A great new feature story from Marketing/University Communication intern Katelyn Staaben takes a closer look at a UW-Green Bay class making a difference in our community. New this semester, Assistant Prof. Aurora Cortes’ “Working and Communicating with Hispanic Parents of Young Children” course brings Education students to the Casa Alba resource center to conduct classes with young children and their parents. The students form groups with the mothers and their 1- to 3-year-old children to teach literacy activities while overcoming language and cultural barriers. As one student remarked, “You need to know the background of who you’re working with before you can truly understand what their life is like.” You can read more about the students’ experience.
For most college courses, the goal is to teach students the skills they will need to be successful in the future. But in Assistant Prof. Aurora Cortes’ new class, that aim is coupled with the desire to positively impact the lives of those in the Hispanic community — starting today.
Through the “Working and Communicating with Hispanic Parents of Young Children” course, 13 students have been visiting Casa Alba, a resource center for the Hispanic community, and conducting classes with young children and their parents.
The idea for the course came from a discussion between Cortes and a colleague, Associate Prof. Linda Tabers-Kwak. Tabers-Kwak teaches a course titled “Working and Communicating with Parents of Young Children,” and suggested that Cortes form a similar course focused on the Hispanic community.
Cortes had already begun visiting Casa Alba, which opened in the spring of 2012. She met the founder, Sister Melanie Maczka, and thought the new course could fit in well at the center.
“So I went and I talked to Sister Melanie in the spring of 2014 and I asked her, ‘Would you like me to start this program here at Casa Alba?’ ” Cortes said. “She thought it was fantastic.”
“We’re very proud and honored to be working with UWGB. I think that this partnership is wonderful.”
While visiting the center, students form groups with the mothers and their 1-to 3-year-old children and teach literacy activities. These include reading bilingual books, where the student reads one page in English and the mother repeats the page in Spanish; helping the children create their own little book; and using other learning materials such as play dough, chalk and flash cards. They also have a traveling library where children can check out books to read at home.
The program has one main goal: to overcome language and cultural barriers. Cortes could sense this barrier with her students, especially from those who didn’t speak Spanish. But Cortes believes the language barrier is often not the problem.
“I think we have the same values and they’re universal values and I think the problem is we have them in different orders,” Cortes said, ”We have different priorities and that’s where there’s misunderstandings.”
While experiencing this firsthand, students have come to realize the importance that the Hispanic culture places on family. Several students said that knowing this will help them to manage their own classrooms in the future.
“You need to know the background of who you’re working with before you can truly understand what their life is like,” student Brooke Koltz said.
“We can better understand why they’re not here or reasons behind their choice,” said student Katie Tillmann, “It’s not that they don’t want to but it’s that they have other priorities that are higher than education or coming out in the cold.”
But the class isn’t just a learning opportunity for the students. Cortes hopes it will help the mothers and their children as well.
“So this experience, I believe, is going to very beneficial for the community,” Cortes said. “And then hopefully those kids have had the right beginning. Once they get into kindergarten they know what it’s all about. They know about books. They’re going to feel comfortable. They’ve done it before and the mothers are realizing the importance of school.”
Maczka added that the experience will provide the opportunity for the children to socialize with other children, something that they often aren’t given the chance to do.
“A lot of time it’s difficult for moms or the caregivers to interact with families,” she said. “They’re stuck at home with the child during the day and children simply know mom and their siblings, and maybe on weekends other family members and friends, but otherwise they don’t interact a lot with other children.”
When conducting similar activities with her own parents of young children group, Tabers-Kwak told Cortes that one way to gauge the success of the program was to look at the participation of the father.
“The minute a father goes, that means it’s very successful,” Cortes said. “What this means is that the mother is talking about the experience at home and the father wants to know. So, last week we had our first father. That was fantastic. And the father was actually reading to his little girl and the little girl was proud that Dad was there, sharing that experience.”
Fall 2014 is the first semester the course has been offered, and already there have been success stories. For one family, the experience has been incredibly important in the development of their daughter. Cortes learned about the situation while talking to the mother.
“Her daughter (was) not talking,” Cortes said, “Anything. Not even a sound, nothing. She’s been going through speech therapy for about a year, and then now, she’s started talking.”
The students working with the family noticed the change as well.
“She’s starting to open up more. Week-by-week she’s talking more,” said student Heather Walden. “(It) may not always be words but you can tell she’s more engaged and more excited.”
After seeing the success of the program after just one semester, everyone is excited to see what this partnership will bring in the future.
