Alum Lisa Janis receives Lindbergh School District Teacher of the Year

Lisa Janis, (MAT ’04), a graduate from Webster’s  Early Childhood Education program, and lead Pre-K teacher at Lindbergh Early Childhood Education, was named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year by the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation. She also received the Helene Marks Award for exceptional child care.

Lisa Janis

“Miss Lisa was nominated by several of her peers at ECE,” assistant superintendent of personnel services Dr. Brian McKenney said in the release. “She is a respected leader who gives students a voice in their learning, and she is also a continuous learner herself. We are proud to have Lisa representing Lindbergh’s educators.”

She has written grants to supply all ECE classrooms with digital cameras, provide a die-cut machine for the school, and supply teachers with social/emotional and diversity/ability awareness materials for their classrooms, according to the release.

“I want to thank ECE for making this not just a place to come to work every day, but also a family where everyone is excited to teach and learn,” Janis said. “Thank you also to my Lions, and thank you to Lindbergh Schools for recognizing the importance of early childhood education.”

Janis earned her bachelor of science in Child and Family Development from Truman State University, and her Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Webster University.

“We are very proud of Lisa, and she is so deserving of the Lindbergh Teacher of  the Year honor,” ECE Director Charlene Ziegler said in the release. “Her creative approaches to helping children grow socially and academically are what makes Lindbergh’s programs one of the best in the area.”

Scholarship winner from Iraq shares experiences and plans for the future

Webster University student Rusul Noor, here on a Fulbright scholarship from Iraq, is a graduate student studying for her master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). She graduates this May, 2013.


Rusul Noor at the Webster University Webster Groves campus.

According to Noor, Webster University is simply one of the best schools she could go to. “The library is amazing. The MCISA (The Mulitcultural Center and International Student Affairs) make such great activities for students, services for international students couldn’t be better, registration, and all other kinds of services like: bus card, writing center, IT cooperation with students, and professors supporting to us. I have friends in other schools who came to Webster visiting, they simply compared Webster campus to theirs and told me that I should be grateful because I’m here.”


Enjoying the weather in Forest Park, St. Louis.

One of Noor’s fondest memories at Webster in St. Louis is that she met her best friends here. “I will never forget how they surprised me with a very nice birthday, and the first tour I got when I arrived, and my first class. I remember all the student festivals and consider every single minute a special and valuable memory.” Noor takes pictures everyday to look back at later and smile.

“At the beginning, my mother was little worried that I will live by myself in a foreign country where I know no body at all. But in time they saw that being here is a great experience for a girl in my age.”

Noor climbing in one of the interactive displays at the St. Louis City Museum.

One of her professors, DJ Kaiser, had this to say: “Rusul has brought a different perspective to our program. She is our first international student in the MA in TESL, so to have a first-hand perspective from someone outside the United States in our classes was quite valuable. Rusul also worked very hard through this program. Her improvements in her English, her writing, and overall participation was amazing.”

Webster professors made her feel at home and comfortable. “All the skills and techniques of teaching make me eager to teach the same way,” said Noor. “I am planning to go home to Iraq and teach at university. I’ve learned many methods that I would love to apply there.” Noor plans to teach TESL at the university level in Iraq.

Noor has no problem recommending Webster to others either, in fact, she started with her fiancé. “I told him if he want’s to compete his master’s degree, then Webster is the right place for him.”

Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference Includes SOE Presentation

In 2012, the Center for Sustainability teamed up with Greensburg GreenTown and GreenTown Joplin to plan the first Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference at Saint Louis University this fall.  It was a great success and set the stage for what will be an annual event.

Webster University’s staff member Sheila Anglin Jordan was among the many presenters. Her presentation covered:

Teaching through the Lens of Sustainability: Schools as Partners for Healing

Teacher Educators at Webster University have one of the most advanced set of initiatives in the country for helping educators teach with the principles and practices of sustainability.  With a graduate certificate program in Education for Global Sustainability, a professional development program for districts, an annual sustainability institute for P12 educators, and a sustainability module for all teachers-in-training, Webster is helping the educators of today and tomorrow prepare young learners to understand and generate solutions for the problems caused by climate change, resource depletion, and population growth.  The panel in this session will discuss ways to enlighten and motivate teachers to be agents of change for a sustainable future.


