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Posts from the ‘Education’ Category

NCU Student Profile: Doctoral Candidate Named 2nd VP of TNTESOL

Serving the ESL Community – When a Calling Becomes a Career

Tammy Hutchinson-Harosky (Ed.D., English as a Second Language, candidate)


For some, becoming an educator is a career path. For others, like Tammy Hutchinson-Harosky, it was a calling. “I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Actually, I really wanted to open my own dance studio, but my dance instructor told me that I would need a teaching license to do that, so I decided I would be a teacher instead! I just wanted to make a difference.”

That dance instructor provided the spark for a dream, but a family with strong educational values groomed an educator-to-be. “At an early age, my parents instilled in my brothers and me the importance of education,” explains Hutchinson-Harosky. “Getting a college degree was not an option – the only choice was where we would go to get it. My parents worked very hard to make sure that my two brothers and I received a college education, and they still encourage us to reach for the stars.”

Since the publication of the Winter Issue of Higher Degrees, Hutchinson-Harosky has been inducted as 2nd Vice-President of TNTESOL (TN Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) at the TNTESOL 2014 conference in Nashville, TN on 3/22/14.  She will serve as 2nd Vice-President (2014-15); 1st Vice-President (2015-16); President (2016-17); Past President (2017-18).

Since the publication of the Winter Issue of Higher Degrees, Hutchinson-Harosky has been inducted as 2nd Vice-President of TNTESOL (TN Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) at the TNTESOL 2014 conference in Nashville, TN on 3/22/14. She will serve as 2nd Vice-President (2014-15); 1st Vice-President (2015-16); President (2016-17); Past President (2017-18).

Hutchinson-Harosky chose Carson-Newman College (now University) in Jefferson City, Tennessee, as the venue for her first few steps toward the head of the classroom. First, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English/Secondary Education with a minor in Spanish, which she immediately put to use teaching various levels of English and Spanish for Blount County Schools. And later – while teaching full-time – she returned to Carson-Newman to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus on English as a Second Language.

“I taught in the public school setting for nineteen years,” Hutchinson-Harosky explains. “[But] after spending 12 years in the high school setting, I felt I needed to make more of a difference. I decided it was time to move into the ESL field. The students were so eager to learn and appreciative of every bit of knowledge they could gain,” she says.

Quickly, the ESL community became Hutchinson-Harosky’s newest passion for contribution to the education community.

“There are so many needs in the field of ESL,” she asserts. “Even if an individual does not hold a teaching license in ESL, [they] could volunteer to teach adult ESL students basic survival skills such as going to the bank or the doctor. Volunteer programs that reach out to help ESL families are always in need of individuals who are willing to give their time to help the ESL families to adjust to the new culture.”

Inspired by the eager students she taught in the classroom, she joined the Tennessee Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TNTESOL) organization in 2007 and continues to attend conferences.

In the years since focusing her efforts on the ESL community, Hutchinson-Harosky has completed her Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction at Lincoln Memorial University and is currently pursuing her Ed.D., with a focus on English as a Second Language, at Northcentral University.

Somewhere between earning graduate degrees and certifications, joining professional organizations, and inspiring a generation of students, Hutchinson-Harosky found time for her proudest accomplishment – her family.

“I have been married to my husband, Chris Harosky, for 13 years. I am the very proud mother of two caring, smart and athletic daughters – Hannah and Haley. We also have three furry children – Snowball, Coco and Maggie. I consider [my family] to be my greatest accomplishment.”

Now an experienced, passionate educator and mother with strong ties to her community, Hutchinson-Harosky’s calling as an educator has taken her to King University in Bristol, TN, where she works in the School of Education as the ESL program coordinator and teaches ESL and literacy courses.

“I really work with a fabulous group of educators at King University,” she admits. “I hope that as I grow as a college professor I will instill the same love of learning that I see them instilling in the future teachers that we work with.”

Like many educators before her, Hutchinson-Harosky continues to find inspiration in the teachers who inspired her commitment to teaching and learning as a lifelong pursuit.

“I can picture in my mind the faces of the wonderful educators that I have had in the past,” she reflects. “Phyllis Ratliffe, who was hard, but fair and presented the material in a way that made me realize I wanted to be an English teacher. Gail Dalton, who encouraged me to never stop learning and still encourages me to continue my education until I [finish] my doctorate.”

