Spotlight on David Guardino
We all want change. We want our schools, communities, families, and even our own lives to change—and change for the better. It is easy to tweak something. It is no issue to edit a few details here and there, put some finishing touches on a project, or polish things up a bit. However, when we want to transform something big—a whole system—we need not only perseverance, but also the ability to see the big picture in perspective. Sometimes, we must step outside of the box before we can adjust what is inside of it.
David Guardino understands this. Before his work as a program lead in the Research to Practice Division in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), he started out on a small scale, as many systems changers do. During his undergraduate studies in psychology, he volunteered to work with international students. Upon graduation, David opted for an adventure. He moved to South Korea for two years to teach English in small group and classroom settings. He met his wife in Korea and subsequently returned to his home state of Oregon to pursue a degree in education counseling. He worked as a family therapist in a variety of settings, including foster care and drug abuse facilities for adjudicated youth. It was easy for him to see that the students faced a myriad of issues that affected all aspects of their lives from school and social interactions to their home environments. However, when David zoomed out—when he stepped outside of the box and looked into it—he saw that these issues are symptoms of a complex web of social maladies; they are part of a system that is not inherently evil, but is wholly indifferent to personal struggles. David realized that if he wanted to help as many students as possible, he needed to tackle the system as a whole.
Under the direction of Dr. Robert Horner and others at the University of Oregon, David expanded his scope of influence in 2001 by pursuing a doctorate in special education. He worked in varying capacities for the Oregon Department of Education. His counseling background lent well to leading early Response to Intervention (RtI) initiatives concerning implementing Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS). He helped launch a web-based data management application for districts to better collect and utilize data. David directed various initiatives in both special and general education at the state level before moving to OSEP in the U.S. Department of Education.
David believes that the most difficult component of transforming research to practice is providing the appropriate level of support to teachers and leaders who are learning to administer evidence-based practice (EBP) in education. He laments when teachers do not receive the necessary support to carry out EBP and come to the faulty conclusion that the practice does not work when they have never had the opportunity to use it with fidelity.
In order to improve the system, David believes we need to work from the top down, improving teacher preparation programs that can equip educators with wide skill sets so they can accomplish successful teaching practices. The CEEDAR Center team is accomplishing this work, and David believes the CEEDAR Center has a tremendous opportunity to improve the way the teacher preparation system works.
David is in the right place at the right time to influence the landscape of American education through his work at OSEP. He does not back down from a challenge, either. An avid skier and former slalom racer, he is not afraid to face new adventures with tenacity. He also has two daughters in elementary school, which is a challenging adventure in and of itself. He and his wife love to take their daughters hiking. They are still exploring all of the nature the East Coast has to offer after moving there from Oregon.
The CEEDAR Center team is fortunate to partner with David in order to not only fine-tune education, but also to fundamentally and systematically improve educator preparation in the United States.
Spotlight on Katrina Miller
Katrina Miller dons the slightly lighter shade of orange that Tennessee fans affectionately call “Tennessee Orange” and Florida fans call “Wait! That’s not Gator Orange!” If a Tennessee Volunteer like Katrina can collaborate with so many Gators, then we have high hopes for collaboration between stakeholders in states and universities across the United States. The CEEDAR Center involves collaboration with many people who have never partnered with each other. That is the beauty of the size and scope of the CEEDAR Center, and Katrina has embodied such teamwork throughout her career. She brings to the table tremendous knowledge and valuable experience in reforming teacher education programs. Katrina currently serves as a senior program associate in the Education Workforce division at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Prior to her work at CCSSO, she worked with the Tennessee Higher Education Consortium (THEC). As part of THEC, she helped write the state of Tennessee’s Race to the Top application. She also concentrated on increasing Tennessee’s competitiveness in recruiting applicants to teach in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. Katrina was interested in the STEM field from a young age, and she joined the Technology Student Association (TSA) while she was in seventh grade. The TSA is the premier organization for young people to explore the use of STEM principles in competitive settings, leadership development, and much more. Katrina loved TSA so much that she became an advisor and eventually the national president of the organization while she was in college. During her tenure as president, she was one of the students on the national committee that helped to found the U.S. Office of Education Technology (OET). Like many of our team members, an idealistic young Katrina wanted to grow up to be a teacher. While she was in a teacher preparation program, however, her past interests surfaced, and she pondered what she could do to improve teacher education programs. That is how she began her work with THEC. She believed she could help improve the state of teacher education, especially for teachers in the STEM field. Attention to daily excellence marks Katrina’s work. When asked about her career aspirations, she takes a present view of excellence rather than a future view of aspiration. She says, “I just want to do good work. I want teachers to make a positive impact on kids from the first day they step into the classroom.” This daily commitment to excel has worn a path from her early days in the TSA to the Education Workforce division in CCSSO. Now, she takes her experiences in developing quality STEM teachers in Tennessee and applies them to a national scale. Katrina also loves to travel. Her goal is to visit six continents. She recently returned from a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. She does not have any tickets booked for her next adventure, though, so she is open to suggestions.
