School of Education NewsLink, Spring 2018

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Message from the Dean

Dean Kevin Zook PhD with StudentsI have the best job in the world! Here at Holy Family University, I have the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty and support staff in the School of Education as we prepare educators to make a difference in the world. We are in daily conversations about how we can work together and partner with surrounding schools to maximize our reach and impact. The energy of our faculty and staff leads to new ideas, initiatives, partnerships, achievements, and awards. Underlying all these activities is a profound dedication to making our world a better place through the power of education.

In the Spring 2018 edition of SOE – NewsLink, we are excited to share with you some of our achievements and the new directions our ideas and initiatives are taking us. I hope you feel the energy! Remember . . . we want to hear from you too! So send us your news of achievements and professional adventures for us to include in future editions.

Let's stay connected!

Dean Kevin Zook



Kevin Zook, PhD
Dean, School of Education

Table of Contents

SOE Special Education Professor Receives Creegan Award | SOE Students Bake and Decorate for Kids | SOE to Establish Endowed Scholarship Fund to Honor Retired Faculty | SOE Launches Education & the Family Series | SOE Partners with Local High School to Initiate Future Teachers of Philadelphia | SOE Sponsors Visiting Scholar from China | EdConnections in Action! | SOE Alumnae Spotlight: Ashley (Coleman) Wakelee | SOE Faculty Spotlight: Roseanna Wright | School of Education Awarded Taylor Grant to Support Faculty Research | SOE Faculty Achievements in Teaching, Scholarship, and Service | Upcoming Events and Opportunities

SOE Special Education Professor Receives Creegan Award

Claire Sullivan, Professor of Education, Recipient of Creegan Award

Dr. Claire Sullivan, Professor of Education, was awarded the Patricia J. Creegan Award in recognition of excellence in Inclusive Education from the PA Education for All Coalition (PEAC), a statewide advocacy and leadership organization, at its annual meeting in May 2017. The Creegan Award is given annually in honor of the life and work of its namesake, a founding member of PEAC. Patricia J. Creegan was a passionate advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life as well as an educator, family member, and friend. “Trish” lived her life helping others as well as teaching people to help others, but sadly her life was cut short in 2009 after a valiant fight against cancer. PEAC established the Creegan Award to encourage the continuation of her work.

The Creegan Award is given annually to an education professional (teacher, administrator, university professor, related service personnel, etc.) who demonstrates outstanding commitment to inclusive education and meets the following criteria:

  • Knowledge and incorporation of best practices in inclusive education;
  • Continuous efforts to evaluate and improve his or her own work in inclusive education;
  • Effective collaborative relationships with colleagues;
  • Effective and nurturing relationships with students; and
  • Effective collaborative relationships with families

Dr. Sullivan has served as a faculty member in the School of Education since 1988 and has played a significant role in special education program development and inspiring countless students pursuing special education teacher certification.  Congratulations, Claire, on your well-deserved award!

SOE Students Bake and Decorate Cakes for Kids

Ed Students Decorate Cakes for Kids

How would you feel if your birthday arrived and no one sent a card, sang Happy Birthday, or shared a cake with you?  Due to financial hardships and other difficult circumstances, many children in the Philadelphia area have never had a birthday celebration.  Members of Holy Family University’s EdConnections group have been taking steps to fill this void by working with Cakes for Kids, an organization that provides treats for children in need.

EdConnections’ most recent Cakes for Kids event took place on October 25, 2017.  Undergraduate students baked cakes at their homes and brought them to campus without frosting.  They then gathered together in the ETC Resource Room under the guidance of Helen Hoffner to decorate the cakes. The students made certain to include peanut-free and gluten-free treats so that no child would be denied a birthday cake. By the end of the day, the group had decorated twenty-two cakes and dozens of cupcakes to deliver to families served by the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.  Children who were not accustomed to special treats would now be receiving beautifully decorated cakes. 

