Reflections from a Chinese Visiting Scholar, Agnes Mao, on Her Experience in the U.S.

Agnes Mao (Donglian Mao) is a Lecturer at the School of Foreign Language Studies of Anhui University from China. She is a visiting international scholar at Webster University this year to advance her research study in the U.S. While living in America for the first time in her life, she wants to learn about others and improve herself through what she has learned. Agnes has taken the time to shed some insight on her experience in St. Louis so far.
Agnes as a great appreciation for her profession as a university educator. Agnes considers her sense of enjoyment that stems from her love and passion for the teaching profession as a beautiful expression of the direction society needs to turn towards to rebuild the future of human life. She believes in “humanistic, student-centric approaches,” which depends on advocates to uphold systematic cores that signify our belonging.

Agnes’s personal philosophy about students’ attitudes towards themselves and others paired with her positivity surrounding the importance of autonomy and individuality within the field of education points to these ideals being necessary components to encapsulate human rights, social justice, and, in simple terms, basic human decency. “I have a great interest in studying their beliefs, expectations, values, and conceptions about how to learn and how to teach successfully,” said Agnes. She strives to be more than just a teacher.

While in St. Louis, Agnes wants to broaden her perceptions and dive into American culture, especially the differences between this new life and the way of life she left at home. Her academic goals are to finish her current research project, be exposed to new academic research in the U.S., and broaden her view. Her personal goals take the last part even further. Agnes would like to “get more involved in local American life, learn more about American people, and gain an in-depth understanding of cultural differences between China and the U.S.”

Many of us hold perceptions or beliefs about people and places before we even give them a try. Agnes said that prior to coming to the United States, she thought, “it must be a dangerous place,” and she “was afraid [her] Chinese face would arouse American people’s strong aversion to me,” due to the current trade war with China and the U.S. However, by exploring the cultural aspects of American life and people, Agnes was able to change her perceptions about the U.S. and broaden her view on our way of life. She now realizes that “dangerous or not, it mainly depends on where you live.”
In her interview, Agnes shared a heart-touching story about perseverance and the impact that one small action could have on another person.

“One day, about a month after I arrived here, I planned a shopping trip to [a Macy’s department store]. To get there, I had to take a bus first, and then transfer for a train. It was the first time for me to travel so far in this foreign country. Getting off at the bus terminal, I was totally bewildered standing by the rail tracks. Where could I buy a ticket? How much was the train fare? Which train should I take? Just then I saw a young man coming across the railroad. On hearing that I was new here and had no idea what to do next, he went straight up to a ticket vending machine and bought a day pass for me. While we were waiting for the train by the rail tracks, we got into a conversation. I was surprised to learn that his girlfriend was gravely ill and he had sold his car to pay for her major operation. That was why he had to take public transportation to get around. We exchanged our names before we parted with each other, but I have a terribly poor memory of American names and can’t remember this nice guy’s name now. Though I can’t repay his kindness, my heart was touched and I will be more ready to help others in need. “

She was inspired by this experience with a complete stranger which showed her that “I would not change my opinion of American people [based on negative experiences]. They are really uncomplicated, friendly, generous and open-minded.”

The National Professional Development (NPD) Grant is in Its Second Year

Webster’s School of Education is completing its second year of a National Professional Development (NPD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition in a project titled “Increasing Teacher Capacity Through Communities of Practice to Serve English Learners.”

This five-year $2.7 million grant will allow more than 100 St. Louis area public school teachers from Parkway Schools, Ritenour School District, and St. Louis Public Schools to complete the coursework required by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for English Language Learner (ELL) Certification.
In addition to coursework, cohort members participate in a series of eight Saturday Seminars with a focus on family, parent, and community engagement. Webster faculty in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) have been collaborating with the International Institute of St. Louis and St. Louis Mosaic Project to develop a new curriculum of eight seminars in a Teacher-Student Success Network.
“Rather than use existing research developed in other contexts, we wanted to develop a framework that would allow St. Louis-area teachers to identify challenges and then develop their own plans to address questions concerning family, parent, and community engagement to support success for English language learners,” explained DJ Kaiser, associate dean for the School of Education and project director for this grant.
Webster accepts applications from certified teachers in partner districts that are serving English language learners. Cohort members make a two-year commitment to the project to complete seven TESL courses, the Saturday Seminars, a series of classroom observations, and blog postings.

“English language learners and their parents have been invited to our Saturday Seminars to share the challenges they face as immigrants and newcomers in the United States,” said Yin Lam Lee-Johnson, associate professor in the School of Education and co-director of the grant. “This allows cohort members to gain insights from these families about the social and emotional aspects of learning English as a second language.”

On April 6, twenty-two teachers comprising the first two grant cohorts will present their final group projects at Webster University. These projects combine teachers’ experiences in their schools with knowledge gained through TESL coursework; panel discussions with students, parents, and school staff; and reflective activities. Another twenty-seven teachers will continue with activities focused on the role of the school in promoting success for ELLs. “Every single participating teacher brings untold school-related experiences to the table which promote motivational behavior and ideal engagement of other teachers towards the success for our ELLs,” related Soheil Mansouri, visiting assistant professor for the Graduate Department of Education.

Data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show a more than 200% increase in the number of ELLs in Missouri public schools since 2000. National data from the Office of English Language Acquisition shows that Missouri ELLs have a high school graduation rate of 68% in comparison to 89.3% for non-ELLs. “This grant project is designed to meet the increasing demand for ELL teachers in Missouri schools and demonstrates Webster University’s commitment to serving unmet needs in our community,” noted Thomas Cornell, interim dean for the School of Education.