Moving forward, Hutchinson-Harosky hopes that through her teaching at King University she’ll continue to make a difference for children and teachers in the education community, just as her teachers have done for her. “As an educator, there is nothing like seeing that student have [their] ‘ah-ha’ moment and knowing that you were a part of it,” she says.

 *Originally published in Higher Degrees Winter 2014.

The Common Core Curriculum in a Flatter, Faster World


The common core curriculum has been a long time coming. While much has been said about the challenges of its implementation, one thing is clear: the common core curriculum is a sure sign, as Thomas Friedman has reminded us, that the world is flatter and faster and those flattening elements are having an impact on the steps me must take to be competitive, which includes more thoughtfully examining what is happening in every classroom in the United States.

What makes the common core so unique is the fact that for the first time ever there is a national conversation about the specific learning outcomes in math and language arts. While we have had recommendations in the past from national organizations in math and language arts, we have never established an agreed upon set of specific learning outcomes in these subjects that all schools in the United States are asked to achieve (source). Other countries like China, Singapore, and Norway do have a published national curriculum, and those countries all rank higher in both math and language arts than the United States (OECD, 2014).

So why did it take so long? The answer is simple. Local control. One of the more formative aspects of K-12 public education in the United States is our adherence to the importance of local control (Edgar, 2008). Local communities are afforded the opportunity to establish schools that meet their standards and have choices and priorities matching local preferences. This has been a wonderful attribute that allows a local school to indeed create learning opportunities that prepare the student to be a meaningful contributor to the local community.

The downside of all this local control has been uneven expectations and, at times, exceedingly low standards (Duncan, 2012). Before the common core curriculum, it wasn’t uncommon to find high schools where graduation didn’t require more than two years of math. That math experience wouldn’t necessarily have even included Algebra.

These lower expectations may have been acceptable in local school districts and surrounding communities based on regional jobs and expectations for work standards in the near future. However, that was then. Today, the internationalization of almost everything we do has made the working environment excruciatingly competitive and is forcing schools throughout the United States to broaden their horizons and indeed think about their curriculum against a broader national and at times international standard as they prepare students for an economy that will be altogether different than the economy most of us grew up in. Local control was based on the assumption that the local community would inherit the benefits (Edgar, 2008). Today, there is a much greater level of mobility and competition from all corners of the world are emerging.

Indeed Thomas Friedman was right. The world is getting flatter, faster, and more deeply interconnected. And the common core curriculum, although imperfect, is helping all students get ready for it.

Duncan, A. (2013, June). Duncan Pushes Back on Attacks on Common Core Standards. Speech presented at the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention, Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.

Edgar, W.G. (2008). 21st Century Challenges to Local Control. Presented to the Washington State School Directors Association.

OECD (2014), PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can do – Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science (Volume I, Revised edition, February 2014), PISA, OECD Publishing.

NCU Faculty Profile: Mentoring the Next Generation of Teachers, One at a Time


For Rebecca Erb, (Ed.D) life headed south – fast – on the first day of retirement.

Rebecca Erb, (Ed.D.)

Rebecca Erb, (Ed.D.)

“I decided to avoid the reality of retirement by driving South to visit the states that I had not visited before: Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama,” laughs Erb.

Erb had retired in March 2013 after six years as the Superintendent of the Tuscarora School District, which is located in Pennsylvania approximately 90 minutes north of Washington D.C. “I began my teaching career as a social studies teacher in two different school districts before becoming the Principal of Tyrone Area High School in 1997, and then moved on to become the Superintendent of Schools at Tuscarora.”

But Erb’s retirement was only a partial one. She had begun teaching at Northcentral University in 2010. These days she facilitates Teaching as Reflective Practice in Secondary Education (ED4008) in the B.Ed. program and School Law (EDL5008-8), Education Policy and Practices (EDL5022-8), Contemporary Issues (ED5001-8) and Action Research Capstone (ED6002-8) in the M.Ed. program.

Erb has on average 30 students at any time. “One of the most fulfilling parts of being a principal and superintendent was mentoring young teachers. NCU’s one-to-one teaching model is similar to how I mentored my teachers. I have a chance to learn about them, what they are interested in and the challenges they encounter. That allows me to tailor my feedback to their specific circumstances.”

And there is a wealth of information that Erb shares from her 30-year career in education. “When I was a principal a few of my colleagues were working on school leadership standards for Pennsylvania that were aligned to National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) standards. Following their lead, I had the opportunity to be involved in the development of Pennsylvania’s Inspired Leadership (PIL) program,” she explains.