Ed Students Present Cakes for Kids

EdConnections members enjoyed working together to create cakes that would brighten a child’s day and fulfill the university’s mission of service to the community. They plan to bake and decorate again on the Holy Family University Day of Service in February. Anyone wishing to participate may contact Dr. Hoffner at

SOE to Establish Endowed Scholarship Fund to Honor Retired Faculty

What is the best gift to give a faculty member who retires after many years of dedicated service to the School of Education and its students?  A rocking chair?  Mantle clock?  The School of Education believes the best gift is to establish an endowed scholarship fund to support the preparation of future generations of educators.  According to Kevin Zook, Dean of the School of Education, “What better way to honor our School’s outstanding faculty retirees—both past and future—than by establishing a scholarship fund in their names?  An endowed fund is a gift that continues to give long into the future, supporting countless students and preserving a lasting legacy for faculty members who have devoted their professional lives to teaching and serving students.  Donors to the fund can honor faculty members and support students – it’s a win-win!”  Planning for the fundraising campaign to establish the endowed fund is underway, and more details will be announced during the Spring 2018 semester.  In the meantime, if you are interested in contributing to the fund in honor of one or more SOE retired faculty members or would like more information, please contact Joshua Liss, Assistant Vice President for Development, at 267-341-3100 or

SOE Launches Education & the Family Series

In an effort to contribute expertise and resources to children and families in the regional community, the School of Education will begin a new Education and the Family Series.  The series will provide an annual public event that explores an educational topic or issue of particular relevance and interest to families.  The inaugural event of the series will focus on bullying, with special emphasis on cyber-bullying, and will be held on the evening of March 19, 2018.  The evening will begin with a light dinner for parents and children and an information/resource fair in the lobby of the Education and Technology Building (ETC), followed by a keynote presentation in the auditorium.  Keynote speakers will be Special Agents Emily Evans and Kathryn Murray, both of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia.  SA Evans and Murray will provide parents and educators with information about the current trends in online bullying and offer strategies to help students navigate the online world safely.  During the presentation, supervised activities for children ages 3 to 8th grade will be provided by SOE faculty and students.

Events in the Education and the Family Series are free and open to the public.  More details and registration information for the first event in March will be coming soon!

SOE Partners with Local High School to Initiate Future Teachers of Philadelphia

In partnership with the School of Education, George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia has formed a new student group called Future Teachers of Philadelphia.  The goal of the initiative is to identify high school students in Philadelphia who may have an interest in teaching as a career and then provide activities that nurture and support those aspirations.  Two faculty coordinators from George Washington and two from the School of Education will plan a variety of activities that bring students to the Holy Family campus, connect them with our SOE faculty and students, take our faculty and students to George Washington, and develop knowledge and understanding of teaching as a profession.  By the time students are ready to graduate from George Washington, our goal is for them to want to pursue teacher certification and for them to consider attending Holy Family University for teacher certification.  

The initiative also aims to help bring Philadelphia’s own students back to the city to serve as teachers, meeting a critical need for urban teachers and a particular need for more teachers from under-represented sociocultural groups.  According to Sue Thompson, Principal of George Washington High School, “It is terrific to find a partner so close that espouses the same desire we have of exposing students to career exploration opportunities.  This specific partnership could potentially broker a connection between a local University and a Philadelphia high school where students may see what it would be like to come back to the city they grew up in to become our future teachers.”

In addition to supporting Future Teachers of Philadelphia, the University also will invite George Washington students to take selected introductory courses here on campus, providing them with college credits, further opportunities for career exploration, and exposure to a university campus.

Dr. Dion Betts, Assistant Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia, enthusiastically supports the initiative: “Dean Zook and Principal Thompson are poised as visionary leaders to develop a unique program that will ultimately benefit a great many children. The School District of Philadelphia needs teachers, the children need exemplary instruction, and they will need college experience and good jobs. What better way to fulfill these needs than to work with our high school students now on introductory pre-service learning? I applaud and encourage this work.”

SOE Sponsors Visiting Scholar from China

In October, the School of Education welcomed a new Visiting Research Scholar, Ms. Kailin (Karen) Zhou.  Ms. Zhou joins us from China, where she teaches medical English at a University of Medicine.  Ms. Zhou is also a student at the university where she works and is earning her doctoral degree in traditional Chinese medicine.  Ms. Zhou will be with us for a year, and during that period she will be working with Dr. Janet McNellis on a research project.  The main research question that their study will address is whether and/or how the flipped classroom model increases students’ learning of course content along with their ability to apply this knowledge to practical situations. A secondary research question that will be explored is whether and how the flipped classroom model differentially affects American and Chinese students. Self-directed learning theory will be used as the theoretical framework for the study.  Ms. Zhou has enjoyed her visit to the University and Philadelphia so far and particularly appreciates our area’s beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

EdConnections in Action!

