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Portia Downey calls it a career

Portia Downey
Portia Downey

Portia Downey has requested the query numerous occasions throughout her interviews of Educate U.S. candidates.

Why do you need to train?

She is aware of what most will say. I all the time needed to turn out to be a instructor. I really like working with youngsters. It’s often the identical.

Confronted with the identical query, nevertheless, Downey hesitates. She doesn’t have a profound response and, in reality, she solely has the inventory reply. “That’s onerous to reply,” she says lastly. “I simply all the time needed to be a instructor.”

However her eyes sparkle when she talks about why she loves educating, from kindergarten by way of graduate college students, and the superb position that educating has performed in her life.

Downey, coordinator of professional improvement within the School of Schooling, will retire Dec. 31 after a 23-year relationship with NIU. Her remaining day is Dec. 21, ringing the bell on a profession in schooling that started 43 years in the past.

Affirmation of her “why” got here as just lately as Dec. three, when she fortunately visited Rolling Inexperienced Elementary Faculty in Rockford. Samar Al-Zoubi and Amal Hindi, two of her Social Research Strategies college students in the M.A.T program, are educating there.

“They’re each Arabic and educating in dual-language lecture rooms. They’ve shared within the NIU Strategies class tales from their classroom and needed me to see what it was like in ‘actual time,’ ” Downey says. “Amal was ecstatic that I got here, and I skilled first-hand the classroom in motion.”

Hindi was educating math within the Arabic language; the first-graders, nevertheless, have been required to reply in English. “It was superb how the scholars might simply change forwards and backwards between the languages,” Downey says.

Downey teaches a Science Strategies class
for the MAT program at NIU-Rockford.

When the scholars started to learn aloud an Arabic-language ebook a few naughty canine, an lovable little woman walked as much as Downey and tugged on the leg of her pants. “Don’t fear,” the woman assured her. “I’ll inform you what the story says.”

“It’s a unique world,” Downey says. “You’re the one on the surface.”

Visiting Al-Zoubi’s classroom, Downey heard youngsters rely to 100 and sing songs. “It was actually cool,” she says. “It was an excellent feeling once I watched her and noticed that she was doing a few of the issues we had talked about in school.”

Raised in Loves Park, Sick., simply north of Rockford, the then-Portia M. Hanebuth graduated from Harlem Excessive Faculty in 1971 and enrolled at Rock Valley School.

So did her mom, whose identify can also be Portia M. Hanebuth. “She went again to high school when my two brothers and I have been in class,” Downey says.

Two years later, they collected their affiliate levels on the similar graduation ceremony, their equivalent names referred to as one after the opposite. “There was a bit newspaper article concerning the two of us graduating collectively. She nonetheless has it. She’s actually pleased with that.”

Mom headed for native Rockford School whereas daughter traveled south to Sangamon State College in Springfield, each on their option to incomes bachelor’s levels in Elementary Schooling.

Downey started educating in 1975 at Ralston Elementary Faculty in her hometown Harlem Faculty District 122. That was the identical yr her mom started a 31-year profession in Harlem, typically taking NIU Huskies as student-teachers.

“Once I began, I used to be educating kindergarten. I beloved educating kindergarten, and thought I’d by no means train anything. Properly, I ended up educating fourth, fifth, sixth, inclusion, undergraduate and graduate,” Downey says. “The NIU college students I speak to all the time say to me, ‘I’m solely going to show this grade,’ and I say, ‘Nicely, we’ll see about that.’ Each one of many ranges I taught, I beloved. The variability is sweet. It’s also possible to study rather a lot about your self.”

Downey taught science lessons about sound to Chinese visitors to the NIU College of Education.Downey taught science classes about sound
to Chinese language guests to the NIU School of Schooling.

She stayed at Ralston till 1983, when she took day without work to boost her personal youngsters, Justin, Kyle and Bailey.

Returning to educating in 1995, Downey moved to Machesney Elementary Faculty and took on a further position as coordinator of the Harlem Faculty District/Northern Illinois College Partnership. Her NIU teammate was a younger professor named Laurie Elish-Piper.

“Once I met Laurie, we began writing built-in models as a approach to mannequin greatest follow. Strategies instructors from NIU and academics from Harlem met by means of the summer time and put our concepts collectively,” she says. “You begin with a query about water high quality, for instance, after which all the things is built-in into it: science, social research, language arts and know-how. The models have been used as fashions for the pre-service academics and cooperating academics to make use of of their lecture rooms throughout their medical experiences.”

In 2001, Downey started a two-year depart from the Harlem Faculty District and have become a teacher-in-residence within the NIU School of Schooling.

“My job was to work with the strategies academics and bridge that hole between principle and apply,” she says. “No matter principle they have been educating, I might reveal what it will like within the classroom – how it will play out.”

A return to Harlem lasted one yr. By the point she got here to NIU full time and completely in 2004, she had earned an M.S.Ed. in Curriculum and Supervision and was near finishing her December 2005 Ed.D. in Curriculum Management.

