Coloring book helps African children with grief

Susan Halverson bookImages of grieving orphans in Third World countries are common on the television, and while they may tug at our hearts, it’s difficult to find an appropriate response or know how to help. But the GSE’s Susan Halverson-Westerberg did just that.

In 2013, Halverson-Westerberg visited Kenya, where she met with Reverend David Chuchu, director of the Diakonia Compassionate Ministry in Kisumu, which provides support for children who have lost their parents due to conflict, famine, or illness. Halverson-Westerberg’s local church, Zion Lutheran of Portland, Oregon, supports this mission, and she and her husband Jim traveled there to see the newly built Rescue Center.

Susan Halvorson-WesterbergHalverson-Westerberg had another reason for her trip. As a faculty member in the Counselor Education Department, she researches the impact of grief and dying on children and families. She wanted to use this trip as an opportunity to better understand how another culture deals with grief and to gain insight to develop supports and curriculum for students and children in her work locally.

“When I visited Kenya in 2013, I was very taken with the many beautiful orphans who had lost one or both parents due to illness and accidents. If there are no other family members left to help, even losing one parent can land a child in an orphanage or rescue center since that one parent cannot work and care for the child,” Halverson-Westerberg said. “I felt there was a need to give something to these children to help them feel they are still part of a larger family, since family is so important in Africa.”

Halverson-Westerberg decided to write a book that could be used as a tool to develop dialog with children who have lost one or both parents. Her book, Margaret’s Family Tree: A Story of Hope and Belonging (2016), is a coloring book designed to help children work through their grief in a constructive way and to help them acknowledge feelings about their lost loved ones. The book is written in both English and Swahili. It is illustrated in black and white by Oregon artist Edna M. Kennel. Halvorson-Westerberg is offering it free for duplication to anyone working with children, especially in African countries. A second version in color is planned for release soon.

Halverson-Westerberg is an associate professor and coordinator of the Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling specialization. She has a PhD in counselor education from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has taught at PSU since 1999.


Computer software engineer switches careers to teaching

Susan McCourt, ’15, has little classroom experience, but that’s not stopping her. As a former computer programmer, she knows all about solving problems. As a recent GTEP graduate, she is enthusiastic about her newest challenge—working with kindergarten students. She recently collaborated with Graduate School of Education Professor Sybil Kelley on an article that describes the work she did last year during her practicum for a science unit about sound. “Assessing the Unseen: Using Music and Literature to Access and Develop First Graders’ Knowledge of Sound Waves,” was published in the January 2016 issue of Science and Children and provides insight on her exceptional ability to differentiate instruction for students with various skills.

“I’m so excited and proud of this article,” said Kelley. “Susan is really an amazing educator and colleague!”

McCourt is a kindergarten teacher at Chenowith Elementary School in The Dalles, Oregon. Kelley is an assistant professor of science education and sustainable systems at Portland State University in the Leadership for Sustainability Education program. She also teaches the Elementary Science Methods courses in the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). Continue reading

GSE’s Marjorie McGee appointed to NWHF board

Marjorie McGee 2Marjorie McGee, research associate in the PSU’s Center for Student Success in the Graduate School of Education, has been appointed to the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF) governing board of directors. The NWF is a Portland-based nonprofit that convenes funding and support services for large and small organizations working in community health issues.

McGee is an essential component in the center’s work to provide quality program evaluation, consultation, professional development, and research services to PreK–12 schools, districts, and nonprofit organizations. Her strong background in research on peer victimization and psychosocial distress among youth with disabilities will be an important asset to NWF.

“This is a great time to be a part of Northwest Health Foundation,” said McGee. “The foundation made the key decision to build relationships with organizations and communities representing people with disabilities, and I can’t wait to be a part of that journey.”


New project focuses on technology instruction for nonverbal students

SamSennottsDaughterWiPad (2)Nearly one percent of the general student population has some kind of severe disability, such as autism, cerebral palsy, or a physical disorder, that makes verbal communication difficult. These children can be very bright and motivated, but because of communication difficulties, become frustrated and are at very high risk of falling behind or failing in school.

A new project in the GSE was conceived to help educators learn best practices in working with nonverbal children. The 3T Accessibility Project (Teaching, Technology and Theory) will connect PK-12 students with autism and other developmental disabilities to unique technology that will help them communicate, and ultimately, advance in school. The 3T Project is driven by research-based theory of technology integration. An emphasis will be placed on serving students who have disabilities that impact their ability to speak. Students will have new access to communication, which will improve academics, social and arts experiences, and in the future, vocational pursuits.

While significant advances in special education have occurred, too often individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities still lack access to this technology. This is due in part to cost, but also to teachers and other support team members’ limited knowledge of available options and how to best integrate rapidly advancing new technologies with quality teaching practices. With the advent of computers and mobile devices, even more tools are now available at a lower cost than ever before. The 3T Project will assist in helping teachers identify new tools and teaching techniques, while the project team collects data that will inform best practices, next steps, and future work.

“We are really interested in learning how to make this process work,” says Dr. Samuel Sennott, project director. “It’s about planning, goal setting, implementation, and using best practices.” Continue reading

Graduate School of Education 2011-12 Annual Report

What’s happening in the GSE? Find out in this year’s edition of the GSE Annual Report.

Our GSE alumni have earned many accolades this year. GSE alumni were well represented in a variety of professional association, state, and national teacher recognition programs, including by the Department of Defense and the Department of Special Education. For example, a GSE alum received the elementary, middle, and high school administrator of the year awarded by COSA.

GSE programs are also being recognized for their excellence. One of the newer programs, the American Indian Urban Teacher Program (AIUTP), has graduated its fourth graduates. Although a small number of graduates, the program is creating a significant increase in the representation of Native Americans teaching in Oregon’s schools.

In 2012, PSU awarded diplomas to 6,165 students at commencement ceremonies at the Rose Garden and on the Park Blocks. Only three students university-wide were selected as commencement speakers this year, and all three were from GSE programs. Read more about these amazing students in this year’s annual report.

Don’t miss the 2012 issue, which includes outstanding alumni, programs, faculty, staff, donors, and students.

2012 GSE Faculty Scholarship Series—Volume I

Lisa Aasheim announces a new book on clinical supervision

A valuable resource for counseling supervisors is now available from Professor Lisa Aasheim. Practical clinical supervision for counselors: An experiential guide, (2011, New York: Springer Publishing), was released in October.

Dr. Aasheim was particularly interested in gathering information that would bridge the gap between theories and ideas about clinical supervision and the actual practice of clinical supervision. She shares these results in a new book that will assist clinical supervisors across several helping disciplines. “Few aspects of the mental health profession are as illogical, inherently risky, and anxiety-provoking as clinical supervision,” she says. Continue reading