The School of Education’s primary student organization, EdConnections, was very active during the past fall semester.  In addition to completing the Cakes for Kids project (see Cakes for Kids article in this newsletter), the group participated in the following activities:

  • Collected school supplies and sent them to a Florida school devastated by Hurricane Irma.  For more information, here is a news article on the donation:
  • Volunteered at events for the Autism Cares Foundation: social dance, Halloween hayride and dance, coach bingo fundraiser, and winter holiday party.
  • Invited two outside speakers to discuss topics of interest to students and faculty:  Finders Teachers, Achievement House
  • Hosted a thank-you lunch for SOE faculty and staff.
  • Participated in a PJ Party in the HFU Library with Alpha House

EdConnections was capably led by the following officers: Sarah Pimble, President; Trish Stahmer, Vice-President; Emily Fox, Secretary; and Courtney Craig, Treasurer. The Faculty Moderator is Dr. Janet McNellis.

SOE Alumni Spotlight: Ashley (Coleman) Wakelee

Ashley Wakelee - Holy Family University SOE GraduateSOE adjunct faculty member, Ashley Coleman Wakelee, has been part of Holy Family University since her childhood. As an elementary school student, she participated in the Holy Family University Summer Reading Program.  Her parents were near because her dad, Gary, oversaw the university’s audiovisual services and IT Help Desk, while her mom, Christine, served as a Financial Aid Data Specialist on campus.  Ashley remained close as she attended Nazareth Academy High School and then returned to Holy Family University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, attained certification in Elementary and Special Education, and was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, the education honors society.

After graduation, Ashley taught in Southwest Philadelphia for six years.  For the first five years, she was a special education teacher working with students in grades 4-6.  After seeing how much her students struggled with the foundational skills of literacy, she decided to become a reading specialist. She chose Holy Family University and earned her master's degree in education with a reading specialist certification. She also became a member of Alpha Upsilon Alpha, the University’s Chapter of the International Literacy Association.

In 2016, Ashley was offered a teaching position at Logan Township Middle School in Logan Township, New Jersey. She currently serves as an LLD (Language Learning Disabilities) teacher working with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. In the 2017-2018 academic year, she is also serving as the Technology User Representative for her building. She strives to stay current with the latest technology trends in the classroom and is excited to pilot new technologies.

Reflecting on her experiences, Ashley states, “I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities that Holy Family has offered me. The most memorable were the chances I had to travel. I got to go to England, France, China, and Hong Kong. I also got to go on a retreat to Ecuador. Now, I’m glad I get to “give back” a little and teach the future reading specialists!”

Ashley Coleman Wakelee attended the University’s programs as a child, earned her undergraduate degree here with us, participated in the reading program as a graduate student, and now teaches several courses for us as an adjunct instructor.  Ashley’s experiences and connection to the School of Education exemplify the family feeling and mission of Holy Family University.

SOE Faculty Spotlight: Roseanna Wright

School of Education Professor Roseanna WrightDr. Roseanna Wright has been affiliated with the School of Education for the last 20 years—the first ten as an adjunct instructor and the last ten as a full-time faculty member.  Recently promoted to the rank of full professor, Dr. Wright has emerged as a campus leader in the area of online and blended learning.  She took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to share a bit about herself with SOE – NewsLink.  .  . 

NL: Tell us about your academic preparation. What degrees and certifications have you earned and where did you earn them?

I received my BA degree in psychology from Kean University in NJ, my MA in Special Education from Castleton College in VT, and my Ph.D. in Special Education from Temple University.

NL: What was your teaching experience before you began teaching at the university level?

