Concordia-Chicago team brings expertise in Differentiated Instruction to annual conference of Chicago-area Lutheran educators

Concordia-Chicago was well represented at the annual networking conference of the Chicagoland Lutheran Educational Foundation (CLEF), which took place on August 15, 2016, at Walther Christian Academy in Melrose Park, Illinois. The conference, titled “Partners on the Road to Excellence,” brought more than 150 Chicago-area Lutheran educators together for a full day of networking, professional development sectionals, and targeted breakout sessions.

Dr. Carolyn Theard-Griggs, chair and associate professor in Concordia-Chicago’s department of Teaching, Learning and Diversity, presented a sectional titled, “Meeting the Needs of all Learners:  A Practical Look at Differentiated Instruction in PK-8 Single and Multi-Grade Classroom.” Theard-Griggs’ presentation focused on instructional and assessment practices, as well as methods for creating learning environments conducive to differentiated instruction. Attended by early childhood teachers, elementary-grade teachers, and school administrators, the session took a practical approach, offering tools for differentiated instruction in preschool-8th grade single- and multi-grade classrooms.

Theard-Griggs’ sectional presentation was immediately followed by five simultaneous break-out sessions that provided guided small-group opportunities for sharing and reflection by working classroom educators and their grade-level peers. The breakout sessions tackled issues of daily relevance to teachers, including classroom application of differentiated instruction and assessment strategies.

The breakout session leaders were: Sara Stetina Reed and Jennifer Franzese, CUC adjunct professors and current doctoral students; Julie Bartelt, instructor at Northern Illinois University and 2014 recipient of CUC’s MA in Differentiated Instruction; Megan Marrs, high school science teacher and 2015 recipient of CUC’s MA in Differentiated Instruction; and Heather Darby, kindergarten teacher and current student in CUC’s MA, Special Education program.

First invited in February, 2016, to address the conference of educators, Theard-Griggs spent the intervening months putting together a dream-team of Concordia-Chicago-affiliated scholars and preparing to make the most of the opportunity. The team worked together during the months preceding the conference to prepare, using email and face-to-face meetings to collaboratively shape the session content. “I assembled an amazing team of adjuncts, graduates of the program, and a current student, then brought them to campus for a full day of planning during the summer,” Theard-Griggs recounts.

“Typically, adjuncts and students have few opportunities to be validated for their expertise and knowledge, whether at conferences or in other settings,” explains Theard-Griggs. “I want our graduates to have platforms to share because it enriches not only them, but the children, families, and public that benefit from knowledge that expands the use of best practices in the field.”

Other Concordia-Chicago faculty and staff who participated in the CLEF conference include: Dr. Rachel Eells, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Katherine Brandon, associate professor of Teacher Education; Samantha Lazich, assistant professor of Reading in the department of Literacy and Early Childhood Education; Dr. Veronica Richard, associate professor of Reading, Language, and Literacy, and co-director, Center for Literacy; Dr. Lauren Wellen, professor of Education and program leader for masters and doctoral programs in Early Childhood Education; Dr. Christian Hauser, associate professor of Music; Samantha Goss, Art Education adjunct; and Cindy Rousseau, literacy coach.

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