A Message from the Chair…

Welcome to the Rockford University Education Department.

The Rockford University Department of Education offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in early childhood education and elementary education, as well as a bachelor of arts degree in special education. We also offer a minor in secondary education for majors in biology, chemistry, English, French, German, history, mathematics, physical education, Spanish, theatre arts, and visual arts.

The mission of the Education Department at Rockford University is to prepare prospective teachers to empower their students' minds. The Education Department also recognizes that students, schools and communities further empower its work; hence, the 360-degree nature of our slogan, "Empowered Minds Learning Together.” The accomplishments of our most distinguished graduate, Jane Addams, most notably her establishment of Hull-House, are a testimony to the benefits that empowered people enjoy in all aspects of their daily lives. Educators realize that empowerment is a concept that adds present and future quality of life to the children they teach. An empowered mind enables a student to utilize knowledge at higher levels and apply it to real-life situations. An empowered mind permits a student to successfully maneuver the path to self-actualization. An empowered mind allows a student to perceive social injustice and strive to correct inequities.

Rockford University teacher education graduates have the tools and diverse classroom experiences necessary to empower the minds of their students. They display more than a passion for working with children, a prerequisite that is desirable but not sufficient. They know the content that they teach and how to present that content in ways that diverse students can understand and apply to the world in which they live. They integrate learning and behavioral theory and appropriate technology into all aspects of instruction. They also address social issues in their classrooms through differentiating instruction for their learners, treating their students in an equitable manner, and instilling respect for diversity of all kinds in their students. Finally, through lifelong professional development, teacher education graduates refine their "entry-level” skills. They demonstrate their dedication to the profession by a willingness to reflect about instruction and a desire to be lifelong learners. As educators ourselves, the Education Department must also learn from those we work with as a form of its own professional development.

Thank you for your interest in the Rockford University education programs.

Professor Kimberlee Wagner
Education Unit Head


Kimberlee Wagner
Education Unit Head, Department Chair & Assistant Professor of Education
B.A., Concordia University, Irvine, California
M.A.T., National University, Costa Mesa, California

Phone: 815-226-4178
E-Mail: KWagner@rockford.edu

Debra Dew, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Education

B.Mus., West Virginia University
M. Ed., Salisbury State University
Ph.D., Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Phone: 815-394-5204
Fax: 815-394-5201
E-mail: DDew@rockford.edu

Debra Dew serves as the Director of Elementary Education. In addition to securing clinical placements for students seeking elementary certification, she teaches the middle school programs class, the elementary student teaching seminar, and the field experience class. She has extensive experience as a K-12 music teacher in the Maryland Public Schools. She also directs the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Rockford University, funded through the Library of Congress.

Dr. Dew received her BMUS from West Virginia University, her MS from Salisbury State University, and her Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. She is a member of the Association of Teacher Educators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and Phi Delta Kappa. 

Lydia Gerzel-Short, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor of Education
B.A., Northern Illinois University
M.S., Northern Illinois University
Ed.D., Northern Illinois University


Jacob Hardesty, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Education

Jacob Hardesty is an Assistant Professor of Education at Rockford University, where he teaches courses in educational history and research methods. He completed his Ph.D. at Indiana University, having previously taught music for four years in public and Catholic schools. His work has appeared in the journals High Ability Studies, American Educational History Journal, Philosophy of Music Education Review, and the edited volume Learning the Left.  His primary research interest involves the historical connections and tensions between popular culture and public education.


Assistant Professor of Education
B.A., Eastern Illinois University
M.Ed., Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Ed.D., Northern Illinois University
Phone: 815-226-3337
Director of Special Education Program
Associate Professor of Education
A.A., Harford Junior College
B.S., Townson State University
B.S., Way College of Biblical Research
M.S., Loyola College
M.S., Northern Illinois University

Phone: 815-226-4181
E-mail: LStafford@rockford.edu

Lynn Stafford is the Director of Special Education Program which leads to an Illinois State Professional Educator License as a Learning Behavior Specialist 1. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education and received the "Excellence in Teaching and Campus Leadership Award” at Rockford University in 2013. Lynn has extensive experience in classroom teaching recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education in appreciation of "Those Who Excel” in teaching for commitment and service. She has expertise in the administration and development of special education programs. 

Robin Miller Young, Ed.D.
Director of Early Childhood Education Program

Dr. Robin Miller Young, Ed.D., is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Early Childhood Education (ECE).  She provides program leadership, designs and teaches coursework and aligned clinical experiences, and supervises student teachers to prepare the next generation of exemplary teacher-leaders who obtain the ISBE PEL and Gateways Level 5 Credentials.   Robin is actively engaged in local-, state- and national-level early childhood teacher preparation and leadership development activities.  This is accomplished through collaborative efforts that span the early childhood, school psychology, special education, and leadership fields based, in part, on her formal training and experiences in meeting children’s and families’ needs in these roles.  Specifically, she recently served on the ISBE Early Childhood Advisory Group (ECAG) to support development of the proposed changes in Illinois Early Childhood Teacher licensure requirements.  Additionally, she is a past staff member of the Center for the Study of Education Policy (CSEP) at ISU, where she was the first author of the LINC Toolkit for Redesigning Principal Preparation Programs, working to ensure that P-12 principals knows how to meet the needs of our youngest learners, those who are ELLs and those who have disabilities or are at-risk of developing disabilities.  Finally, Robin and Professor Kim Wagner, Education Department Chairperson, are successful grant recipients who will be collaborating with RU colleagues and community partners to pilot new Gateways credentials through 2016 to continue meeting the need for high quality staff to meet the early care and education needs in our community.  

Her scholarship includes grant-funded work, resulting in presentations, published curricula, book chapters, and data-based and practitioner-oriented articles focused on matching children’s needs to a variety of evidence-based interventions, such as high quality universal, embedded, scaffolded, and teacher-directed instruction.  As Past President of the Illinois Division for Early Childhood (IDEC) and currently, as the MTSS/RTI in EC Program Consultant with the Early Childhood Center of Professional Development (funded by ISBE), Robin continues to promote policy development and administrative practices to ensure ALL children and their families can access high quality education and support services matched to their needs.