Dr. James McLeskey
Specific interests steer some researchers while they are in college. Professors in graduate school heavily influence others. Family members also push individuals in certain directions. However, an impersonal, steel Quonset hut behind a vocational school forged James McLeskey’s academic identity.
The architectural wonder did not have air conditioning. It did not even have a functional bathroom—students were forced to travel to the main building each time they needed to use the restroom. What the Quonset hut did have was a group of disabled students segregated from the rest of the school population. James remembers his bewilderment the first time he walked into the hut: “Wow,” he recalls. “I didn’t know we treated people this way.” The Quonset hut transformed James from a young man with an uncertain professional path into a staunch advocate for students with disabilities. Advocacy is the concept that weaves throughout James’s career.
James did not start out with the hut in mind—or even with education as a career goal. He began college aiming to become a counselor, so he majored in psychology and then pursued graduate work in counseling. After completing his master’s degree, James accepted a job teaching students with intellectual disabilities at the vocational school—the site of the Quonset hut. James spent several difficult years laboring to include his students in mainstream educational and social activities, and he enjoyed moderate success. Several of his students played varsity basketball and football, and many were included in general education classrooms. James soon decided that he wanted more leverage so that he could influence a wider range of students. He had already become an advocate; he just needed a bigger platform.
While pursuing his doctorate at Georgia State University, James became even more convinced of the necessity of being an advocate for students with disabilities, and he focused his efforts on inclusion and developing quality teachers and leaders. “Teachers ultimately make it happen every day, but principals provide a setting where effective inclusive schools can occur,” he says. He believes that CEEDAR Center professionals can deliver assistance in improving teacher and leader preparation programs, which will equip leaders with the necessary tools for creating inclusive schools with positive learning environments. He also envisions CEEDAR Center staff members helping general education teachers to better understand how to educate students with disabilities in their classrooms.
James has mixed but optimistic feelings about the state of special education today. He laments that many students are still in their own Quonset huts. He acknowledges that these may not be steel buildings out back; they could be separate wings or halls, but exclusion still exists. However, he is hopeful about the fact that 80% of students with disabilities spend a significant amount of time in general education classrooms. Like a true advocate, though, James’s work is never finished.
While discussing his legacy, James is uneasy. He does not believe in striving for a legacy. He believes that real change happens in the accumulation of day-to-day victories. He admits that throughout his life, he has seen solid successes and definite failures. Ultimately, when he retires, he hopes that he will have been a Quonset-hut demolisher. He hopes that fewer students with disabilities will be excluded and that more teachers and leaders will become well-equipped to teach these students.
Like many of our CEEDAR Center team members, James is a spirited basketball fan. He is confident that the Gators will win it all this year (a conclusion shared by many on our team). What he likes about the team is how well-coached they are. Growing up in the Bob Knight era, he appreciates how a talented coach can take a group of players and form a positive team synergy. He equates a good principal with a good coach. He wants to help develop in our education system some Billy Donovans who can help teachers work well together to improve student outcomes.
