This post is from the June edition of SPU’s School of Education On Point newsletter. This article featured alumnus Dr. David Engle who currently is the Superintendent of Schools in Port Townsend, Washington and was a member of the first doctoral cohort.

David_EngleHow did your time at SPU prepare you for your current position?

My time at SPU prepared me for the superintendency in many important ways. First, my experience at SPU helped me deepen my spiritual connection to my work. I’ve always been keenly aware of the need to inform my leadership purpose with fundamental spiritual values in order to lead authentically. Next, the relationships I developed within my doctoral cohort (SPU’s first doctoral cohort in education, by the way!) over the course of my program were to prove incredibly encouraging and supportive over many years. I was honored to be part of a group of aspiring, talented, and committed leaders and thinkers for those few important years. The rich dialogues and conversations we had together built our capacity to think systemically and holistically. The doctoral program challenged me to grow as a leader.

 What was your path to becoming a superintendent?

My path to becoming a superintendent was a bit convoluted. After serving as a high school principal in Bellingham, I ended up leaving Washington to accept a superintendency in North Platte, Nebraska, on the recommendation of a friend. My friend happened to be a native Nebraskan who was involved in the search process of bringing a slate of candidates to interview for the superintendent’s position in North Platte. He invited me into the process based on his knowledge of my professional history in Washington. As an outsider, my chances seemed slim. But I was excited about taking on a challenge that was way outside of my comfort zone. The North Platte School Board took a chance on me, and we proceeded to do some very exciting work together there.

That experience stretched me in innumerable ways personally and professionally. I had the chance to “learn” a whole new state’s way of educating young people in its public schools while exploring a part of the United States I knew little to nothing about. I came to deeply appreciate the people and the place called the Sandhills. After that experience, I spent a year on the East Coast working in the private sector before migrating back home to the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve been greatly enjoying my leadership role with the Port Townsend School District.

How did you develop an interest in educational technology? Or how do you think a knowledge of instructional technology can help teachers and other educators?

I’ve been working with computers and digital technologies now for nearly 40 years. My master’s degree (25 years back!) was focused on the emerging role of digital technology in educational systems. I’ve been fascinated with the possibilities these powerful tools represent for learning. It has been a significant leadership challenge to integrate these tools in a way that both transforms how we organize learning and expands how we think about what is possible for schools in this information-saturated era. So many possibilities for richer learning experiences and so many possibilities for empty, phatic distraction now exist. We live in an age where we must invoke our wisdom, inventiveness, and humanity in order to find a trustworthy signal in all of the noise. I remain hopeful about the possibilities represented by this technological shift around us.

Can you tell us about Project Inkwell and your involvement with it?

Project Inkwell represents the coming together of competing technology industry leaders, educators, inventors, and academics to accelerate the development and deployment of school-appropriate technologies. The early work of this project was focused on developing functional standards for portable wireless devices that would be robust enough for general student use within a functioning school network environment. Then Project Inkwell actually went about the work of developing a prototype of a model device. That work led to the evolution of devices we’re all familiar with now — portable, carry-along wireless devices with incredible computing power — that work well in tandem with school network technology. Project Inkwell’s latest success has been accelerating the build-out of broadband capacity to schools as represented most recently in Obama’s initiative called ConnectEd. It also provided guidance around how to effectively institute 1:1 projects (one device to each student in a school or classroom setting) within school districts. Project Inkwell continues to bring advanced thinking to the challenge of transforming educational systems so that true personalized learning becomes a reality.

Working as a school psychologist in the northwest for the past eight years, I was ready for a change. In the Fall of 2012, I had a “heart to heart” conversation with my supervisor/mentor and spoke to her about my interest in continuing my educational journey. At the time, I was interested in becoming a director of special education, and wondered which schools offered such a program. In speaking with my mentor, she mentioned, “You can go the easy route and do an online administrator credential from a less reputable institution, or you can enroll in one of the better programs like Seattle Pacific University.” As we discussed my future, she went on to share that she had received her Ed.D. from SPU and spoke very highly of its professors and the positive learning environment. I was motivated to apply and by the Winter of 2013, I was enrolled in my first course! As with any new experience, I had some trepidation in returning to school, and not being affiliated with a particular denomination, was apprehensive about SPU being a faith-based institution. Nevertheless, I decided to have an open mind and submitted myself to the experience.Omar Flores_SPU

Taking courses for the program administrator credential at the Olympia campus was incredibly convenient and beneficial in my return to school. I found the instructors at SPU to be well rounded; with “real world experiences”, humble but firm, and immediately made me feel welcome in the classroom. My apprehensions about attending a faith based institution quickly diminished; and I found some advantages to SPU. One of the major advantages was the camaraderie and sense of community created by the instructors. Compared to past educational experiences, which were rigid and “cut throat” in nature, SPU presented as flexible and compassionate in their approach to learning.