“We want kids to feel so good about education and about their capacity that they want to keep growing,” Maczka said. “And who better than the University to do that with.”
– Story by Katelyn Staaben ’15, editorial intern, Office of Marketing and University Communication
Scott Ashmann, associate professor in the Professional Program in Education, has been named Environmental Education Administrator of the Year by the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education. The honor was presented Nov. 8 at the association’s annual awards banquet in Madison. Ashmann was cited for his leadership as chairperson of the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board from 2009-14 and for his research involving the integration of environmental education in teacher preparation. The award citation also mentioned his service on the advisory committee for the nature-based four-year-old kindergarten program at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Ashmann is a proud graduate of UW-Green Bay, having studied science education en route to earning his Eco U bachelor’s degree in 1988.
Sue Mattison, dean of the College of Professional Studies, sought applications from CPS faculty and academic staff for summer fellowships that she hopes will assist and support research and grant applications. The following faculty members and projects were recently named to receive awards:
• Christin DePouw, assistant professor of Education, “Role of Critical Race Consciousness in Strengthening Students’ of Color Academic and Cultural Identities.”
• Pao Lor, associate professor of Education, and Ray Hutchison, professor of Urban and Regional Studies, “Academic Profile of Hmong-American Students’ Matriculation, Retention, and Graduation at UW-Green Bay.”
• Mary Gichobi, assistant professor, and Scott Ashmann, associate professor, both of Education, “What Influence Does Regularly Using Einstein Project Materials Have on State Standardized Fourth and Eighth Grade Science Test Scores?”
UW-Green Bay faculty members Marcelo Cruz and Aurora Cortes are featured in a new Green Bay Press-Gazette story and video, respectively, on the increasing ethnic diversity in the Green Bay area. In the story, posted Tuesday (Oct. 21) to the Press-Gazette website, Urban and Regional Studies faulty member Cruz said Green Bay is highly segregated — and that redevelopment of the University Avenue corridor could help or hinder the situation, depending on how it is carried out. “It’s a golden opportunity that potentially could be missed by the community,” Cruz said. “Let’s work with them (Hispanics) and make a win-win situation.” In an accompanying video, Education faculty member Cortes discusses her “Working and communicating with Hispanic parents of young children” course, which aims to overcome language and culture barriers between Green Bay teachers and the Hispanic community. “The Hispanic community is growing and there are several elementary schools that are 50, 60 percent Hispanic,” Cortes said. “And the teachers need to be prepared. They need to have this familiarity with our culture. They need to be exposed to our culture.” To read the story and watch the video, click here.
Andrea Pasqualucci, a school social worker at Valley View Elementary School in Ashwaubenon, was selected this fall as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for working behind the scenes to improve student learning.
A 1990 graduate of UW-Green Bay’s bachelor’s degree program in Social Work, she credits her early educational training as having a big impact on her career.
“The time I spent there was so valuable,” Pasqualucci says of her campus experience. “The professors, the small classes and learning environment, the leadership opportunities… the fact that I kept up with faculty (mentors) like Betty Baer, Ann Kok and Rolfe White over the years really speaks to the interest they take in their students and alumni, personally and professionally.”
Pasqualucci has special memories of those UW-Green Bay professors:
• Betty Baer — “She was tough and encouraging at the same time. But you totally knew when she was on your side. Just a tremendously accomplished social worker and educator.”
• Anne Kok — “Anne was just fun to be around. She was inspiring in a special kind of way… positive and optimistic and fully confident that we could make a difference in people’s lives.”
• Rolfe White — “He retired quite a few years ago, but has always maintained his commitment to helping those in need. He’s on the executive board of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and is a true positive force in our community.”
As a UW-Green Bay student in the late 1980s, Pasqualucci completed her required field placement at Family Services in Green Bay, working with juvenile-age clients. It was during those days, she says, and in her master’s degree work in human services at UW-Madison (she earned her degree there in 1993), that she more fully formed her core principles as a social worker.
Those principles are basic, but things Pasqualucci says she always strives to employ: build personal relationships with people; value and respect everyone, regardless of their status or influence; know the value of hard work; and be rigorous in applying best practices and the highest level of professionalism.
In the years following college, Pasqualucci lived in Chicago and Seattle before eventually moving back to Wisconsin with her husband, Hans Bachmeier, also a UW-Green Bay grad (1991), who today is a vice president with Miller Electric in Appleton. She began her career as a social worker in the Crystal Lake School District in Crystal Lake, Ill., and worked for the North Chicago School District. She joined the staff of the Ashwaubenon School District in 2008.
