Education Department

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 Robin Miller Young
Education Department Chair


Faculty and Administration

Robin Miller Young

Assistant Professor and Director of Early Childhood Education Program
Chair, Department of Education

Ed.D., Doctor of Education, Northern Illinois University
M.S., Educational Administration, Northern Illinois University
S.Psy.S., School Psychological Services, Central Michigan University
M.A., School Psychology, Central Michigan University
B.S., Education, Central Michigan University

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 Unit Head, 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.




‌Elisa Bott

Assistant Professor of Education

M.Ed., Education, Brock University (St. Catherines, Ontario)
B.Ed., Elementary Education K-8, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario)
H.B.O.R., Honors Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation, Certificate in Tourism and Recreation, Lakehead University (Thunder Bay, Ontario)
B.A., Geography/English, Lakehead University (Thunder Bay, Ontario)

Elisa Bott, an Assistant Professor of Education, has enjoyed a varied career of over 20 years in education in both the public and private systems in Canada and abroad. She began her career as an outdoor education teacher, then taught in preschools and elementary schools, was an instructional coach, and a curriculum consultant for both Literacy and Numeracy (Kindergarten through high school). She has presented at numerous international conferences on teacher professional development strategies and effective implementation of best practice in Literacy and Numeracy. While in Shanghai China, she worked as an Assistant Principal at the British International School of Shanghai. Lisa has published numerous articles and book reviews on teacher professional development. She has always been and remains a passionate advocate for effective teacher education and professional development. Her favorite role however, is that of Mom to her three boys.



Mary Cooke

Adjunct Professor of Education


 Debra Dew

Dean of the College of Social Sciences, Commerce, and Education
Professor of Education

Ph.D., Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Southern Illinois University
M.Ed., Education, Salisbury State University
B.Mus., Music Education, West Virginia University

Debra Dew has previous experience as a K-12 general and choral music teacher in the Maryland Public Schools. She teaches Secondary and K-12 Teaching Methods and works with secondary and K-12 student teachers. She also directs the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Rockford University, funded through the Library of Congress. Dr. Dew’s research interests include minority recruitment in education, the effect of primary sources on student achievement, and pedagogical content knowledge.


Lydia Gerzel-Short

Assistant Professor of Education
Phone: 815-226-3365 


Jacob Hardesty

Assistant Professor of Education

Ph.D., History of Education, Indiana University
M.A., Ethnomusicology, University of Limerick (Ireland)
B.M., Music Education, Ithaca College

Jacob Hardesty is an Assistant Professor of Education at Rockford University, where he teaches foundations courses in educational history and research methods.  He completed his Ph.D. in 2013 at Indiana University in educational history.  His work has appeared in the High Ability Studies, American Educational History Journal, a forthcoming issue of History of Education Quarterly, and edited volumes.  He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education.  Dr. Hardesty has a B.M. in Music Education from Ithaca College and an M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick, Ireland.  Before coming to Rockford, he taught music for four years in public and Catholic schools, as well as education courses at DePauw University and Indiana University.

Dr. Hardesty’s primary research interest involves the historical connections and tensions between popular culture and public education. His dissertation, which he is currently revising as a book, explores educators’ perceptions and responses toward the impact jazz would have on young people in the 1920s. More than a musical genre, jazz operated as the clearest diving line between a Victorianist ethos of restraint and an emerging modernist alternative. Despite a general dislike among both groups, university faculty and administrators allowed students more agency to shape the culture of their institutions than their secondary school colleagues, who sought to minimize young people’s exposure to jazz.




Michael Houselog

Director of Graduate Programs in Education

Ed.D., Educational Leadership, Aurora University
Ed.S., Educational Leadership, Drake University
M.A., Elementary Administration, Clarke University
B.A., Special Education, Loras College

As Director of Graduate Programs in Education, Dr. Houselog is responsible for the development and oversight of the graduate programs in education, including recruitment and general marketing. Dr. Houselog has served as a school district superintendent, a principal, and as a special education teacher in Illinois and Iowa prior to his appointment at Rockford University.  



Janet Kagan

Adjunct Professor of Education


Christopher McCullough

Associate Professor, Chair and Unit Head, Education


Susan Smith

Undergraduate Education Chair & Assistant Professor
Director, Elementary Education Program

Ed.D., Educational Leadership, Northern Illinois University
M.Ed., Educational Leadership, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
B.A., Education, Eastern Illinois University

I have been involved in the field of Education since 1974. During my time in Prek-12 education, I have been a high school English/Journalism teacher, an elementary principal, middle school principal, assistant superintendent and a superintendent. During my eighteen years in the classroom, I coached several sports including tennis, cross-country, and track. As an administrator for 15 years, I worked with all of facets of administration including the administration of the bilingual, Title 1, and school improvement grants as well as being in charge of the day-to-day operation of a building or district. Since I have come to Rockford University, I have continued to serve the field of education by preparing future educators by teaching classes in middle school methods, classroom management, and student teaching.