“I implemented PIL in the Tuscarora School District by requiring the principals to complete the required training. Getting the district leadership team on the same page made a huge difference as we worked together to improve facilities, develop quality curriculum, and increase student achievement in the school district” notes Erb.

Higher education today is much different than when Erb started teaching, let alone completed her Ed.D. at Penn State University. “I had to drive to class and carve out time for a required on-site internship. Not to mention that I practically lived at the library. There was no extensive online library available then, just stacks of books and card catalogs,” she notes.

Erb is fond of quoting the idiomatic expression of unknown origins “we live in interesting times.”

“I teach for an online graduate school, but I live in a farmhouse that has been in my husband’s family since the William Penn Land Grant,” shared Erb. (The William Penn Land Grant – for history buffs – was awarded to William Penn by King Charles II in 1681. It is on display in the Library of Congress.)

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

NCU Student Profile: Education Is a Marathon Not a Sprint


Sheila Thomas (Ed.D., Higher Education Leadership, candidate) has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, working at both public and private institutions. During her career, she has been able to combine her passion for education with her interest in professional development.

NCU student Sheila Thomas is the State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor's Office.

NCU student Sheila Thomas is the State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.

“My area of expertise is continuing education,” explains Thomas. “My current position [is] State University Dean of Extended Education at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.  I am responsible for facilitating workforce development, strategic communication, policy review [plus] advocating for extended and continuing education.”

While many academic administrators get their start in the classroom, and move through faculty ranks to dean and provost, Thomas, who earned her B.A. in Communications from Azusa Pacific University and her M.A. in Humanities from Cal State Dominguez Hills, never had a real interest in teaching.

“I think teaching and administration are both rewarding careers,” admits Thomas. “But for me, I like helping people. I think of my office as ‘information central’ and my staff and I do our best to answer questions and provide information.”

Educational conversations today often center on how higher education institutions are preparing students for the workforce, and Thomas’ office is at the forefront of facilitating solutions.

“I enjoy interacting with the workforce development community in the field and building… valuable partnerships,” she says.

“I have [also] made professional development for emerging leaders a priority,” adds Thomas, who serves on state and national boards and is active in professional associations, including the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, Association of Continuing Higher Education, American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, and the National Professional Science Masters Association.

When it came to her own professional development and earning that coveted doctorate, Thomas relied on her experience working for an array of higher education institutions, including her current role at the largest university system in the country. Her calculated approach to finding the right school included the necessary combination of quality, flexibility and affordability.

“Having worked in higher education my entire career, I know the importance of regional accreditation,” states Thomas. “I also needed a program that was online and had flexible scheduling, and that I could pay for every month without needing student loans.”

Thomas began her journey at NCU in 2007 when she enrolled part-time. While her progress has been slow and steady, she’s thrilled to have made it to the dissertation stage.

“My dissertation is entitled Defining a Successful Leadership Pathway: Women in the Academy and the Role of Institutional Support,” shares Thomas. “I’m really enjoying my research and I love the fact that my program fits well with my current position and career goals. I can use the information and my research immediately in my job.”

So what would be her advice to students when it comes to staying engaged and motivated in a program (or extensive project like a dissertation) over a long period of time?

“I learned early on that pursing a doctorate is a marathon not a sprint. There are stops and starts along the way, and sometimes you feel you are taking steps backward. I have tried to keep my goal firmly in mind and visualize that diploma hanging over my desk,” explains Thomas. “And…have a plan for your education. If you are in a doctoral program, choose a dissertation topic that you are passionate about and can sustain your interest [in],” she adds.

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

What the Olympics Can Teach Us about Teamwork

Olympic Flag

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons –

As we prepare for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, it’s only natural to stop and think about what we can take away from tonight as well as the next two weeks of competition.

Each athlete in the Olympic Games is competing for a chance to take home a coveted Olympic medal, but tonight’s Opening Ceremony symbolizes something else entirely. Tonight is about unity, pride and teamwork.

These Olympic athletes have an honor that few us (minus our dedicated men and women in the military) ever experience: the opportunity to represent their country. While many of us will probably never represent our country on the international stage, we can’t forget that we are all part of a larger whole. Whether in business as colleagues or fellow students at a university, or even simply as Americans or the human race as a whole, we are all members of a larger team. In order for the team to be successful, we all have to work together.

