I've always followed what I've been passionate about. And it's always come from a desire to create more educational opportunities for all kids. It comes down to social justice.

Janet VanLone

Each move in Professor Janet VanLone's career has been made with one goal in mind: to broaden the impact she can have on children's access to quality education.

"I first worked in social services with kids who were in and out of foster care and living in group homes," she says. "Some of those children had intensive learning and emotional needs that required support, and they didn't have access to it."

The inequities she witnessed inspired VanLone to seek teacher certification, so she could provide a better classroom experience for students who were disadvantaged or faced physical and emotional challenges.

However, once in the classroom — where she also worked with student teachers as a cooperating teacher and student-teaching supervisor — VanLone realized that teachers-in-training weren't always adequately equipped to manage diverse, inclusive classrooms. The issue, she says, contributes to low retention rates for educators.

"It takes a lot of work to become a teacher, and students see themselves staying in this field," she explains. "But teachers are leaving at high rates, especially in schools that serve low-income populations. And the problem also impacts students with disabilities."

VanLone believes retention rates can be improved by giving teachers-in-training "a solid set of classroom management skills that will enable them to grow and develop."

While effective classroom management strategies are taught at universities, student teachers and new educators are often overwhelmed when they first stand in front of the classroom. As a result, VanLone says, "Classroom management strategies often get pushed to the side."

To help remedy this problem, VanLone has developed a video-based self-assessment system for student teachers, enabling novices to analyze their classroom management skills and determine how to better incorporate proven strategies into their teaching.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide aspiring teachers with tools that will enable them to establish diverse, inclusive classrooms that run smoothly, so students enjoy positive learning environments — and teachers stay in the profession, gaining experience and providing continuity that's especially important for disadvantaged students and those with disabilities.

VanLone is also committed to teaching Bucknell students how to be effective advocates for policies that support children and schools, in keeping with her desire to have a broad impact on education.

"I am excited to be at Bucknell, and I feel privileged to have this opportunity to contribute to the field of education."

Posted September 2018