Sheila Anglin Jordan

Jordan is a Missouri certified Social Studies teacher who is the Department Representative of Teacher Education at Webster University with the Department of Teacher Education. She is working on a Masters in International Relations and a certificate in Education for Global Sustainability. Sheila has helped design a new course called, “Real World Survivor: Confronting Poverty at Heifer Ranch” that involves an experiential learning component and social justice resolution. She has also led Professional Development for in-service teachers on teaching social justice and service learning. Sheila is working in collaboration with faculty from the Department og Teacher Education to integrate Education for Global Sustainability into the curriculum and practices of the Teacher Education Department to prepare pre-service teachers. Sheila hopes to participate in social entrepreneurship for post disaster sustainable development.

While the speakers and themes for this conference may vary from year to year, the core mission of the conference will remain the same: The Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference series aims to help cities stricken by natural disasters rebuild strong, livable communities by identifying ways to efficiently and effectively weave elements of sustainability into the disaster recovery process, while increasing collaboration among all parties working toward this goal.

To read more about this year’s conference and its presentations and events, please visit: 2012 Sustainable Disaster Recovery Conference

1939 Missouri Sharecropper Protest Colloquium Ties Past with Present

The School of Education recently held a two-day colloquium on the documentary movie Oh Freedom After While including a field trip to areas of southeast Missouri where these historic events occurred.

The movie, directed by Steven John Ross and produced by Webster Professor Lynn Rubright and Candace O’Connor, is set in 1939, when more than 1,000 Missouri Bootheel cotton plantation sharecroppers camped out alongside two state highways with their families and a few meager belongings. This strike drew national attention and helped lay the groundwork for the civil rights activism of later years.

These sharecroppers were taking a stand – against the planters, the federal government and the desperate conditions of their lives.  Their tale in the movie, told by recollections from former sharecroppers, their children and scholars with intense archival footage and striking Farm Security Administration photographs, tells the story of the tough rural African American life since Emancipation. The protest organizer was African-American minister Rev. Owen Whitfield, whose family members are featured in the documentary and who also participated in the colloquium.

Guest lecturers at the two-day event also included Frank Nickell, history scholar and director at Southeast Missouri State University Regional History Center; Webster professor emeritus Lynn Rubright, author, storyteller, co-producer and script consultant for Oh Freedom After While; Ted D. R. Green, Webster history education and curriculum specialist; Shirley Whitfield Farmer and Whitfield family members.

After the movie, participants traveled to historic sites that relate to issues of sharecropping and the 1939 civil rights event, including stops in Charleston, Bird’s Point, Poplar Bluff, “Cropperville” (near Harville) and Sikeston—all the locations featured in the movie. Family members of individuals featured in the film were in attendance. Professor Rubright is also a workshop leaders, speaker, writer and professional storyteller.

Professor Rubright has been the recipient of the National Storytelling Network’s 2007 ORACLE Award for Lifetime Achievement, and was also the 1996 recipient of the Circle of excellence Award by the National Storytelling Association.
Also leading the colloquium was Dr. Ted Green, Ph.D., who is also the chair of the Department of Teacher Education 

This trip was co sponsored by The School of Education and The Beatrice and David Kornblum Institute for Teaching Excellence.

Webster University’s Real World Survivor Class Exposes Students to Real Life Poverty and Hunger

How did you spend your break?

Well this fall, a group of 30 students and faculty from Webster University and a local high school journeyed seven hours by bus to Perryville, Arkansas, for a simulated and integrated experience in third-world poverty at Heifer International Ranch as part of a pilot program titled, Real World Survivor.  It was the first time the university partnered with a high school as part of a project of this magnitude. Education Professor Victoria McMullen, the catalyst behind the creation of the course, is hopeful that her template for the program becomes one of 20 proposed Global Keystone classes that will be available to Webster juniors beginning in 2014-15.


