Miller Hall: Woodring’s past, present and future
In August 2010, Phase I of the Miller Hall renovation project was completed and Woodring faculty and staff moved into offices on the side of the building commonly known as “the 60s side.” Shortly after move in day, demolition began on the portion of the building built in the 1940s, which once housed Western’s Campus School.
“It’s still a construction zone,” Michael Henniger, Associate Dean of Woodring, says. “It’s been noisy and dusty this past year and it will be noisy and dusty next year.”
Henniger’s temporary office overlooks what, for some, is Miller Hall’s most unique addition.
“A green growing roof,” David Willett, Western’s Project Manager on the renovation, says. “For those offices on the interior of the building, it will be like looking out on a little meadow.”
Another addition resulting from the renovation: light, and lots of it. Dozens of light wells filter light throughout each floor of the building. On the top floor, the roof was raised to allow for larger windows and all of the electrical lights in the building are controlled by daylight sensors. The windows in Miller Hall offices open as well, allowing for fresh air—a luxury faculty and staff insisted on having.
“I’m most impressed by the lighting in the hallways of the Phase One project,” Henniger says. “It gives the building an open feeling.”
Western President Bruce Shepard supported the renovation project, stating in a press release from the start of construction in August 2009: “We appreciate the support from the Legislature for this important and major renovation project for Miller Hall. It is critically needed and will enhance the great work being done by Woodring College of Education and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.”
While the building sounds and looks like a construction zone on the inside, on the outside Miller Hall remains unchanged. In fact, great care was taken to ensure the historical context of the building was preserved. Willett calls projects like Miller Hall “legacy projects” and says it’s one of those unique challenges that come with working on a college campus.
“Miller Hall is still part of the campus fabric,” Willett says. “It’s our responsibility to preserve the integrity of the buildings on campus so alumni can return and enjoy them as they remember them. Everyone at Facilities Management is excited and proud of this project. We’re giving this building another 60 years of life. Western started as a teachers college, the renovation supports the legacy of the preparation of new educators and human service professionals.”
With three new classrooms and more than 200 new classroom seats added, Miller Hall will offer the welcoming and warm learning environment that the Woodring College of Education has always fostered. Open collaborative spaces—once non-existent—throughout the building provide a place for faculty and students to hang out and be casual between classes. Henniger and others at Woodring feel the learning experience will be enhanced greatly.
Considering a visit back? Be prepared.
“Former students won’t recognize it here,” Henniger says. “It will be especially important for Campus School alumni to see the new space in a year. A lot of people have fond memories of Campus School and we’ve worked hard to retain as much of the flavor as possible.”
A note on funding: Western has both an operating budget—which keeps the university going on a day-to-day basis, paying salaries, utilities, supplies, etc.—and a capital budget, which is used for building projects such as renovation or new construction of campus buildings. The money for these comes from two different funding sources: operating money comes from state operating appropriation and tuitions; the capital budget is primarily financed by long term state-issued bonds, a financing similar to a home mortgage. The state does not allow capital appropriation to be used for operating expense. You can learn more about the $60.4 million project here: http://www.wwu.edu/depts/fm/Services/FDCA/PublicWorks/Projects/PW465/index.html
What happened when Yelena stopped crying and started learning
In 2003, 19-year-old Yelena Davidenko woke up from a 14-hour cranial surgery. Fearing she had lost her sight as a result of the surgery, she waited to open her eyes. It was pitch black and then someone told her about her eyes.
“My eyes were open,” Davidenko recalls. “In fact, they were wide open.”
Davidenko’s worst fears were realized; she was blind.
And it wasn’t her first cranial surgery that left her blind, it was her eighth.
“I had a tumor behind my eyes and nose,” Davidenko says. “It was most likely from Chernobyl. It wasn’t cancerous but it kept growing.”
Davidenko had spent extensive time in the United States for surgeries as a child. When she was 11, living in Kiev, Ukraine, she woke up one morning without sight. It was a long and painful road, six years filled with surgeries and trips to Pennsylvania to operate on the tumor.
As a result of the operations and time away from Ukraine, Davidenko missed significant amounts of schooling. She remembers the three years she spent crying because she was missing school in Ukraine but one day the crying stopped and the learning began.
“I realized that whatever happens happens,” Davidenko says. “In school I was like a sponge, I couldn’t learn enough!”
Her family moved from the Ukraine to Seattle in 2000, when Davidenko was 16, and she continued to be seen at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She had two more surgeries, and both times the tumor grew back as it had done before. When she turned 18, Davidenko decided she had had enough surgery.
“I wanted to die every time I heard the tumor was still growing. I was sick of it.”
Previously her mother would not consent to the risky surgery to remove the entire tumor. The first risk was death, the second was loss of sight, but it meant no more surgeries. Davidenko was left visually impaired after the first surgery she underwent at age 11. She decided she would risk losing her sight entirely if it meant no more surgeries.
She would never see again. Because she had missed so much school over the years, Davidenko was then 19, blind and a junior in high school. Today, in her last year in the Woodring Special Education Program, Davidenko recalls the words of encouragement she received from one of her high school teachers.
“She told me ‘you can do whatever you want, never give up, there’s always a way.’ I wanted a quality education so after high school I went to Everett Community College.”
With persistence, Davidenko overcame the obstacle of learning how to do everything in her life from square one. She learned to cook, iron and sew all over again, and for the first time, she learned to use a computer. She also graduated from Cascade High School with honors.
At Everett Community College she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society of the two-year colleges, and graduated with high honors in 2008. She then enrolled in Western’s teacher preparation program at the Everett Education Center. She is the first recipient of the Rob Brand Elementary Education Scholarship and the C.M. and M.M. Jordan Scholarship for Teacher Candidates with Disabilities Scholarship, as well as other awards.
