Welcome from the Chair

Greg Conderman
Greg Conderman

It is an exciting time in the Department of Special and Early Education (SEED) at Northern Illinois University.

Our enrollment is up, credit hour production is up and donations to our department are up. Our faculty continue to be recognized as outstanding teachers, and they are engaged in important service and groundbreaking research.

We are excited to connect with you!

It would be impossible to share all the good things that have happened recently in SEED, but please allow me to share a few of our highlights:

  • All of our programs continue to earn state and national accreditation.
  • Stacy Kelly received federal funding for the Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist for People with Visual Impairments (CATIS) program. This is the first program of its kind in the world to provide advanced training in assistive technology for vision specialists.
  • We offered a series of online workshops to vision specialists nationwide to provide them with contemporary knowledge and skills in the areas of assessment, instruction and technology and to prepare them for the CATIS exam.
  • Laura Hedin now teaches one of her undergraduate methods courses in our partnership schools. She and her students collaborate with practicing teachers in those districts in innovative ways.
  • We have started a new early childhood student group. Dr. Jung is one of the co-faculty sponsors of this group.
  • We are starting a new undergraduate minor in special education in Fall, 2018. We believe NIU students from across many majors will benefit from being aware of issues focusing on disability awareness.
  • Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) program continues to be popular. We offer this graduate-level program in a hybrid format, so students do not need to drive to DeKalb every week. Leaders from an independent organization recently ranked it as one of the top 32 BCBA programs in the nation and 1 of 2 in Illinois.
  • We revised our Advanced Practices in Special Education master’s program as a 30-credit-hour degree program. This is a very flexible master’s program with numerous electives, so students can focus on an area of interest.
  • We have just finished one graduate-level LBS-1 cohort with Rockford teachers, and we are hoping to begin our next cohort with Elgin teachers in Fall 2018.
  • Our Early Childhood program has received funds for two innovative practices, one for candidates to visit a Montessori school and the other to support the Open Doors project. Early Childhood Instructor Natalie Young developed the Open Doors Project that enables early childhood candidates to complete an early experience with children in a very diverse school.
  • The Early Childhood faculty are examining the curriculum to ensure that we retain our standing as an entitled institution for the Gateways to Opportunities credentials.
  • SEED candidates continue to be involved in Educate U. S. (a week-long experience teaching in Texas) as well as Educate Global, which provides opportunities for teacher candidates to teach in China.
  • We have initiated a new program called Student of the Month. Each month, a faculty member nominates an outstanding student whose accomplishments are recognized at a department meeting.
  • Our online course, Disability in Film, continues to be a popular course for Special Education majors and non-Special Education majors.
  • We hope to offer next year a new general education elective course, The Blindness Experience. This hands-on course will help NIU students understand issues and trends dealing with low vision and blindness.
  • Last year, SEED recipients of College of Education Excellence Awards included Jan Hart (instructor), Myoung Jung (service) and Stacy Kelly (Outreach/Community Service). In 2016, CoE Award recipients from SEED included Woody Johnson, Laura Hedin, Kate Donohue and Stacy Kelly.
  • Recent, current and upcoming sabbaticals have included Laura Hedin (co-teaching, Spring 2016); Erika Blood-Pinter (adult service providers for individuals with disabilities in Alaska, Spring 2018); Woody Johnson (biometrics for individuals with behavior challenges, Fall 2018)

Here is the current SEED faculty and staff list.
Chair: Greg Conderman
Program Coordinators: Jeff Chan (special education); Myoung Jung (early childhood)
Department Office Manager: Laura Harris
Office Support Specialist: Gail Myers (graduate students)
Clinical and Advising Support: Penny Winterton
Undergraduate Advisors: Barb Amberg (special education); Kate Donohue (early childhood)
Graduate Advisor: Les Hecht
Clinical Coordinator: Valerie Sawyer
LBS-1 Faculty: Toni Van Laarhoven, Lisa Liberty, Jeff Chan, Jesse Johnson, Laura Hedin, Erika Blood Pinter, Natalie Andzik, Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez
Vision Faculty: Stacy Kelly, Bill Penrod
Early Childhood Faculty: Stephanie DeSpain, Robin Miller Young, Myoung Jung

SEED faculty have developed several goals for the next few years, and an exciting one is to encourage more faculty-student collaboration. Many of our students are interested in writing and presenting with faculty.

If you would like to support this goal, you can make a gift to the NIU Foundation for the Department of Special and Early Education by contacting Judy Schneider, Director of Advancement, College of Education, jschneider@niu.edu, 815-753-1389 or https://foundation.myniu.com/give. Funds will support students in their work with faculty on research projects as well as their travel to conferences.

All of us in SEED hope that this finds you well and that you will reach out to us. We would love to hear from you!


Greg Conderman, Ed. D
Professor and Chair
Special and Early Education

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