Aside from basketball and academic pursuits, James enjoys an active lifestyle. He and his wife are planning a week-long bike ride through Italy this summer. This culinary cycle tour from Cremona to Bologna will include beautiful scenery and delectable Italian delicacies. (He is making the rest of the CEEDAR Center staff very jealous.) James is also a huge Rolling Stones fan. In fact, a walk straight past his “Dr. James McLeskey” office sign will often lead to the sounds of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. James is amazed that a band plagued by so many personal issues has been successful for such a long time. Although he does not want Mick Jagger’s lifestyle, he claims that if he could choose any other skill set, he would love to be a great musician. “Time is on Your Side,” James. You could be the first special education professor to have books, articles, and Billboard Top 10 hits on your CV.
If you spend just a few minutes with Maury McInerney, two things will be clear. First, he passionately believes in the importance of translating the theoretical to the practical. Second, he is passionate about being someone who does this on a grand scale.
Maury gives a stirring plea: “There are millions of children struggling to learn in the world. Somewhere, there is a student who is struggling right now, and somewhere else, there is a student with very similar needs who is not struggling, and we have to explain that conundrum.”
Maury is a researcher, an almost-lawyer, a policy influencer, a basketball enthusiast, and a family man. He has had one wife and two jobs since 1975, and it may have been one job had his kids lived closer to Wisconsin.
Maury’s father was a lawyer, and his son is currently in law school at the University of Michigan. In his early days of undergrad at Tulane University, Maury thought he would be a lawyer, too. He double majored in political science and English and minored in history with plans of attending law school. That all changed with the influence of an instructor at Tulane. Maury fondly remembers Professor Buchannon as the man who was not only his Latin teacher, but also someone who inspired him to be a teacher. Professor Buchannon gave Maury the opportunity to teach an adult literacy class for Tulane support staff. Maury claims that once he “caught the teaching bug,” there was no possibility he could do anything else.
After graduation, Maury started working at Capital Head Start, one of the first Head Start programs in Washington, DC. He then received his teaching credentials at George Washington University and taught in DC at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School. Several years later, he decided to get his PhD at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. During his graduate work, he began wrestling with the question that has come to define much of his professional career: “How can we take what we know from research and put it into practice?” He has spent his life attempting to answer that question.
After working for several years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Maury and his wife moved back to DC to be closer to family. This was when he began working at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). During his tenure at AIR, Maury has been involved with many Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) technical assistance (TA) centers, but he feels especially excited to collaborate with the CEEDAR Center. He believes CEEDAR is unique because it looks at teacher preparation at the state level instead of just at university or local education agency levels. This will afford large-scale opportunities for change.
When he is not in the office, Maury loves to talk basketball. He has a yearly tradition of taking his son to a basketball tournament. They have gone to the Big Ten tournament a couple of times and to the ACC tournament. However, we cannot completely consider him a CEEDAR staff member until he goes to at least one Florida Gators basketball game. What do you say, Maury? See you at the SEC tournament in a couple of weeks?
December Spotlight: Dr. Louis Danielson
by CEEDAR Staff
If you’re reading Dr. Louis Danielson’s curriculum vitae, you may be surprised to learn that this national leader in special education, now at AIR (American Institutes for Research), was once a chemistry major. Graduating from Thiel College in Pennsylvania, Lou was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. However, after four years of studying chemistry, he was at least fairly certain he didn’t want to be a chemist. Knowing him and the skills she knew he had, his mother gave him a bit of advice: “Why don’t you become a science teacher?” Even then, Lou had a love for teaching. Although he now claims his mother just wanted to “keep him out of trouble,” he decided he would give her idea a try.
Beginning his career teaching at schools with a high percentage of disadvantaged students, Lou’s scientist brain kicked in. He explored what he could do to improve outcomes for struggling students and enrolled in a graduate program in educational psychology. During his time in graduate school, new policy initiatives in Pennsylvania granted greater access to education for many students for the first time. While Lou was on rotations for his graduate program, he was able to see the tremendous benefits this policy gave to students with disabilities firsthand.
Lou then began working for the U.S. federal government in the area of evaluation, which allowed him, in his words, “to ensure not only equal access to education, but equal access to outcomes.” Another formative experience while Lou worked in the Department of Education was the passage of DL 94-142 in 1975. This precursor to IDEA paved the way to widespread educational access for students with disabilities. Dr. Danielson remembers the immense change this policy brought and worked for many years in the Office of Special Education programs working to achieve both access and better outcomes for students with disabilities.