“As much as this is a single experience on poverty for these students, we’re creating it as a prototype,” McMullen said. “Eventually we want to give these type of experiences to every Webster student. Not every student will take this particular class. But we hope that every student will have an opportunity to take a course that is integrative, interdisciplinary and experiential that will change them and transform them for global citizenship and individual excellence.

“It’s a much more purposeful way to educate students because it requires them to study broadly across the university and outside their own disciplines,” McMullen said.   “It exposes them to other cultures, social systems and human behaviors.”

The Keystone seminars will be included as part of the university’s overall Global Citizenship Program that recently replaced the general education requirements for all Webster students.  As part of this program, students entering Webster this year take two seminars — the first-year seminar as new students, and the Global Keystone Seminar as juniors. In addition students will complete eight courses of at least three credit hours each in the general education portion of the program.  It is part of McMullen’s goal to have these interdisciplinary courses available as part of the GCP’s Keystone seminars.


A unique component of the course is that there are multiple teachers including Bruce Umbaugh, professor of philosophy and Amanda Rosen, assistant professor of International Relations.  McMullen selected Heifer International for the course because of its history in combating poverty throughout the world.  The organization has worked with students, teachers and the general public since 1944 to help eradicate hunger and poverty and care for the earth. They do this by providing appropriate livestock, training and related services to small-scale farmers and communities worldwide.

At the ranch, the students were divided into families and assigned to either a Zambian boma, a Tibetan yurt or one of two dilapidated Appalachian dwellings that even included an old bus.  Over the course of their stay, students and professors alike had to trade labor, barter for food, tend to the animals, and figure out other ways to acquire whatever it was they needed to eat.  Nightly confessionals were videotaped in the village marketplace.  Unlike the TV show, no one could get voted off the ranch.

This trip was partially sponsored by the School of Education’s dean’s office.

2012 Sustainability Institute for PK12 Educators

Last's years attendees tour The Missouri Botanical Garden.

Sustainability and What it Means for PK-12 Educators

The assurance of a productive, safe, viable future is marked by the interconnectedness of the human and environmental systems. At this Institute we will define sustainability in an educational context, present examples of PK-12 schools and resources for sustainability, and provide working sessions for educators to plan for how they can bring sustainability into their classrooms and institutions.

The Need for Sustainability Education

Below is a video discussing why sustainability education is needed in our schools today. It was produced by Growing Greener Schools and published by PBS Video.

The 3-day institute (with an optional preconference for those new to sustainability) is hosted by the:

  • Webster University, School of Education
  • EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Saint Louis Zoo, Education Division
  • U. S. Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter

Our ultimate goal is to give educators the tools to cultivate a new generation of young people with the awareness, responsibility, and ability to take action for a beautiful, prosperous future.

Schedule of Events

Monday, June 25

(Optional Preconference) For those new to sustainability, join us for exciting speakers, workshops with curricular ideas, and information sessions that will establish a foundation for understanding Education for Sustainability PK12

Tuesday, June 26

Keynote speaker, Sarah Ippel, founder of Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship will share insights and stories about establishing a sustainable school. Speakers and work sessions will help process new strategies for building the culture of sustainability in your school or community.

Wednesday, June 27

Work sessions for designing plans and overcoming roadblocks will help educators forecast their first actions.

Thursday, June 28

Hands-on projects and a culminating Resource Fair will close the Institute.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand and prepare to practice the principles of sustainability in PK-12 schools
  • Recognize local resources that can support curriculum and changes for sustainability
  • Collaborate with others to achieve goals and partnerships in sustainability
  • Create a community of advocates for sustainable schools


The event will take place at Webster University, East Academic Bldg 8 am–4 pm. For more information, contact Lori Diefenbacher by phone at 314-246-8054 or by email at



Sponsored by:


Summer Reading for Children and Young Adults: A Cross-cultural Book List That Promotes Global Understanding

They say children’s brains soak up everything like a sponge—an unfortunate characteristic when, say, you stub your toe and a few choice words slip out.