It goes without saying that she is no longer a stranger to the computer.
“Computers are the door to the world for me,” she says. “I'm very excited about teaching students computer skills and working with blind students in the future.”
When she isn’t pursuing her passion as a lifelong learner, Davidenko can be found shopping for clothes with her friends at the mall, researching topics of interest online, corresponding with friends via email or spending time with her family.
“I am a happy person,” Davidenko says. “I want to show blind students they can enjoy life the same as sighted people.”
Sustainability and Education
In May, Dr. Victor Nolet traveled to Paris to speak on “Pedagogy of Education for Sustainable Development” at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) symposium. Nolet was invited to speak when Western Washington University was admitted to Phase II of UNESCO’S International Network of Teacher Education Institutions—a program focused on reorienting teacher education to address sustainability.
Here, Dr. Nolet shares his experience and expertise in sustainability education and offers insight on how to assess orientation of education to sustainability.
Q: How did you become interested in reoriented education to sustainability?
Q: So many people hear “sustainability” and immediately think “environment.” What does sustainability mean for education and what impact does it have on students?
Q: How does sustainability education span beyond the classroom?
Q: What will help Woodring continue to focus on sustainability in education?
Q: How will you know when your efforts to reorient education to sustainability are successful?
Facilitating change in India
A solid liberal arts education led him to Western. An interest in social justice led him to India.
Olympia native Chad Robertson (’06) first kindled his interest in development in India while studying Political Science at Western. Though he spent two years at the University of Montana, a smaller, more personalized experience attracted him to Western. At Western he decided to study abroad to explore the socio-political aspects of India and in 2006 he spent six months in Jaipur, Rajastan.
It was his experience in Jaipur that inspired him to be the change he wanted to see in the world.
“Spending time in Indian government schools opened my eyes,” Robertson said. “The school structures were horrid, the teachers were apathetic, and the kids deprived of a quality education and the opportunities it brings. During my time in India I grew frustrated in seeing so many school-age children who weren’t in school. I felt fortunate for the resources I had and after that six month study abroad program I knew I wanted to do something to impact the lives of Indian children.”
So he came home, finished his studies at Western and went back to India through a William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India from the American Indian Foundation.
He chose to work in the field of education. That’s how he stumbled upon Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya (APV), a school located in a remote village in the Indian Himalayas. “It’s a very alternative school,” Robertson says. “Teachers lives are devoted to changing the empowering children through education and mindfulness.”
He spent one year in their ashram, or shared living community, meditating for two hours a day with his colleagues and the children. While most of the teaching staff hailed from remote areas of the Himalayas, Chad said he felt completely embraced by the APV community. In addition to meditation, the curriculum at APV is student driven, teaching is inclusive and experiential, and school is conducted seven hours a day, six days a week.
“I was surprised by how quickly I was totally integrated into their society and how the school was so different than other Indian schools I had seen,” he says. “Teacher-student relationships are key. Unlike most schools in India, at APV everyone is equal and teachers are receptive and willing to learn along with the children.”
Alternative schools in remote villages in the Indian Himalayas are not immune from facing many of the challenges schools in the United States are facing: budgetary constraints. After spending a year at APV, Chad returned home and made a documentary film to spread the word about the school and its teaching/learning practices. Since the film’s release in 2009, the film has been shown on Western’s campus, as well as college campuses in Oregon, Rhode Island, and in the UK in Cambridge, London and Scotland.
“It’s really generating interest in an alternative model,” Roberston says. “All of the teachers at APV work on a volunteer basis so I created the film to create awareness and help raise funds to attract and retain teachers.”
It didn’t take long before Robertson missed the community he had become a part of. After taking his film on tour to Bellingham, England and Scotland, he returned to India, to APV to set about creating a plan for expansion and development. His goal: to return to Western and earn his Masters in Education.
Chad applied to the Masters in Teaching (MIT) Program at Woodring, a program with competitive admission which requires a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, high test scores on the GRE or MAT tests, passing the Washington Educators Skill Test and submitting a resume, recommendations and interviewing with Woodring Faculty.
He got in. Then India called.
“I was enrolled and ready to return to Bellingham when I received an email from a friend with an exciting opportunity in India,” Roberson said. I deferred my admittance into Western for one year so I can return to work in India again.”
On October 15, 2010, Robertson boarded a plane bound for India to work with a program that seeks to strike collaboration between urban private teachers and rural government teachers in an effort to improve the quality of classroom instruction.
Is he changing the world?
“I’m playing a role,” Robertson says. “I don’t feel like I’m changing the world but I’m helping enable people to change their own realities. The real change has to come from the teachers and children in those schools.”
Did Western play a role in any of his endeavors?
“Western definitely played a role in all of this,” Roberston says. “I worked with some amazing professors at Western that inspired me to work in this realm. They gave me individualized focus and helped me create my own worldview. I’m amazed at how helpful some have been in supporting my efforts beyond Western.”
Robertson looks forward to his return to India and after that, he looks forward to playing a more definitive role in changing the face of education in the U.S. Through it all, he’ll remain dedicated to his own ethos.
“I know that government schools that fail to educate their society’s disadvantaged children is not just an Indian phenomenon. But I know change has to come from within. I’m ready to come back to the United States to help facilitate that change.”
Learn more about APV school in India, watch a trailer and purchase a copy of Chad’s film, Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye at www.apvschool.org All proceeds from the film go directly to APV teachers and students, recently devastated by historic floods from the monsoon season. Chad has also co-founded the Himalayan Progressive Education fund, which aims to support APV and educational reform in the Indian Himalayas. You can learn more about HPEF at http://www.albuquerquefoundation.org/donate/hpef