After many successful years, notably as head of the Research to Practice Division in the Office of Special Education Programs, Dr. Danielson retired from his position in order to move to AIR. The move afforded him with opportunities for more substantive, less administrative, work. Now he enjoys the variety of work he does at AIR—in both technical assistance and research. He participates in broad “whole school” initiatives where he is able to look at issues from a wider perspective and see how students with disabilities are affected.
Looking forward to what he wants to accomplish in the rest of his career, Lou points to ensuring the further success of the National Center for Intensive Intervention, which he directs. Although he claims he doesn’t think much about any long-term goals not career-related, he was open to suggestions. Maybe we’ll see him writing an education policy blog while hiking the Appalachian Trail one day. Until then, CEEDAR is thankful to have Dr. Danielson’s wide array of experiences and expertise on our team.
CEEDAR Spotlight: Dr. Suzanne Robinson
Nov. 5, 2013
Dr. Suzanne Robinson is driven by an intense curiosity. Although she recalls teaching her dolls in a mock-classroom in her basement at age 4, she wasn’t always sure that research was going to be her life’s work. Her passion for educating teachers developed out of curiosity. While in college, sociology and anthropology stoked her interest. Those fields explore the depths of the human experience. They attempt to answer the “why” behind the status quo. Sometime later, Suzanne was working with a child who was struggling to read. At the time, she didn’t realize that the student likely had a learning disability, but her mind immediately jumped to the “why?”. However, even behind the “why?” the child was struggling was the bigger question of “how?”-how could she make a difference? Special Education research exists at the intersection between “why” and “how”. Her intense curiosity of why people think the way they do led her to want to understand how she could help students with learning disabilities and how she could help the teachers who teach those students.
Suzanne has always been a researcher who likes to stay close to teachers at the school level. When asked who was the biggest influence in directing her career goals, her answer was obvious, “The teachers have kept me on my path,” Suzanne claims. Keeping herself in the path of the people her research is influencing helps keep her mindful of current issues in teacher educator preparation. Aside from being influenced by the very people she seeks to help, Suzanne is thankful for Don Deshler’s encouragement in her career. He is a prolific and influential researcher who convinced her to come to the University of Kansas. Dr. Deshler is also a content area expert in our Disciplinary Literacy focus in CEEDAR.
The CEEDAR Center is fortunate to have Dr. Robinson on our team. She claims that the level of expertise involved in the CEEDAR Center’s collaboration is astronomical and due to the level of state involvement we are seeing, she believes she can be a part of CEEDAR having an enormously influential impact on teacher education. Suzanne’s curiosity also inspires he to explore the world. This year she plans to travel to Greece and Turkey while next year she plans to move on to Africa. She also loves the arts and cooking. She is always exploring how to perfect something she hasn’t yet mastered. This extends all the way from the classroom to the kitchen. Although one might make culinary assumptions based on her geographic location, Suzanne really isn’t into the Kansas City BBQ scene. She actually claims that her specialty is Mexican food although she has recently gone through a stage of perfecting how to bake the perfect tart. CEEDAR is certainly fortunate to have Suzanne on our team. Her curiosity to explore better ways of doing things surely contributes to our goal of creating opportunities to learn for teachers and leaders.
By: CEEDAR Center Staff
October 2, 2013
Lynn Holdheide considers herself very fortunate to be involved in her current line of work. Her experience in school districts, state education agencies, and university positions allow her to see the complex, multi-faceted issues faced in education today from varying perspectives. In her current role as a Senior TA Consultant at the American Institutes for Research, Lynn provides technical assistance to State Education Agencies and Regional Comprehensive Centers. Despite the fact that she is an Ohio State Buckeye, the CEEDAR Center is fortunate to have Lynn’s expertise in providing technical assistance to states.
Lynn distinctly remembers a time in college when a professor in one of her education courses asked her a question that influenced the course of her career. He pulled her aside and asked, “What do you have to lose by putting yourself out there?” In doing so, he encouraged her to pursue her professional dreams with boldness. Many people don’t reach their potential because they are afraid to take risks and Lynn made a decision to not be one of those people. She considers herself extremely fortunate to have had such a broad array of experiences in her professional career, but it all started with just a gentle nudge.