But imagine if we used those eager neurons to promote humanity at its best? Such is the call for the International Reading Association (IRA), which encourages parents and teachers to expose children to stories across cultures.
Each year, the IRA selects international books for the Notable Books for a Global Society Awards. Extensive lists of their selections, dating back to the late 1990s, can be found at, but here are a few to get you started.


Picture Books

Minji’s Salon by Eun-hee Choung (Kane/Miller Press, 2008)

Chavela and the Magic Bubble by Monica Brown (Clarion Press, 2010)

The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini (Dawn Publications, 2008)

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale by L. Kasbarian (Marshall Cavendish, 2011)

The Cats in Krasinski Square by K. Hesse (Scholastic Press, 2004)

Intermediate Books

Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by P. S. Turner (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Now is the Time for Running by M. Williams (Little, Brown, and Company, 2011)

The Kite Riderby G. McCaughrean (HarperCollins, 2002)• Between Shades of Grayby R. Spetys (Philomel, 2011)• Words in the Dust by T. Reedy (Scholastic Press, 2011)

Young Adult Books

Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy by A. Warren (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004)

Chu Ju’s House by G. Whelan (HarperCollins, 2004)

Karma by C. Ostlere (Penguin, 2011)

Akata Witch by N. Okorafor (Penguin, 2011)

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by N. S. Nye (Greenwillow, 2002)

—Compiled by Phyllis Wilkinson, professor and chair, Department of Communication Arts, Reading, and Early Childhood; School of Education

Reggio Emilia Leader Lella Gandini Visits Webster Unviersity in March

Dr. Lella Gandini, the United States liaison for the dissemination of early childhood education known as the Reggio Emilia approach, was a guest speaker at Webster University’s home campus Wednesday, March 21.

Dr. Lella Gandini at Webster

With some 150 attendees including Webster University School of Education faculty and students, Gandini discussed core concepts from the just-released third edition of  “The Hundred Languages of Children:  the Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation 2012.”

The publication is an integrated set of essays on a unique approach to early childhood education that documents the internationally acclaimed schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Brenda Fyfe, dean of the School of Education, authored or co-authored two chapters in the book. Fyfe has been a leader in bringing the Reggio Emilia approach to St. Louis-area schools.

Gandini will be in St. Louis until the morning of Sunday, March 25, including consulting at Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center.

Gandini’s visit drew a full house with more than 150 in attendance.
More about Gandini

A native of Italy, she was connected early with the Reggio Emilia approach and later became the point person for the approach in the U.S.

Gandini’s description of the Reggio Emilia approach:  “The starting point is to be convinced that children have tremendous potential already when they are born, so that  – in a preschool – rather than thinking ‘What can I teach these children?’ teachers observe and listen to children and construct learning with them.”

She is co-author of several books for parents and educators and author of many books of fairy tales, nursery rhymes and stories for children.

Her most recent publication, which was the focus of this lecture, is co-edited with Carolyn Edwards and George Forman.  As Howard Gardner states in the forward to this book, “Amid the multitude of books about education issues these days, few stand out.  This book that you hold in your hands does. … Anyone with an interest in the education of children should read it; few who do so will remain unaffected by the experience.”

Webster School of Education Mourns Loss of Jacqueline Grennan Wexler

Webster University mourns the passing of former president Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, a visionary leader who helped transform then-Webster College into the university it is today.

Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, alumna and former charismatic president and visionary leader

Wexler, a former Sister of Loretto who remained a member of the wider Loretto Community and was known affectionately to her students and others as “J,” served as Webster’s president from 1965 to 1969. During her tenure, Wexler brought national attention to Webster for her pioneering spirit and for the changes she spearheaded at the school. The White House named her to a standing committee of education thought leaders, where she challenged peers as a catalyst for educating the underprivileged.

