Faculty and Staff

About the Faculty

  • All faculty are professionally and personally involved in the community.
  • Many are consultants for area school districts
  • All hold current Illinois teaching certificates.
  • All are recognized specialists in their field of study.
  • All have practical/applied experience in their field of study and teaching.

Karen Walker, Ed.D.
MAT Director; Assistant Professor of Education

Karen P. Walker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education. She has served as an educator and consultant in public and private schools and holds State of Illinois teaching and administrator certificates. Karen has a Master’s degree in Language and Literacy and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. She combines her experiences as a classroom teacher and school administrator with her knowledge of literacy and educational leadership to increase student achievement. Dr. Walker’s research interests are focused on policy advocacy and independent student reading. 


Karen Blake Ruffner, Ed.D. 
Assistant Professor of Education; edTPA Coordinator

Dr. Karen Blake Ruffner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education. She has served as an educator and consultant in public and private schools and holds State of Illinois teaching and administrator certificates. Karen has a Master’s degree in Reading and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. She has presented at both national and international conferences. Dr. Ruffner’s research interests are focused on standards-based instruction, authentic assessment, and education reform.


Debra Dew, Ph.D.
Professor of Education; Dean, College of Social Sciences, Commerce and Education 

Debra Dew is a former public school music teacher. She teaches secondary education methods courses and directs the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Rockford University, funded through the Library of Congress.



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. 


Elizabeth Johnson-Lovett
Licensure Officer


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.


Lynn Stafford, M.S., '14 M.A.T.
Director of Special Education Program; Associate Professor of Education

Lynn Stafford is the Director of Special Education Program which leads to an Illinois State Professional Educator Licensure 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.


Kimberlee Wagner, M.A.T.
Assistant Professor of Education; Chair, Department of Education 







Office of Graduate Studies Staff

Michele Mehren '13
Assistant Director of Graduate Programs







Sydney Holmgren '14
Training Coordinator/Assistant Manager