Hedin, who begins that role July 1, 2020, aspires to make NIU “the first choice for special education and early childhood teacher-candidates throughout Illinois” through teamwork that advances current Chair Greg Conderman’s initiatives to boost enrollment and retention while maintaining program quality.
Conderman has chosen to return to the faculty after five years as chair.
“SEED is a great department because of the people who work here and the students who choose the fields of special education or early childhood education as their profession,” says Hedin, who joined NIU in 2007.
“People who want to work with very young children and with folks with disabilities just have special hearts and dispositions. They tend to be ‘glass half-full,’ but don’t shy away from difficult problems – and teaching is full of challenges and unexpected curveballs,” she adds. “I love that the people in my department and students in my classes want to make the world more inclusive and equitable.”
Dean Laurie Elish-Piper calls Hedin “an exemplary teacher and scholar whose service to SEED, the College of Education and NIU has been extraordinary during her 13 years at NIU.”
“As a veteran member of SEED, Laura is positioned to hit the ground running as the new department chair and help lead in positive ways that build on the great leadership provided by Greg Conderman over the past five years,” Elish-Piper says. “Laura has strengths in analytical and strategic thinking and decision-making as well as a kind, generous, people-centered approach to leadership.”
Hedin earned three degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, capped with her Ph.D. in Special Education and a dissertation on the effects of thinking aloud on the monitoring and comprehension of sixth graders.
She also holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor’s degree in hospital dietetics.
The former co-sponsor of NIU’s Student Council for Exceptional Children chapter began her teaching career as a paraprofessional, supporting computer-based reading and writing programs for kindergarten and first grade students. She then taught inclusive sixth-grade science, social studies and English-language arts for 10 years.
Hedin now strives to make research findings in education accessible to pre-service and practicing teachers. She also engages in new research that informs the professional practice of teachers and enhances outcomes for learners.
Recent teaching assignments have included instructional methods for elementary students with mild and high-incidence disabilities, linking instruction to characteristics of students with disabilities and strategies for secondary students with high-incidence disabilities.
“I have been a part of SEED for almost 14 years now, through good times and through times that tested us individually, as a department and as a university. Over time, I have become more involved in curriculum, program development, and mentoring teachers and faculty, so administration is the next natural step for me,” Hedin says.
“Luckily, SEED has fine faculty and staff who support its mission, and CEDU has a tremendous leadership team to help me develop my leadership skills,” she adds. “I plan to work through relationships that we have already established with districts and community colleges through NIU partnerships with the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation, other College of Education departments and my past consulting work.”
Her “past work” also has earned recognition from the college and the university.
NIU nominated her for the Mid-American Conference’s inaugural Outstanding Faculty for Student-Success award, the recipient of which the MAC will announce in April 2020.
She also is an EdLEAD Faculty Fellow, received her department’s faculty award for Student and Community Engagement last spring and was the college’s nominee for the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2019.