Her first position was to handle Venture REAL, a $5 million, five-year Instructor High quality Enhancement Grant with the Rockford Public Faculties. From 2010 to 2015, she labored as the school’s Faculty-College Partnership coordinator and as supervisor of the PALS (Selling Achievement by means of Literacy Expertise) grant, one other challenge with the Rockford Public Faculties.

Later duties additionally included working with Educate U.S. college students, creating the Educate Native program, coordinating the Dean’s Partnership Grants and educating strategies courses herself.

Students in Downey's Social Studies Methods class threw her a retirement party.Bon voyage: College students in Downey’s Social Research Strategies class threw her a retirement social gathering.

“My real love is all the time educating, however by no means did I ever assume I’d find yourself educating science. They stated, ‘Are you able to train science strategies?’ I stated, ‘No, I don’t assume so,’ ” she says. “However now I feel it’s certainly one of my favourite issues! I really like to show science. You’ll be able to simply get the scholars probably the most engaged, and there’s a lot you are able to do.”

Proof of that enthusiasm was unimaginable to overlook in her NIU-Rockford MAT courses in science strategies as she demonstrated enjoyable, loopy and even Halloween-themed hands-on classes for her career-changer college students. Of their role-play as youngsters, they noticed precisely learn how to create comparable pleasure for studying of their eventual lecture rooms.

Downey took the identical fascinating strategy in different strategies programs.

She challenged college students to construct musical devices out of issues clearly not musical, to guess the needs of a bucketful of previous, rusty instruments she’d purchased at a flea market and to elucidate all the historic occasions in Billy Joel’s hit music “We Didn’t Begin the Hearth” after which to put in writing further verses – in the identical meter – that might catch the 1989 music as much as 2018.

“Educating the M.A.T. courses is an altogether totally different sort of educating due to the vary of the scholars. You might have a variety of distinction in expertise, age and tradition,” she says.

Downey and Jennifer Johnson, director of instructor preparation for the NIU School of Schooling, current alumna Ashley Van Sickle (proper) with the 2017 Excellent Starting Instructor Awards from the Illinois Affiliation of Schools for Instructor Schooling.

“One thing I had to determine once I was began educating the tactic courses was that it’s not about educating the content material. You’re making an attempt to mannequin for them methods to train,” she provides. “How are they going to study to do it until the expertise it themselves? That’s one of the simplest ways I might determine to show them. They favored experiencing the teachings the best way their college students would, and felt it was very sensible. They’d come away each night time with concepts they might take again to their lecture rooms and use.”

When a few of these college students who have been already educating on Sort 29 certificates returned with pictures of youngsters trying the identical actions, Downey knew that her philosophy was working.

It additionally reminds her of her time at Sangamon, now generally known as the College of Illinois at Springfield.

“The best way I discovered to show – and the actual cause I went right down to UIS – is as a result of it had a really progressive strategy. They believed in engaged studying, getting you out in to the faculties on the sensible aspect for plenty of expertise,” she says. “That was means again then, and now look how methods have come again round. Now it’s prefer it’s a brand new factor.”

Forty-three years later, as she and her mom look again at their time in schooling, they each concentrate on “the various college students we hope we actually helped” and the tasks and classes that the majority excited these youngsters.

Additionally they marvel at variety of youngsters in trendy lecture rooms and the expectations positioned on them by state and federal requirements.

Nonetheless, her recommendation to licensure candidates at NIU who will confront these challenges is straightforward. “I all the time inform them to construct a relationship with the scholars and to make it fascinating,” she says. “It’s not concerning the paperwork. It’s about getting the youngsters engaged and motivated to study.”

Who says that science classes aren’t enjoyable?

Downey and her husband, Greg, now are able to reside beneath the identical roof. He’s of their rental on Fort Rock Lake north of the Wisconsin Dells, the place he works from house in trusts and investments, whereas she’s dwelling with mother in Loves Park in the course of the week.

They’re additionally able to dote extra typically on their 4 grandchildren, all youthful than four.

Justin and Sarah are the mother and father of Owen. Bailey and Eric are the mother and father of Doug. Katie (Greg’s daughter) and Anthony are mother and father of Nikko and Novien. The couple’s different grownup youngsters are David, Kyle and Jennifer.

The Downeys additionally plan to journey, having whetted their urge for food with a Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest this fall. They’re leaving later this month for Belize and Nicaragua. Additionally they take pleasure in home holidays; a map of america hangs on their wall, they usually scratch off a state as soon as they’ve had two adventures there.

But schooling will stay her ardour, because of that quartet of toddlers.

“This can be a new era – as grandparents, we’ve got to maintain up! Even Doug, who’s 1, can perceive Spanish and English regardless that he can’t actually speak very a lot,” she says. “They’re educating him Spanish on the daycare! Bailey stated to him, ‘You need water? You need water?’ He checked out her and stated, ‘¿Agua?’ Will probably be the norm for the subsequent era to be bilingual.”

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