grow up as both consumers and producers. Why not capitalize on this by having students create media texts! Here are three powerful tools that students can use to author their own content and demonstrate understanding.

Child dressed in Yoda costume with annotations on the photo

Dr. Parker's son dressed up as Yoda last Halloween.

    Storybird: Storybird is an online collaborative storytelling tool that gives users the ability to read, create, and share books online using original art and their own writing ideas. Students can make visual stories with artwork from illustrators and animators around the world! Storybird can inspire anyone to turn images into narratives. Want to learn more? Here is a digital handout on Storybird designed by School of Education Master's students, Kristina Beltz and Carol Wise.

    Capzles: Curate your own multimedia presentation with images, audio, and video with Capzles! Dr. Carlos Ayala is using Capzles to have his students discuss important historical events in education.

    Jing: Use Jing to take free screenshots or make screencasts. Have credential students annotate aspects of student work or images of their classroom walls. Have math students talk through their process of solving a problem by recording their own computer screen. Give directions for homework by annotating the document using Jing. You will need to download the software, and Jing saves all your work to your computer. I attached my own example of an annotated Yoda!

Assistant Professor Megan Taylor Named 2013 STaR Fellow

By Pamela Van Halsema on February 5, 2013 10:50 AM


Congratulations to School of Education Assistant Professor Megan Taylor for recently being accepted as a 2013 STaR Fellow! The Service, Teaching and Research (STaR) Project is an induction program for recent doctoral graduates in mathematics education. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, is a 12-month experience that networks early career mathematics educators (in the first or second year of their first academic appointment). The Program focuses on three themes: research, teaching and service as well as leadership development To be eligible for this program you must have your doctorate in mathematics education and be in your first or second year of tenure track at an institution of higher education in the U.S. As a STaR Fellow, Megan will have the opportunity to attend a week-long Park City Mathematics Institute this summer, get extra support as she continues her research agenda and collaborate with a strong cohort of other mathematics faculty to strengthen her teaching practice.

Megan Taylor is the newest faculty member in the Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education department and the Single Subject Credential Program here at Sonoma State. Her research focuses on secondary mathematics and teacher education. Megan has taught 6th-12th grade for twelve years and believes that in order to improve public mathematics education in the U.S., improvements on teacher education are necessary. Her recent work investigates how mathematics teachers use textbooks and explores ways they can be do it more effectively to improve classroom learning.

Professor Jim Fouche Retires

By Pamela Van Halsema on December 18, 2012 10:41 AM

groupshot.gifSonoma State faculty, staff and administration got together on December 14 to honor Professor James Fouche's retirement from Sonoma State's School of Education after twenty years of service.  Dr. Fouche came to SSU as the Dean of Education in 1992 following a post as Dean of Education at Winthrop University in South Carolina.  During his tenure as Dean of Education, Fouche contributed in many ways to the campus and community, including the establishment of the Educator in Residence Program, work as a partner on the design for Technology High School, and a co-author of the North Coast Beginning Teachers Program, along with many other projects and initiatives. In 1997 he transitioned to a faculty position in the Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education Department and spearheaded many successful state and federal grants, including work for the advancement of bilingual teacher preparation (Projects BECA and PITA), and many notable initiatives to the advancement of educational technology for teachers: Digital Bridge, Light Bridge and SMART. More more recently he was a partner on the EnAct grant project for accessible technology and Universal Design for Learning. Together these grant projects brought millions of dollars for educational research and innovation to Sonoma State and our public school region.

gift.gifAt the retirement celebration, colleagues shared stories of working with Dr. Fouche over the years, noting many examples of his steady leadership, collegiality, vision for innovation, and dedication to helping teachers and students that characterized his career.  Retired faculty joined the celebration, including Jayne DeLawter, Rick Marks, and Marty Ruddell.  cake.gifDr. Fouche's roots in Louisiana and his well-known dedication to Gators football were a theme at the party too, including a cake decked out with an alligator staring down a seawolf, surrounded by blue and orange icing.  The School of Education faculty presented Jim with a gift of a framed Matisse print in honor of the occasion. 

