Department of Curriculum & Instruction honors departing faculty, staff at year-end meeting
Faculty in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction celebrated shared accomplishments and acknowledged the contributions of those who have served in leadership roles or are retiring or leaving Penn State at the final faculty meeting of the year on May 6.
This year, the focus was on two longstanding C&I members who are retiring, professor Jim Nolan and administrative support coordinator Darla Homan.
Nolan spent 28 years at Penn State as a professional educator and scholar. In addition to his impressive research agenda, Nolan was one of the founders of the elementary Professional Development School partnership between Penn State and the State College Area School District.
“His commitment to simultaneous renewal through school-university partnerships, practitioner inquiry and research-practice connections has established a legacy that will continue to have a positive impact on practicing and pre-service teachers, university educators, children, administrators, and numerous others for years to come,’’ outgoing department head Carla Zembal-Saul said.
“Jim’s retirement is bittersweet. I could not be happier for him, but it is a significant loss for C&I, the College and teacher education,’’ she said. “He is not only an exceptional scholar and teacher educator, but also is a caring and dedicated colleague who has contributed selflessly to the success of his colleagues, students and the department in general.
“On a personal note, Jim has been my mentor for many years, and I am grateful for the opportunities that we have had to collaborate.”
College of Education Dean David H. Monk said one of the “remarkable skills’’ Nolan possesses is “connecting the world of practice with the world of research and theory.’’ He said faculty members can be good at one facet but perhaps not always as good at the other.
“He’s been successful in both arenas and makes the connection so that it strengthens the role of research in the world of practice and helps the researchers understand the problems of practice so that it steers the research in directions that ultimately will be helpful to people in the field,’’ Monk said.
Homan was recognized for her 30 years of service to the College of Education. That span included overseeing the budgets of C&I and C&I Field Experiences (CIFE) as well as course scheduling and facilities.
“Darla has been a wonderful colleague to me, especially since rejoining C&I seven years ago,’’ Zembal-Saul said. “As department head, I valued her commitment to fostering community among the staff, students and faculty.
“For instance, she served as a member for CORED and assisted in coordinating cross-training and professional development opportunities for staff. Darla never came to me with a problem for which she had not worked out multiple solutions to consider. She is creative, innovative and patient. I am having a difficulty time imagining life in C&I without her.”
Monk praised Homan’s “tremendous amount’’ of institutional knowledge. “She’s been a tremendous resource for us and we will miss her deeply,’’ he said. “She sees what needs to be done and she does what she needs to do to get the job done.
“She’s served in a number of important roles in the College and is an incredibly kind and caring and knowledgeable person,’’ Monk said.
Faculty and staff also cited the contributions of departing faculty: Stephanie Serriere, associate professor and director of the CEAED PK-4 program; Megan Hopkins, assistant professor and coordinator of CI 280: Introduction to English Language Learners and the Hazleton Project; Nicole Olcese, assistant professor and director of EDUCATE; and Amber Bismack, CEAED program manager and research assistant.
Serriere teaches elementary social studies. Her instruction at the graduate level includes civic engagement, service-learning, democracy and education and teacher inquiry. Her research project investigates the processes and products of youth civic engagement at an elementary school.
Hopkins teaches English language learning and world languages education, and Olcese specializes in technology and teacher education and language, culture and society. Bismack’s research is in childhood and early adolescent education and teacher education.
“It is always difficult when close colleagues, who also happen to be talented leaders and contributors, move on,’’ Zembal-Saul said. “It is important to recognize that we are a stronger community of scholars because of all they have done for our students, programs, relationships and research profile.’’
Zembal-Saul’s message was “We are better together.” She informed the group that in 2014 C&I faculty and graduate students taught 105 undergraduate courses affecting more than1,650 students and over 70 graduate courses with about 830 students. Thirty-eight integrated undergraduate-graduate students, and 75 master’s degrees were conferred along with 24 doctoral degrees on May 10.
A significant highlight was the recent development and launch of the expanded C&I M.Ed. offered via World Campus.
Zembal-Saul also slipped in the number 55, which as of May 6 was the number of days she had remaining as C&I department head before Rose Mary Zbiek takes over on July 1.
“It has been a privilege to serve C&I as department head for the past five years,’’ Zembal-Saul said. “I have gotten to know my colleagues much better, and I have learned what it takes to run a large and complex department like C&I. I will be a better faculty member for having served in this role.’’
Zembal-Saul presented Zbiek with a red-and-white “Easy Button’’ that states, “That was easy,’’ whenever the button is pushed. Zembal-Saul said to laughter among the faculty that the button was “dusty.’’
“Seriously, the two colleagues work well together and have planned a smooth leadership transition to continue the tradition of excellence in C&I research and practice for faculty, staff, students, and alumni,’’ Zembal-Saul said.
By Jim Carlson (May 2015)