Leading Learner Newsletter

Fall 2015 Edition

The Educational Leadership Faculty at the University of Northern Iowa develop and nurture reflective Leaders of Learning, Service, and Change who positively impact student achievement and school improvement.


Alborn-Yilek Brings a Wealth of Experience to UNI Ed. Leadership

This fall the department of Educational Leadership welcomed Dr. Sue Alborn-Yilek to the team! With thirty-five years of experience in the K-12 setting as a teacher, administrator, and human resources director, Sue brings an abundance of knowledge and dedication to her new position as assistant professor.  So far, Sue has described her transition to UNI as smooth because she has received a lot of support and encouragement from the Ed Leadership and Continuing Education teams. 

As any new job has its unique challenges, Sue’s new position has included a learning curve with the utilization of Adobe Connect and learning the ins and outs of the job. Although the challenges are there, Sue believes they have been “overshadowed by the excitement of being in the department, working alongside other dedicated and passionate professionals.” She is incredibly excited to be teaching again, and her involvement in the growth and development of current and future school leaders is what fuels her excitement and passion.

Having accepted the position at UNI has also brought Sue closer to her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who live in Cedar Falls, and when she is home in Dubuque on the weekends, she and her husband Mike enjoy time with their daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters.

When she is not teaching, Sue spends time traveling, cycling in RAGBRAI, and golfing with her husband Mike. This past summer, they enjoyed a vacation in Hawaii for their anniversary, and they enjoy visiting their international exchange children they have hosted through the years in Brazil, Spain, and Costa Rica.

This semester Sue has begun teaching in the principalship program, and she will continue teaching in the superintendency program next semester. Sue’s passion, commitment, and dedication to helping students, teachers, administrators, and schools in Iowa succeed are reasons she makes a great addition to the Ed. Leadership team at UNI.


Makaula from Malawi

Beginning a doctoral program is no small feat, and when one takes on such an endeavor outside of his home country, it becomes an even greater learning experience. This fall Fiddelis Makaula began his doctoral journey at UNI in Educational Leadership. In addition to his studies, Fiddelis also has taken on the role as a graduate assistant for the department.

Fiddelis comes to our program from Malawi, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a teacher in his home country.  His journey as an educator began when he received a BA of Divinity in Malawi and continued as he earned an MA in Leadership and Change Management at Leeds Metropolitan University. In addition to his education, Fiddelis has been a teacher of Bible Knowledge and English in Malawi for the past 28 years. His ultimate research and experiential interests lie in leadership. He has served in various organizations in Malawi, including 7 years as the president of the teachers union, fighting for the working rights of educators. This passion for leadership combined with his natural ability to lead has led Fiddelis to further his education at UNI in Educational Leadership.

In his free time, Fiddelis enjoys watching the Malawi soccer team, listening to gospel music, and spending time with his wife and five children. His commitment to teaching, leadership, and learning enriches Malawi, UNI, and the Department of Educational Leadership. We are glad to have Fiddelis on board for the next two years!


International Teacher-Leader Program Updates

The International Teacher-Leader program at UNI is nearing completion of its second year, and the co-coordinators of the program, Dr. Leigh Martin and Dr. Tim Gilson, have updates to share about the exciting future of this program.

  • The 2014 International Cohort, the third cohort including students in South Korea, Philippines, Egypt, and Germany, will be completing their coursework and defending their portfolios in December.
  • The 2015 International Cohort kicked off in April 2015 and is comprised of educators currently teaching in India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and United Arab Emirates. 
  • A site-based cohort is scheduled to begin at the Singapore American School (SAS) where Dr. Martin's UNI office is located. This cohort is scheduled to begin in January of 2016. The first two courses taught will be of a hybrid nature and will involve Gilson joining Martin on-site for a week in January to kick things off, followed by typical distance education the remainder of the semester. Some additional face to face instruction will involve UNI staff as well as SAS administrators.
  • The program as a whole is closing in on full-acceptance as an official new major at UNI. The process of integrating this program into new majors offered began a year ago, and it is currently one step away from the Board of Regents. This program has proven to benefit teachers and schools worldwide, as well as contributed to the prestige of teacher education at UNI.
  • In October, Gilson and Martin will be attending a leadership conference in Abu Dhabi and while there they will follow up with contacts in Dubai to work towards yet another site-based cohort in that region.

We look forward to our continued work connecting UNI’s Educational Leadership department with future teacher leaders all across the globe!


Schares Co-Leads Cultural Competency Training 

In late September, Dr. Denise Schares partnered with Dr. Bev Smith, Associate Superintendent for Human Resources and Equity at Waterloo Schools, to lead a cultural competency training in Hagerstown, Maryland. They started the day with a keynote address, and facilitated two workshops on Culturally Competent Approaches to Leading, Teaching, and Learning in the afternoon. Although Hagerstown is not visually very diverse, the administrators and teachers recognize the importance of being culturally competent in their schools.

Schares and Smith have partnered together for ten years on leading trainings, workshops, and sharing their knowledge and expertise on the topic of cultural competency.


Pace Steps into a New Role

Educational Leadership welcomed Nick Pace as the new departmental head on July 1, 2015.  Prior to accepting the new position, Nick served as the coordinator of the principalship program since 2006, so he stepped into his new role with a familiarity of the department and programs. Even though he has prior experience in the department, Nick knew there would be a lot of changes this year with the big move from Schindler to Bartlett, and Vickie Robinson taking on the role of interim dean of the College of Education.

When asked how the transition has been, Nick replied with, “We seriously have the Dream Team in this department. The faculty and staff have been so great, and if it gets better than this team, I would like to see how.” He has enjoyed seeing all the gears from this new angle, and he is incredibly honored to serve the faculty, staff, and students in the department from his new role.


Prepared Panthers: UNI Ed Leadership Graduates Move into New Roles


Mistaya Hoefling is the new curriculum director at OA-BCIG Community Schools.

Jessica Beem is the vice principal Strawberry Hill Elementary School in Anamosa, IA.

 Barb Schwamman became the new superintendent for Osage Community Schools.

 Chris Ward is now the elementary principal at Denver Community Schools in Denver, IA.

 Cassie Burback joined the Mississippi Bend AEA team this year as a focus area consultant.

 Mendy Haefs is the new K-8 principal at St. Partick Grade School in Sheldon, IA.

 Kane Thompson has taken on a new role as the at-risk teacher at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids.

 Eric Townsley has been named the new principal at Prairie Creek Intermediate in the College Community School District.

 Dan Diercks is the new superintendent for Oelwein Community Schools.

 Chad Kohagen took on the new role as superintendent for Lake Mills Community School District.

 Mark Taylor is the new principal for Corse Elementary School in Burlington, Iowa.

 Sherri Walker has taken on a new role as the principal of Cardinal Elementary School – in Maquoketa.

 Jeremy Simington is the new principal for Graettinger-Terril Middle School in Graettinger, IA.

 Kevin Petersen is now the athletic director Davenport West High School.

 Ashley Hess is now the Easton Valley 6th grade ELA/Science teacher & activities director in Preston, IA.

Tim Salmon is the new superintendent at North Polk.



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