Jim and his wife Kathy look forward to this new opportunity to spend more time with their family, especially their two young grandchildren.   

Teacher Technology Showcase Highlights New Media for the Classroom

By Pamela Van Halsema on November 26, 2012 2:33 PM

techshowcase-poster-web.pngImagine a classroom where middle school students learn geospatial awareness by taking a virtual tour of the moon, or a lesson where special education kids improve their vocabulary with Garage Band.  These are just a couple examples of projects that will be featured at the Teacher Technology Showcase this Thursday at Sonoma State University.  At the Showcase, twenty four pre-service and recently credentialed teachers will demonstrate lessons that they have created to help build student engagement and support student learning. 

School of Education Assistant Professor Jessica Parker designed the event, which provides beginning teachers the chance to share creative ideas for ways they plan to use new media tools in classroom experiences. Dr. Parker, who teaches educational technology at SSU, notes that the focus of the event is not just on the technological tools the teachers are employing, but also on the content objectives as well; how are they creating a better learning environment for students through technology integration.   At the showcase, presenters will have the opportunity to converse with experienced teachers and administrators from local schools, graduate students and faculty about the lessons they designed. 

Presentations will include examples of lessons built for mobile devices, the use of web based collaboration tools, video screencasts for flipped classrooms, wikis and more. The presenters come from a range of teaching environments and student age groups, from early education, elementary, secondary, educational leadership and special education, and they will provide examples of for kindergarten through senior year of high school and beyond.

This is the second year that the SSU School of Education is hosting the Showcase, which this year has support from Google, KQED and Edutopia. The event will take place on Thursday, November 29, 5:00-7:00 PM in the Student Union Multipurpose Room and is free and open to the community.  (Please note that parking on campus is $2.50).

Can't make it to the event?  Follow us on Twitter for highlights:  @educationSSU #ssuedtech.

Janet Hardcastle Retires from SSU After 25 Years of Service

By Pamela Van Halsema on September 28, 2012 10:31 AM

Janet Hardcastle with framed picture of SSUJanet Hardcastle retires today after twenty five years of dedicated service to Sonoma State University.  When she started working here in 1987, her first position was with the Intensive Learning Experience Program for the Communication Studies Department.  But shortly after that, she took a position with the School of Education, where she has worked ever since.  From 1989-2001 Janet worked as the assistant to the dean in the School of Education, before transitioning to the world of educational technology grant work, where she has truly made her mark over the last decade.  Janet has been the administrator of three major federal grant projects sponsored by U.S. Department of Education, and has worked closely with teams of faculty from Sonoma State and other partner institutions.  These projects include Light Bridge:  Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology, Ensuring Access through Collaboration and Technology (EnACT) and EnACT - Partnerships, Technology and Collaboration, EnACT-PTD.

Janet Hardcastle retirement viewTwo weeks ago, the campus celebrated her retirement with a send-off party hosted by the School of Education.  Faculty and staff from across campus, as well as other retired SSU people and family members came together at the Terrace Room and Patio at the Commons to thank Janet for all the good work she has done for Sonoma State, and to wish her well.  Colleagues Gayle Graff, Jim Fouche, Brett Christie and Emiliano Ayala praised her for years of professionalism, precision, dedication and collegiality.  They credited her with much of the success of their grant work, because she brought so much knowledge and expertise to the complex world of federal grants.  Janet was at the hub of all their work, and for that they are forever grateful.

The School of Education presented Janet with a commemorative Waterford vase and a framed picture with photographs of campus to mark the occasion.  Janet noted that she loves Sonoma State’s beautiful campus, and while she will no longer be working here, you will likely in the future see her here taking a walk, maybe pushing one of her grandchildren’s strollers, enjoying the beauty of the trees and gardens here at Sonoma State, truly taking time to make the most of her retirement.