Pasqulucci’s current certification as a school social worker comes via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The certification requires continuing education, something she has accomplished by returning to UW-Green Bay for selected master’s degree courses in Education.
She learned of her selection as Wisconsin’s Special Services Teacher of the Year for the 2014-15 at a surprise all-school assembly at Valley View in September. State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement.
As part of the Teacher of the Year honors, Pasqualucci receives $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. The state DPI and Kohl Foundation partner to make the awards, which are given in four categories: elementary, middle/junior high, high school, and special services. Evers additionally recognized Pasqualucci during his State of Education address Sept. 25 in Madison.
Her nominators described her as “a tireless advocate for students” and someone with a “passion for working with people in need.” They praised Pasqualucci for developing a number of programs and partnerships to help students in the Ashwaubenon School District who are homeless or from low-income families.
“We have a segment of the population, who because of what’s going on at home, struggle to realize their gifts even though they have great potential,” she comments. “Many families I encounter are consumed with meeting the basic needs of their children and have little energy or financial resources left to expose their children to the multiple stimulating experiences other children encounter every day. Over time, these differences accumulate and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ grows.”
Pasqualucci was instrumental in developing and managing student-led food drives; an e-mail based donation system that matches donors with families needing clothing or household items; and in-service sessions for school staff on equity and anti-bullying issues. She also reaches out to parents to build trust so they are more involved in their children’s education.
Work by Pasqualucci and others like her, nationwide, is supported in part by 1987 federal legislation, the McKinney-Vento Act, which awards grants to programs aimed at boosting academic achievement among certain at-risk children.
At any given time, Pasqualucci says, she’s working with about 50 students and their families to provide guidance and link then to resources that can range from from size 4T pants, to beds, dressers, and household items, laundromat vouchers and school supply backpacks.
In the community, she is part of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition and chaired the county’s National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week activities. She is a member of her church’s Social Concerns Commission, bringing her first-hand knowledge of social issues to help the commission affect change and meet the needs of parishioners and community members.
UW-Green Bay’s award-winning Professional Program in Education got some great front-page ink in Monday’s (Sept. 22) Green Bay Press-Gazette, with interviews and photos showing how the University helps prepare the area’s teachers. Two out of every five teachers working in area schools graduated from UW-Green Bay, UW Oshkosh or St. Norbert College, state data show, and local districts say the figures are a testament to the quality of local programs. Monday’s story highlights UW-Green Bay’s partnerships with area school districts — including Red Smith Elementary, where photos for the story were taken, and the OAK Learning Center at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary — relationships that were part of the reason Education won the 2011 UW System Board of Regents Award for Academic Department of the Year. “Our goal is not merely to facilitate well-prepared teachers. Our goal is to help facilitate well-prepared teachers who get hired,” said Education chair Tim Kaufman. “Everything we do is aimed at that. We partner with a number of schools in the area in a number of ways.” Full story.
Three members of UW-Green Bay’s First Nations Studies faculty will represent the University during a Tuesday (Aug. 19) event marking the 25th anniversary of Wisconsin Act 31. Lisa Poupart, Forrest Brooks and JP Leary will be on hand for the Madison event, which celebrates the passage of legislation requiring instruction in American Indian history, culture and tribal sovereignty at both the K-12 level and in teacher education programs in Wisconsin. The award-winning program’s collaboration with the University’s Education program, through the Education Center for First Nations Studies, has been lauded for its approach to infusing Act 31 in teacher education. Leary is one of the event’s featured speakers. A video in which he discusses Act 31’s origins, purpose and requirements will debut at the event. Visit www.wiea.org for more info.
The news stories didn’t mention the UW-Green Bay connection, but people in the Professional Program in Education are well aware and appreciative of Bernard Vandenberk’s contributions to the community. On Tuesday the retired educator was the recipient of Wisconsin First Lady Tonette Walker’s monthly “Wisconsin Heroes Award.” The citation lauded Vandenberk’s service at House of Hope, a Green Bay shelter for homeless women who are pregnant or who have young children. The former Ashwaubenon elementary school teacher volunteers his time to help the young moms earn their GEDs. Associate Prof. Tim Kaufman says Vandenberk was a longtime, dedicated supervisor of UW-Green Bay student teachers, and has taught courses here as an associate lecturer in Education. Read Green Bay Press-Gazette article.
Assistant Prof. Christin DePouw of the Education faculty writes about the artistic journey of her husband, Cuban artist Eduin Fraga, and his exhibit at Green Bay’s Art Garage for a column in Monday’s Green Bay Press-Gazette. Read column.