In June of 2014 I received my program administrator credential from SPU. By that time, my vision as an educator and dreams for the future had evolved. So motivated was I from my experience at SPU, that I decided to apply for the Ph.D. in Education program. I was accepted and began my coursework that very summer.

As I write this piece, I am now into my third quarter in the Ph.D. program. For the first time in my life, I feel I am where I truly belong. Compassionate professionals and a community of educators with a higher sense of purpose surround me. My professors, for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect, support and challenge me. I am encouraged by the possibilities the future holds for me in education. My interest continues to be in the field of special education, and my hopes are to become a professor specializing in school psychology one day. In the immediate, my role is to provide educational leadership in my schools, and to be an encouraging example to educators who desire to make positive change in their community. I am keenly aware of the influence I have on underrepresented youth disenfranchised from their schools that may need a role model/mentor to push them along their educational journey. I strive make a positive impact on a daily basis.

Taking the next step has been the most rewarding experience in my educational journey. I am grateful for making the decision to go to SPU to advance my career in education. As with any journey, the first step should be planned toward success!

A doctoral program includes more than just attending and passing courses. As the highest level of formal learning, it is important to develop skills in scholarly writing, literature reviews, critical analysis, and making recommendations. These skills transfer to the dissertation process and the colloquium provides a strong foundation upon which to build.

After completing the core foundations and research courses, doctoral students are asked to begin to explore the literature about a chosen topic which will eventually lead to a dissertation topic. According to our doctoral handbook,

This requires the student to write a scholarly paper and to present that paper in a formal, public seminar to the educational community. Presentations are scheduled each summer. The scholarly expectation is that the paper will not be simply descriptive, but will also include (the student’s and not someone else’s) analysis and evaluation. This will generally require the student to state and defend his/her own thesis about the topic.”

After multiple edited drafts of the paper, the students present their papers in formal and public forums which are held each summer. Students present their papers in a research presentation format. They are limited to 20 minutes which is followed by a question and answer period. This format is modeled after the format of a research conference.

Below is a list of the 2014 Colloquium papers being presented this year. There are a wide variety of educational topics which reflect the varied professional and personal interests of the students.

You’re Invited!

SPU School of Education

Doctoral Leadership Colloquium

1:00 p.m.

Library Seminar Room

July 15, 2014

Principal Self-Efficacy, by John Polm

Morphological Instruction to ESL Learners, by Xu Bian

Variables Impacting Student Choice or Assignment to an Alternative School, by Michael Sita

Sustainable Change in Public School Districts, by Angie Franklin

July 17, 2014

Discipline-Based Art Education K-8 and Student Achievement, by Patti Hayes

Superintendent Turnover: An Examination of the Research, by Zakariya Palsha

Engagement: An Emerging Construct with Potential to Impact Middle-Level Science Education, by Leanna Aker

Early Childhood Educators Impact on Preschool English Language Learners Representation in Special Education: A Review of the Research on the Differences between Second Language Acquisition and Disability, by Stacey McCrath-Smith

July 22, 2014

The Role of Parental Involvement and Parental Expectation in the Educational Attainment of Mexican American Youth, by Susan Knutsen

Self-Efficacy and Test-Anxiety, by Alex Johns

The Effectiveness of Mobile Devices in K-12 Education, by Jason Profit

July 24, 2014

Moral Orientation and Meaning: Morality and Life Satisfaction in Emerging Adults, by David Hartman

Influences on Contemporary Civic Education, by Cari Crane

Improving Test Scores: Can Social and Emotional Learning Help?, by Kelsey Creeden

To teach is to serve God.  I do it with humility, passion and enthusiasm. It is humbling for me to teach, inspire, influence, encourage and love my students.  This past year, I stepped out of my comfort as an educator to high school mathematics students and entereNallined a Ph.D. Program at the Seattle Pacific University.  I was offered the opportunity to share my practical experiences as an educator to university students who have a desire to pursue education as their career.  I was humbled by the prospect to inspire future educators so I gratefully accepted challenge.  It was my mission to provide them with a strong educational foundation that will effectively demonstrate confidence, competence and passion when they are in the instructional environment.                                                                                                               My vocation as a university instructor is certainly a rewarding one, however, I quickly learned the challenge is unique and does not compare to teaching high school students.  As I reflect on my teaching schedule, my knowledge and expertise as an educator are resources I am able to integrate in the classroom.  My students belong to the Alternate Route to Certification (ARC), Masters in Teaching Mathematics and Science (MTMS), and Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) programs.  Knowledge of their background, endorsement and grade level of teaching helps me to mold my instruction to address best practices specific to their needs.    I especially enjoy learning about the effect of the various instructional strategies and reflective tools they are able to utilize during their internship through reflections and class discussions.  I am grateful to teach students who have a desire to make a difference.  This has become a vital means to my educational goal and has opened up an array of future opportunities to explore.
                                                                                                                          The author, Nalline Baliram, taught high school mathematics for 14 years at a private Christian school in Boca Raton, Florida.   she earned a Bachelor’s in Mathematics at Florida Atlantic University and a Masters of Science in Mathematics Education at Florida State University.   Nalline is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Teacher Preparation at Seattle Pacific University.  She enjoys teaching and influencing students who have a desire to learn.