Moving into year three of the current National Professional Development grant, Webster university plans to admit approximately three dozen teachers from Parkway Schools, Ritenour Schools, and St. Louis Public Schools to begin a new two-year cycle of robust professional development to serve ELLs.




Student-Professor Collaborative Research in Applied Educational Psychology

Four students in the Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology programs presented their research at the 2019 Columbia University Winter Roundtable with their professor, Dr. Deborah Stiles. The Columbia University Winter Roundtable is the longest-running continuing professional education program in the United States devoted solely to cultural issues in psychology and education.

The theme for the 2019 conference was “RISE UP: Racial Justice, Immigration, and Social Activism in Psychology and Education” and appropriately Webster University’s presentation was about psychological resilience in the lives of five women, three who are black and two who are white. The title of their presentation was, “Surprising Stories of Adversity and Resilience for Five Women Educators in their Forties, Fifties, and Sixties.” The authors are Webster graduate students Miesha Houston, Lisa Tigue, Anna Werner, and Tachelle Rhiney.

Students from the Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology program have previously presented at this conference in 2015 and 2017. The Winter Roundtable gives students opportunities to meet leading scholars such as Derald Wing Sue, the author of their multicultural counseling course textbook, to share their research and contribute to the “knowledge base” of cultural issues in psychology and education, and promote the program. At the 2017 conference Marie-France Castor attended the Webster presentation and is now a Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology student.



In-Service Education Programs Summer 2019

The School of Education, Webster University is offering opportunities for educators to enhance their classroom instruction. The Summer 2019 In-Service Brochure has information on the variety of in-service courses that will be offered, and the registration form. We invite you to share this brochure with your teachers.

Most of these in-service courses are offered at a discounted tuition rate. Some courses may be used as part of a degree program, with permission of an advisor. The topics cover areas such as Storytelling with Code – Scratch 3.0, Sheltered Instruction with English Learners, Responding to Trauma in Schools, Cognitive Coaching, and many more.

Most classes are held at a variety of locations throughout the region, and a few are held at the Webster University main campus in Webster Groves. Students will receive specific class locations at least one week prior to the beginning of class.

Please follow this link to the brochure





Webster Awarded $124,000 STEM Educator Grant

The National Science Foundation awarded Webster University with a $124,454 Noyce capacity-building grant. The title of this project is “Laying the Groundwork for Dual-degree Pathways for Educating STEM Teachers Bound for Success,” or Webster Educating STEM Teachers Bound for Success (WESTbound Success). Anton S.(Tony) Wallner, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, is the Principal Investigator on this grant along with two co-Principal Investigators, Ravin Kodikara in Biological Sciences and DJ Kaiser, Associate Dean in the School of Education. Other key faculty on this grant are Victoria McMullen, Jennifer Bond (adjunct faculty member in Department of Teacher Education), and Marty Smith, Chair of Math & Computer Science, in the School of Business and Technology. Several other staff and faculty in the School of Education contributed to the planning and writing of this grant application.

This grant will be a collaboration between the School of Education, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Business & Technology. Beginning April 1 we will have funding for a year to prepare ourselves to apply for a full Track 1 Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (please see Full Noyce grants for institutions can be as high as $1.5 million for a five-year period. Much of the funding that we have received for this capacity-building grant will provide salary savings to the School of Education, in addition to adding to the indirect costs that the School of Education already receives for the PNC and NPD grants.

The Noyce program “provides funding to institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers.” Similar to some other funding opportunities in teacher preparation, grant recipients then have a service requirement after the grant, in this case teaching in a high-need school for two years for each year of the scholarship. Our goal with this capacity-building grant is to ensure that Webster University is prepared to recruit, admit, advise, support, and mentor students who will both major in a STEM field (at Webster that would be biology, chemistry, math, or computer science) and complete initial teaching certification (which at Webster means that they will double major in education). Additionally we will focus on increasing the diversity of our teacher candidates and preparing teacher candidates to be successful and persevere in high-need schools.

Webster University School of Education Earns National Recognition


The School of Education at Webster University just earned again national recognition for its Master of Arts in Reading program.

The MA in Reading program received national recognition in 2008. This recognition, granted through 2026, was approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the International Literacy Association (ILA).

Webster University is the only higher education institution in the St. Louis area to earn this recognition. This recognition is earned through a rigorous review of course assessments, alignment to national professional standards, and program data. Higher education reviewers worked with the International Literacy Association to determine this recognition.

Follow this link for more information about the Master of Arts in Reading at

Dr. Rodney Interviewed on Four-Day School Week


Dr. Rodney, Chair of the Department of Teacher Education, recently appeared on radio and television to comment on the four-day school week. Dr. Rodney argued that although this flexible arrangement could save money, especially for small school districts, student learning should figure prominently in the decision. He also said that community engagement matters in the decision-making. He stated that, with more school districts exploring this option, it is critically important for educators to explain the process and nuances to the public. Dr. Rodney’s KMOX interview aired on radio during rush hour on Monday, January 14 and on the morning of Tuesday, January 15.

Rodney’s interviews with the media were in response to a story that the Warren County School District will be moving to the four-day school week during the 2019-2020 school year. These new types of flexible arrangements are taught as key features in the teacher education program here at Webster University. In Rodney’s School for Today First Year Seminar students are introduced to the concept of responsive spaces. One aspect of responsive spaces are flexible school-day arrangements.

Watch the full Fox2 interview here.