Lynn M. Stafford

Associate Professor of Special Education

M.A.T., Reading Specialist, Rockford University
M.S., Education, Administration, Northern Illinois University
M.S., Education, Special Education, Loyola University, Maryland
B.S., Theology, Way College of Biblical Research, Indiana
B.S., Physical Education, Towson University, Maryland

Professor Stafford brings to the Rockford University community teaching expertise from the regular classroom to separate setting special education classrooms; preschool to adult; recreation, camps and conferences; instruction to supervision.  She received the “Excellence in Teaching” award for Rockford University in 2013 and has been acknowledged by the Illinois Board of Education as “Those Who Excel” for classroom teacher.  She serves as Special Education Faculty in the Education Department providing instruction on exceptional children – Survey, Methods, Classroom and Behavior Management, Literacy, and Diagnosis. Lynn is a member of the Council of Exceptional Children, Kappa Delta Pi, Illinois Reading Council and the Association and Supervision of Curriculum Instruction.  She has served on accreditation university teams for ISBE, Content Test review teams for Pearson and is a qualified scorer for licensure for edTPA. She provides professional development for local agencies and serves as a tutor for the Rockford Area Literacy Council.



 Kimberlee Wagner

Assistant Professor of Education
Director, Reading Specialist program

M.A.T., Reading, National University, Costa Mesa, California
B.A., Liberal Studies, Concordia University, Irvine, California

Professor Wagner is an Assistant Professor in the Education Department. She teaches literacy courses in the early childhood, elementary, and reading specialist programs. Professor Wagner spent six years teaching elementary grades in Southern California. After moving to Illinois in 2003, Professor Wagner taught art, music, Title I Reading, and Reading Recovery in several local school districts.  Professor Wagner received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Concordia University in Irvine, California, and her MAT in Reading from National University in Costa Mesa, California. She is currently in the dissertation phase of an Ed.D in Reading, Language, and Literacy at National Louis University. Her research interests are guided reading and professional development practices for teachers.


Adjunct Professor of Education
Adjunct Professor of Education
Professor of Education
Adjunct Professor of Education
Adjunct Professor of Education


Education Department Staff

Laura Easton

Unit Accreditation Compliance Specialist

M.A.T., Teacher Leadership, University of Illinois-Springfield
B.S., Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign

Laura Easton serves as the Unit’s Accreditation Compliance Specialist, who oversees the assessment plan and federal and state accreditation projects for the Education Unit. Laura is also an early childhood adjunct professor. She has experience in teaching kindergarten and early elementary students in the greater Rockford area.




Elizabeth Johnson-Lovett

Licensure Officer

Elizabeth Johnson-Lovett is the Licensure Officer with the Education Department at Rockford University. Elizabeth started working at Rockford College, before we changed to Rockford University, in the Education Department, as the Administrative Assistant. After working with the Education Department and Education Students for four years, she took on the role as the Certification/Licensure Officer. Elizabeth is the liaison to the Illinois State Board of Education and entitles teacher candidates with their teaching licenses and endorsements.

Elizabeth has been involved in teaching and education for a number of years. She has a passion to help students learn so they can become productive and engaging community members. She currently serves as a school board member to a local school district and has been serving since 2005. Elizabeth has also been teaching CCD at her church for over 20 years. She has taught grades Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade.

By being employed at Rockford University, Elizabeth was able to complete her long time goal to complete her Bachelor’s Degree. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Management Studies in May 2011. Elizabeth proved to her two daughters that you are never too old to learn and achieve your goal. Both of Elizabeth’s daughters have attended Rockford University. Her oldest daughter is currently working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Management Studies while also working full time.




Maitreyi Lagunas

Director of Licensure Programs

M.A., Anthropology, McGill University (Montreal, Canada)
B.S., Education, Northern Illinois University
B.A., Philosophy, Macalester College

Maitreyi Lagunas has worked in private and public schools in DeKalb and Rockford, Illinois teaching elementary and middle school.  Maitreyi is presently pursuing her Reading Specialist.  She lives in Rockford with her husband and 3 children, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and exercising.