As Dr. Thomas Pucci, core faculty for Northcentral University’s School of Education puts it, “On a truly successful team, individual goals become secondary to the goals of the organization.”

So as you watch tonight’s Opening Ceremony, take a minute to remember what the Olympics teaches us about teamwork. Each country may be vying for the top spot in the medal counts, but in the end, the Olympics is a win for all of us. It’s the whole team, nations from every corner of the globe coming together in one spot in peace, in unity, and yet still full of pride for their home country. What could be better?

Trends in K-12 Education: Online Continuing Teacher Education

With each passing year, standards for student achievement in K-12 classrooms across the country continue to rise. Most recently, the wide-spread adoption of Common Core State Standards has forced a new focus on student achievement and application of real world knowledge and skills. In an effort to help students exceed these expectations and succeed in the classroom, proactive educators must seek continuing education that can be immediately translated in to the classroom.

With this goal in mind, online degrees and certificate programs have quickly become the solution. “Choosing between a certificate program and degree program should really be tied to the student’s goals,” says Dr. Karen Ferguson, Assistant Dean for Northcentral University’s School of Education.

Dr. Karen Ferguson -  Assistant Dean, School of Education

Dr. Karen Ferguson – Assistant Dean, School of Education

“A degree program will provide students with both a breadth and a depth of information in their chosen area.  A certificate, on the other hand, tends to be very focused and specific.  Students should choose between the two based on their personal goals and professional requirements.”

In today’s competitive market for online education, fewer requirements, a completion date that is often as short as a few months, and a lower cost for total tuition have given certificate programs the edge – for now.

“Certificate options demonstrate to your school leadership that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning,” explains Dr. Ferguson.  “Often, certificates are a nice addition because students can learn focused content that may not have been offered at the time they earned their degree.”

For example, earning an education certificate in early childhood education, e-learning or education leadership would serve almost any educator well. While these specializations are common among online schools, NCU’s School of Education has taken specialized to a higher degree by becoming hyper-focused on the needs of teachers across the country attempting to adapt to the Common Core State Standards requirements.

“NCU offers certificates in a number of areas, all of which will support our students’ goals.  One of our recent additions is the Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core post-baccalaureate certificate.  This unique certification in education is designed specifically to help educators who are currently teaching mathematics to implement the Common Core State Standards,” says Dr. Ferguson.

Whether completing a degree program for advancement or a certificate program for added knowledge, online continuing teacher education is now the go-to solution for educators looking to prepare their students for success. For more information on all of NCU’s Title IV funded certificate and degree programs, visit

Trends in K-12 Education: Gamification of the Classroom

Over the last century, the K-12 classroom has evolved into something almost completely unrecognizable to previous generations. From blackboards to SMART boards, quill pens to laptops and tablets, and most recently paper-and-pencil homework assignments to game-based instruction, the classroom is now a whole new world. Teachers be advised – the days of the traditional lecture in the classroom are gone. In the eyes of the K-12 student, gamification is the new standard of excellence.

Take a look at the examples of gamification success below. You just might find yourself running to Toys “R” Us for the latest gaming craze!

The Classic Board Game

Just because you’re using games in the classroom, doesn’t mean they need to incorporate a new-fangled technology tool. Sometimes the most effective games are the classics – in this case, a board game reminiscent of Risk (without the world domination theme, of course!). Become inspired by this 4th grade classroom’s game “World Peace,” and start brainstorming ideas on how you can reuse everything in your game closet! If you get creative, almost any lesson plan can involve a new twist on a classic board game.


Gaming Systems with an Education Focus

These days, almost every child has some form of gaming system and teachers are learning to take advantage of the new generation’s skillset in the classroom. Whether it’s the brand new model of the XBOX 360, or the original Nintendo, the level of engagement these games provide cannot be ignored. Parents can even jump on the bandwagon by providing educational games for their kids to enjoy at home, such as these Edutainment games by Nintendo.

Check out this teacher’s innovative take on the use of the Nintendo DS gaming system in the classroom.


Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom

Not every game needs to be subject-focused. Complete with a personal avatar for each student, Dojo points for good behavior, and an easy-to-use reporting system for teachers, Class Dojo provides a virtual arena for rewarding behavioral improvement in the classroom.

Take a look at this Class Dojo trailer, or visit for more detailed information on how this can improve behavior in your classroom.


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