photoDr. Kathy Shoop was named as the SPU School of Education Doctoral Alumni of the Year at a recent 2014 homecoming event. She completed her doctoral studies at SPU in 2005 and currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for the Northwest Education Service District 189 in Anacortes, WA. She is a high level school administrator who is well connected and respected throughout the state. She is an active member of the Washington Common Core Committee and works closely with state staff and local school districts, leaders, and teachers on implementing best practices. She is currently involved in implementation of the Washington Teacher Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP). She recently had an article published in the winter edition of the Washington Kappan about school partnerships. She was actively engaged with SPU teacher ProCert programs for many years. She previously served on the Washington Association of School Administrator (WASA) Board of Directors and won the WSASCD State Excellence Award. Congratulations Dr. Shoop!

Alex JohnLast year I decided to take the leap. I am currently a high school counselor and I was looking for the next thing in my career. At the Washington Education Association (WEA) state conference in 2012 I happened to pass a booth that SPU was at and noticed that there was a PhD program in counselor education. The light bulb went on in my head – I could get a degree in counselor education and work with the next generation of professional school counselors?! Sign me up! After dragging my feet (and brain) to the GRE testing center – I survived yeah!! – I began my journey of becoming a college educator.

The courses that I have taken at SPU have me reflecting on my practice as a counselor, educator and learner. I look forward to continually stretching myself and discovering new topics of interest. Most recently I have been fascinated with Self-Efficacy and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Studying these topics allows me to think about how I can apply them to my school program.

I look forward to working with future and current counselors throughout my PhD program and beyond. Sharing my experiences and learning from new student’s insights will bring another element to my practice and allow me to always be learning!

Alex currently serves as a School Counselor at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, WA. 

DaaneIt is hard to believe I am already beginning my 3rd year as a graduate student at Seattle Pacific University.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be supported by both the School of Education and the Physics Department here on campus.

My Education coursework has given me insight into the world of education beyond the classroom and my work with the Physics department has helped me hone my skills as a researcher on the teaching and learning of a specific discipline. Because I have a broad background that spans scientific research as well as classroom teaching experience, this connection to both departments helps support my growth in the Physics Education Research community.

In the past, I earned undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from Mount Holyoke College, an M.S. in Physics from Clemson University, and obtained a Physics Teaching Credential at Chapman University.  Professionally, I was a secondary educator for five years, three of which were spent teaching primarily physics courses to high school seniors. I received a fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, an incredible source of support and networking for novice teachers. It was during this time that I learned of a community that connected both research and education – the Physics Education Researchers at Seattle Pacific University.

My work now focuses on learning about energy in the context of the Physics Department’s Energy Project. I began my work by observing the K-12 professional development courses offered by the Energy Project as an Interdisciplinary Research In STEM Education (I-RISE) scholar my first summer at SPU. I found myself drawn to spontaneous teacher discussions, in which teachers brought up social and political aspects of energy that did not correspond to canonical physics topics explicitly supported in the PD. This lead me to realize that while I was a high school teacher, I also taught two units on energy that failed to connect school learning of energy with energy discussed in society. I had inadvertently been missing the opportunity to connect sociopolitical energy concerns with physics energy concepts and in doing so, I left my students with two conflicting, separated views of energy. I want to help other teachers develop ways to connect these ideas for themselves, so that they can take those resources back to their classrooms. Dr. Rachel Scherr, Dr. Stamatis Vokos, and Dr. Andrew Lumpe have supported me in identifying a worthwhile research topic on learner ideas about energy and responsive energy instruction. My aim is to help reconnect those energy ideas for teachers (and students) so that learning about energy in physics sources will be more relevant outside of the classroom. My recent work has been presented at the 2013 American Association of Physics Teachers conference, as well as the 2013 Physics Education Research Conference. Relevant publications can be found here:


The author Abigail Daane is a current PhD student at SPU.


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