I began my career teaching children and young adults with significant behavioral challenges at Brandon Training School in Vermont.  This was in 1976 when unfortunately, people with intellectual disabilities were still institutionalized. With my undergraduate degree in psychology, I was drawn to teach at Brandon because of their new program that focused on instruction using an applied behavior analysis (ABA) approach. At that time, I really did not intend on making teaching my career, but this quickly changed as I saw the power of effective instruction to change lives. The students I taught were selected for the ABA program because they had the most challenging behavior of all of the people at Brandon and had been labeled as “uneducable.” I saw the progress they made once they received effective instruction and I quickly realized that there is no such thing as a person who is uneducable. Rather, a person’s ability to learn is based on the effectiveness of the teacher! This truth formed my philosophy of teaching and has impacted strongly on my career choices. The other truth learned at Brandon was the nightmare of institutions and the need for full inclusiveness in all aspects of life for individuals with disabilities.

I went from teaching at Brandon to working at the state level in a position designed to help close Brandon Training School and Waterbury State Hospital. The horrors of the institution were well established, and funding for community-based supports and services were available. I spent the next several years building community programs as well as advocating for inclusion in general education classrooms for students with disabilities.

My husband and I moved to Philadelphia in the early 80’s and continued our careers focused on the deinstitutionalization of individuals from Pennhurst and Byberry. I worked to develop community-based supports and services in Philadelphia and ultimately went back to school for my doctorate.

NL: What inspired or motivated you to become a teacher of teachers?

I felt that preparing a new generation of teachers could make more of an impact on the lives of both children and adults with disabilities. I feel passionately about the rights of those who have historically been marginalized by our society and I wanted to inspire new teachers to feel this passion. Though we have come far in educating children in more inclusive environments, we still have a very long way to go!

NL:  When did you start teaching at Holy Family University? What attracted you to Holy Family?

I started teaching at HFU in 1997 as an adjunct when Brian Berry asked if I would be interested in teaching a summer course.  I was aware of Holy Family as a quality university and so when asked to teach one course, I agreed. I was treated very well as an adjunct and was very impressed with the collegiality of both adjunct and full-time faculty. I became full time in 2007. Once full time, my relationships with my colleagues deepened and I have the highest respect for the devotion of those with whom I have worked on committees both within the School of Education and throughout the University.

NL:  During the time you have been teaching at Holy Family, what are some of the major changes you have seen in the University and its students?

Clearly, the biggest change from my perspective is the move to blended and online courses and programs. I was first introduced to the concept of a blended course when I attended a poster session at a SEPCHE conference. A faculty member from Gwynedd Mercy shared her experience in developing and teaching a blended course. I found it intriguing. I converted a course that I routinely taught into a blended format and taught it that way for two semesters. At that point, S. Maureen asked if I would agree to have the course reviewed by Quality Matters. I agreed and found the process both informative and motivating. I was hooked! I took advanced coursework with Quality Matters, encouraged others to do the same, and eventually (with my special education colleagues) converted all of our graduate special education certification courses to blended.

In 2013, I was asked to chair a committee to oversee the growth of blended and online programs by developing policies and procedures and monitoring implementation. This committee has worked steadily since then to make sure that our entry into distance education maintains the rigor and quality associated with a Holy Family University education.

In 2016 our K - 12 Teacher Alliance partnership moved us from one blended program to both blended and fully online programs in all of our non-initial certification master’s programs in the School of Education. This effort has been extremely successful and could not have been accomplished without the amazing support of my SOE colleagues as well as administrative support throughout the University. Going forward, I would like to see us continue to build the infrastructure we need to maintain and further develop our advancement into distance education. I would also like to see Holy Family add to the growing body of research in blended and online course delivery!

NL: We know you are extremely busy with teaching, committee work, and serving as KTA Coordinator.  But when you do have some free time, how do you enjoy spending it?

I enjoy “ringing” in the handbell choir at my church.  I also enjoy reading—mysteries and thrillers are my favorites.  Our son and his wife live in Germany, and we enjoy traveling there to visit them.  I am looking forward to traveling to England this coming summer to do a bit of ancestor hunting!

NL: Thank you, Roseanna, for chatting with us and for all the outstanding contributions you make to the School and University!

School of Education Awarded Taylor Grant to Support Faculty Research

Dr. Elizabeth Jones, Dr. Diane Cardenas-Elloitt, and Dr. Dianna SandThe School of Education has been awarded a Taylor Grant to support a research study to investigate the relationship between reading strategies and mathematics achievement.  The project, titled Reading and 'rithmatic:  Exploring the effects of reading comprehension monitoring on incoming students’ mathematics achievement was designed by SOE full-time faculty members, Diane Cardenas-Elliott and Beth Jones, and adjunct faculty member, Dianna Sand, who also is a recent graduate of the School’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership.  Can improvements in reading skills also produce improvements in mathematics achievement?  The team will attempt to answer this question by teaching a group of incoming first-year students reading comprehension and metacognitive strategies and then analyzing their subsequent performance on a mathematics basic skills test and performance in a mathematics course.  Findings from the study could help colleges and universities make informed decisions about how best to help incoming students who need developmental mathematics support.