Another formative experience came a few years later while Lynn was working for the Indiana Department of Education. She worked with Bob Marra who had an uncanny ability to pan back, focus on the big picture, and then re-evaluate the details from that perspective. Lynn admired this ability and has incorporated it into her approach to her own work. Staying focused on the big picture can certainly be difficult when so much of the work of educators is in the details, but Lynn boldly pushes the details forward to meet the greater mission.
Aside from work, Lynn loves to spend time with her husband of 20 years and her three children. Her children bring out something that Lynn really enjoys about her job, which is seeing educational policy make a difference in the classroom. It excites Lynn to see her children bring home assignments that showcase practices like differentiated instruction. Aside from her professional aspirations, Lynn has another goal that illustrate her dedication and willingness to bold pursue her goals–she wants to complete a marathon! Living in the beautiful and temperate city of Nashville affords Lynn with the opportunities for brisk jogs with upcoming country music stars strumming away in the background. Although the hills in Tennessee can be quite challenging, Lynn still looks to the finish line with perseverance. Lynn repeatedly makes the case that she is fortunate to be in the position she is and owes much of her success to her encouraging family. The CEEDAR Center is fortunate to have Lynn’s professional expertise and personal qualities as we work to provide technical assistance to states.
Sep. 4, 2013
If you ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, you will get a smorgasbord of interesting and sometimes humorous responses. Typical responses include, astronaut, ballerina, superhero, or firefighter. Meg Kamman was much more focused in her thinking: “I knew I wanted to be a teacher since first grade.” Growing up, Meg’s father frequently worked with children with disabilities. Through experiences with her father, she was able to see the impact one person could make on a child’s life. Knowing she could help people who were struggling led Meg into a career dedicated to assisting students with disabilities.
After graduating college, Meg began her career teaching children with learning disabilities at a high poverty elementary school. Helping struggling readers learn became her new passion. After teaching for several years, Meg began her graduate degree in leadership thinking she might consider a role as a school administrator. She also thought it would be a good idea to have experience at the secondary level and took a position at a rural 6-12 school. While there were no hugs and presents of coloring pages, teaching secondary students with disabilities was just as rewarding. When an opportunity to work with teachers was presented, Meg hesitated to leave the classroom, but recognized the potential to make a greater impact on struggling students and accepted. She immediately loved helping beginning teachers, which prompted her to pursue her PhD and eventually serve as the project coordinator for the CEEDAR Center.
When asked about the personal influences that helped her along this path, Meg was quick to cite her robust support system of family and friends. She explained, “In whatever I do, I strive to work hard and do my best. I am very fortunate to have friends and family who have encouraged me to be a great mom, a great wife, and a great teacher educator. Whatever my ambitions, this solid group of people encourages excellence.”
Meg is always on the go. This can be seen in her professional life as well as with her family. Whether it’s waking up before dawn to get in a 20-mile bike ride or bringing her two daughters, Josie and Anna, into the office on the weekends while they post original artwork on the bulletin board, Meg is always moving. Meg is even on the go with her family. She and her husband Buddy have the goal of traveling with their daughters to all 50 states.
When asked who she looks up to, Meg was quick to answer her husband, who is a secondary school administrator. She claims, “He is able to work with any type of person and tackle challenging situations head-on without being jarred. He’s an amazing person and administrator.” She also explains that her mom is “an extremely kind person who spends all of her time helping other people.” Meg’s mother placed in Meg’s heart a desire to help others. Since Meg loves helping struggling students and her grant positions don’t afford time to teach frequently, she can often be seen tutoring struggling student-athletes to maintain some “kid contact”. Meg says, “Athletes with learning disabilities have to tackle a tremendous college course-load as well as the rigors of collegiate athletics. It can be extremely difficult take on so much at once.” Meg assists student athletes by patiently developing study habits and commitment in the classroom so they can enjoy success on and off the field, the court, or the track. Whether it’s working with elementary school students, new teachers or athletes, Meg is right at home at the CEEDAR Center, working to make a difference for students with disabilities.