She was instrumental in the transfer of the school’s governance from the Sisters of Loretto to a lay board of trustees in 1967.

Transferring ownership of Webster College to a lay board was a significant decision for the College and another milestone in an impressive line of accomplishments for Wexler. Webster College was the first Catholic institution to recognize the potential for growth and the quality of education as a secular institution.

At Webster she emancipated the curriculum, raised funds to build the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, and developed innovative academic programs.

“I was privileged to have the opportunity to get to know Jacqueline on a personal level in 2004 when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Master of Arts in Teaching program, which she established,” said School of Education Dean Brenda Fyfe. “I had asked her to be our featured speaker and honoree at this celebration. This was the start of several conversations and meetings that gave me first-hand insight into her incredible leadership, intellect, and passion for education.”

“When I came to Webster there was no Department of Education,” said Webster professor and friend of Wexler, Andrea Rothbart. “This was no accident. Jacqueline believed that the way to educate teachers was to have them become experts in the subjects they were to teach.”

Jacqueline Grennan Wexler in the early 1960s

After leaving Webster, she served as president of Hunter College of the City University of New York from 1970 to 1979, and was appointed president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1982 (now known as National Conference for Community and Justice).  She also was the first woman elected to the board of directors of United Technologies Corp.

In 2004 the School of Education celebrated the 40th anniversary of the MAT program and Wexler returned to campus as the featured speaker.

“As part of the introduction to Jacqueline at the celebration, I read a letter sent to me from Jerome Bruner, a long-time admirer of Jacqueline and early consultant to the MAT program in the ‘60s,” said Fyfe. “He spoke of his work with her for a couple of years on a White House Committee established by President Kennedy. I want to share a few comments from the letter that speak to the high esteem she earned from nationally and internationally acclaimed scholars such as Bruner:

“Jacki, Sister J, was not only a catalyst in that group, but a source of steady continuity…We loved Sister J, but loving her meant taking our obligations to educational improvement seriously. That meant no light-weight stuff. Her spirit pervaded that Committee and, soon, enough, it began pervading the Washington educational scene.’”

Photo of Wexler from front cover of the Saturday Review, July 15, 1967

The seeds of change that Wexler planted have transformed Webster into a vastly different institution. The university has grown to become the only Tier 1, private, nonprofit university with more than 100 campuses across the United States, Europe and Asia.

An on-campus memorial ceremony celebrating her life was held on Feb. 8 with photographs, video interviews with those who worked with her and remembered her well, music by the Webster University Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Singers, and reflections and tributes from President Beth Stroble as well as Sanford Zimmerman, the first chair of lay Webster College Board of Directors, Sister Donna Day, representative of the Sisters of Loretto, and more.

Dean’s Welcome

It’s the start of a great new year at Webster.  We welcome a terrific group of new freshmen and transfer students (pictured here with some of their parents at orientation).   They are a strong group of students who come to us with great GPAs, wonderful enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, and energy.  We know they will be a great addition to our School of Education family.

Welcome also to our new graduate students in our Master of Arts in Teaching degree programs, MA programs, Master of Educational Technology, and Education Specialist degree programs.  They come to us from many different countries, with a multitude of different teaching and experiential backgrounds and the commitment to serve a world of learners.  This wonderful mix of colleagues always ensures lively class discussions that draw out diverse perspectives and prior learning that we can apply and examine in relation to the subjects and focus of our studies.

Dean Brenda Fyfe

Together with our current student body, these new students are now settled into the semester working with faculty toward our mutual vision to “make this world worthy of its children.”  (Casals, 1970).  We do this in all of our programs by studying and researching content knowledge and instructional methodology, engaging with colleagues in reflective practice, and cultivating responsive teaching that demonstrates respect for the diversity of learners and community members we serve.

Have a great year everyone!  And best wishes to our recent and long term alumni and friends.  Keep in touch.