SEED welcomes new arrivals

Four new assistant professors have joined SEED in the last three years. They include Drs. Lisa Liberty, Stephanie DeSpain, Robin Young and Natalie Andzik. All have made important contributions to SEED and the College of Education.

Lisa Liberty
Lisa Liberty

Dr. Lisa Liberty joined SEED in August 2015. She began her career as a reading teacher for students with emotional behavior disorders, and then accepted a teaching position in a self-contained special education classroom. She has taught students in second- through eighth-grades. Lisa received her doctorate from University of Washington.

Lisa currently teaches reading and behavior methods courses for undergraduate candidates in the Learning Behavior Specialist-1 (LBS-1) program. During the summer, she teaches a research methods and behavior course for graduate candidates. Her research interests include students with emotional/behavior disorders, evidence-based practices, and teacher preparation.

Because Lisa often teaches undergraduate candidates in their first professional block, and then again in their third professional block, she gets to know candidates quite well. She says that it is amazing to watch them grow, develop their teaching skills and excel during student-teaching! “They inspire me as a professor to continue to learn how I can create learning environments at NIU to help them be successful with the students and families with whom they work!” she says.

Stephanie DeSpain
Stephanie DeSpain

Dr. Stephanie DeSpain joined NIU in the Fall of 2016. Prior to coming to NIU, she was a high school teacher in an at-risk program, K-1 educator in a beginning communication development program, preschool diagnostician and an Instructional Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Illinois State University. She earned her doctoral degree in Special Education from Illinois State in May 2016.

Stephanie currently teaches three of the early childhood special education approval courses in the Early Childhood Program: Assessment and Observation in Early Childhood Special Education; Methods and Strategies for Promoting Development and Teaching Young Children with Special Needs; and Working with and Supporting Families of Young Children with Special Needs. In the summer, she teaches the Foundations of Special Education as an online course.

Stephanie has been involved in the Educate U. S. program in Texas, and will travel to China this summer with College of Education teacher-candidates as part of the Educate Global program. Beginning this fall, she will assume the position of coordinator of the Early Childhood program.

Her research interests include methods for preparing educators to meet the diverse needs of young children with special needs, preparing families to meet the needs of young children with disabilities, and promoting engagement of learners with Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) in inclusive settings.

What she likes most about NIU is the relationships she has been able to build with her students. “I have the unique pleasure of working with my students for three consecutive semesters, and being able to see their growth, learn about their strengths and needs and utilize that information to better support their development is a HUGE plus,” she says. “It’s not just about teaching content and assessing proficiency; it’s about developing a community of lifelong learners and colleagues.”

Robin Miller Young
Robin Miller Young

Dr. Robin Miller Young also joined SEED in the Early Childhood program during Fall 2016. After earning her doctorate at NIU in Special Education, she assumed an administrative position (much like that of an assistant principal) at Prairie Children Preschool in Aurora.

In 2012, Robin assumed a position as director of Early Childhood Education at Rockford. She remained in that position for three years before coming to NIU.

Robin teaches Play Development in Young Children; Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood Education; Democracy in the Classroom; and Language Arts in Early Childhood Education. She also has supervised student teachers in early childhood settings.

Her main research interest focuses on how to prepare early childhood principals and directors to meet the needs of children and families in a new system called Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) so children get the right instruction and intervention when they need it, as soon as they need it and for as long as they need it. Robin and some of her colleagues are writing a book on MTSS that is scheduled for publication this October. The book will also include six training videos.

”Supporting our candidates as they start their professional careers, and watching their preparation payoff as they teach young children well and empower families to identify needed resources, is the most rewarding part of my SEED, College of Education and NIU experience,” she says.

Natalie Andzik
Natalie Andzik

Dr. Natalie Andzik, who joined NIU in Fall 2017, is the newest member of the SEED faculty. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from The Ohio State University.

Since starting at NIU, she has taught Collaboration for Inclusive Teaching and Learning (a course for elementary education majors) and Positive Behavior Support and Classroom Management (a course for candidates seeking their Special Education licensure). She also has supervised student teachers in special education. Natalie will be teaching some of the courses in our graduate-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) program when Dr. Jesse (Woody) Johnson goes on sabbatical this fall.

Her research interests include providing training and support to practitioners who work with individuals with significant disabilities. Specially, she investigates the most effective way to ensure all individuals with disabilities have a functional way of communicating.

Natalie has enjoyed her first year here at NIU. She says that she is happy to have found a college that supports her teaching as well as her research.

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