SOE Faculty Achievements in Teaching, Scholarship, and Service

Roger W. Gee, Graduate Division Chair and ESL Program Coordinator, was invited to participate in the 31st Panama TESOL Annual Congress, “Leadership, Innovation & Collaboration,” held September 22-23, 2017 at Universidad Interamericana de Panamá in Panama City.  Dr. Gee presented two workshops, Innovation in TESOL:  Online Learners’ Dictionaries and Leading with Literature:  Poetry in the TESOL Classroom.  Panama TESOL's mission is to strengthen the effective teaching and learning of English throughout the Republic of Panama.

On October 9, 2017, School of Education professor Helen Hoffner and two Holy Family University adjunct instructors, Jennifer Marsico and Jessica Jefferis, gave a presentation at the Fall Conference of the Keystone State Reading Association in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The presentation, The Pen-Pal Project: Pairing Pre-Service Teachers with Elementary School Students, was based on their article that was published in The Ohio Reading Teacher.  The article and presentation described the ways in which pen pal projects benefit undergraduate students who wish to become teachers as well as children in elementary schools.

On September 14, 2017, Dr. Janet McNellis presented Collaboratively Assessing Collaboration: Self, Peer and Program-level Assessment of Collaborative Skill at the Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning at Drexel University.  The session focused on including the development of collaboration skills as a program-level outcome for academic programs. It described how focusing on the building of collaboration skills maximizes student learning, explained how these skills can be assessed, and explored how this assessment aided students’ academic learning.  

In July 2017, Patricia Erickson, Ed.D., Eileen Baker, M.Ed., and Kathy Quinn, Ph.D., presented at the 20th European Reading Conference, held at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. The presentation, Pathways and Barriers for Building Communities of Writers in Schools, was based on a comparison of two writing programs being implemented in two similar school districts.  They shared current literature, policies, and practices related to improvement of writing in primary/elementary schools (grades Kindergarten to 5), from two suburban school districts in the U.S.A.   They also provided a comparison of each aspect of the pathways and barriers that are noted for each school district for two grade levels at each school. 

In November, Roseanna Wright attended the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference in Orlando, Florida.  The annual conference is devoted to driving quality online learning, advancing best practice guidance and accelerating innovation in learning for academic leaders, educators, administrators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world.

Kevin Zook, Dean of the School of Education, delivered the presentation, Scholarship Re – reconsidered:  An Alternative Approach to Scholarship for Education Professors, at the Fall Teacher Education Assembly of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators (PAC-TE) in Harrisburg.  Co-presenters included Gwen Price (Clarion University), Juliet Curci (Temple University), and Amy Rogers (Lycoming College).

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Mark your calendars and plan to join us for an upcoming special event:

The Student Teacher and Cooperating Teacher Reception is held at the end of each fall and spring semester to congratulate our student teachers and thank the cooperating teachers who host them in their classrooms. The spring reception and program will be held on Monday, April 23, 5:00 – 7:00 pm in the ETC Lobby and Auditorium. Contact Maria Rybicki in the SOE Field Placement Office for more information or to let us know you will be coming: 267-341- 3363, Please join us for this special event!

The School's annual Educational Research Forum will be held on Tuesday, April 24, 5:00 – 7:00 pm on the first floor of the ETC building. The Research Forum showcases completed and in-progress research projects of SOE faculty and doctoral students on topics that are relevant to schools and the field of education. A reception with light refreshments begins in the ETC lobby at 5:00, and presentations begin at 5:30. The Forum is free and open to the public.

The School’s first event in its Education and the Family Series will be held March 19, 5:30 – 7:30 in the Education and Technology Building. The event is free and open to families, teachers, school administrators, HFU students, and anyone interested in the topic of bullying and cyber-bullying. Advance registration requested—visit for more information.