In Memoriam: Dr. Gayle W. Ecton

The WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and the WKU Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, & Research mourn the passing of retired professor and department head, Dr. Gayle Ecton, mentor to a generation of school superintendents.

Gayle W. Ecton, 75, of Bowling Green, passed away on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at the University of Louisville Hospital in Louisville after suffering a heart attack five weeks earlier. He was born in Winchester and was preceded in death by his father Eugene Ecton, who died in the Pacific Campaign during World War II, his mother Ruth Browne Hays and his Step Father, Robert Peyton Hays.

Upon graduation from the University of Kentucky in 1963, Gayle was a first Lieutenant for the Army and was stationed at Fort Killeen, Texas. Upon discharge from the Army, Ecton began a career in education that stretched for 48 years, including time as a teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal in Junior Highs in Louisville and as Superintendent in Owen County, Elizabethtown and Henderson County Public Schools. Dr. Ecton moved into higher education in 1996, serving as Assistant Dean and Professor at Midway College in Midway and then finished his career at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green from 1997 until his retirement in 2015 as an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research. Four years, from 2001 to 2004, Dr. Ecton was Interim Department Head and then Department Head at WKU in the same Department where he taught.

Besides his Bachelors Degree, Dr. Ecton also earned his Masters and Doctorate Degrees from the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

In 1992, Dr. Ecton was named the Kentucky Superintendent of the Year by the Kentucky School Boards Association and in 1996, was the Kentucky nominee for the National Superintendent of the Year for the American Association of School Administrators.

Source: J.C. Kirby & Son Funeral Chapels 


The WKU Board of Regents has selected Dr. Timothy Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas, as the preferred candidate to be the 10th president of WKU. Dr. Caboni will visit WKU and hold a series of meetings and campus forums Jan. 25 and 26. The Board will consider extending a formal offer to Dr. Caboni at its quarterly meeting on Jan. 27.

Dr. Timothy Caboni

Dr. Timothy Caboni

“Dr. Caboni has impressive academic credentials and brings a wealth of experience in external relations,” said Frederick A. Higdon of Lebanon, chair of the WKU Board of Regents. “He possesses all the attributes the Board was seeking in our next president, including the ability to lead the University’s next capital campaign and guide the creation of a new strategic plan. He has been a member of the faculty and served in academic administration, where he led efforts to increase the number of graduate and professional students in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. His experience in legislative relations and as a communications professional has resulted in significant enhancements for the University of Kansas. If ultimately selected, Dr. Caboni’s talent, innovation and energy will position WKU well as we embark on our next chapter, following a remarkable transformation during the last 20 years.”

Dr. Caboni has served as vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas since June 2011. He serves as KU’s principal spokesman, oversees the communications, marketing and advocacy efforts for KU’s five campuses – including KU Medical Center – and is responsible for the operations of Kansas Public Radio. He is also professor of educational leadership and policy in the School of Education.

Prior to his arrival at KU, Dr. Caboni was associate dean of the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University from 2005 to 2011. His duties included administration of the college’s 21 professional graduate degree programs; oversight of graduate and professional financial aid; providing support for outreach, partnerships and program development for the college; and leading the college’s communication and admission strategies.

“I am humbled to have been selected as the preferred candidate for the presidency of WKU,” Dr. Caboni said. “The prospect of returning to Bowling Green and my alma mater is an honor. I look forward to continuing WKU’s tremendous growth of the past two decades and leading this remarkable university to even greater national prominence.”

Dr. Caboni is originally from New Orleans and a WKU alumnus. He holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in higher education leadership and policy, a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications from WKU and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University. His career in higher education has spanned more than 23 years and includes positions in alumni relations, fundraising, teaching, academic administration, communications, marketing and government relations. He has published nearly 30 articles and one book. His current research is focused on higher education fundraising.

Dr. Caboni is married to Kacy Schmidt Caboni, who has been a development officer with Kansas University Endowment since 2006.

If selected, Dr. Caboni would succeed Dr. Gary A. Ransdell, who is retiring this summer after 20 years as WKU’s president. Dr. Caboni’s duties would begin July 1, 2017.

Mr. Higdon praised the work of the Presidential Search Committee, chaired by Dr. Phillip Bale. “Dr. Bale and the members of the search committee have dedicated countless hours to this process. I want to commend them for their tireless efforts.”

Forums, Jan. 26

  • 9:30 a.m.         Staff forum, Downing Student Union, 3002-3007
  • 1:30 p.m.         Student forum, Downing Student Union, 3002-3007
  • 3 p.m.              Faculty forum, Downing Student Union, 3002-3007
  • 5-6:30 p.m.     Public/community reception, Augenstein Alumni Center, Robertson-Feix Ballroom

Public Announcement/Media Q&A, Jan. 27

  • 2:30 p.m.         Augenstein Alumni Center, Robertson-Feix Ballroom

Contact: Bob Skipper, (270) 745-4295
WKU News

Helping Skills for Working With College Students

Helping Skills for Working With College Students: Applying Counseling Theory to Student Affairs Practice

Dr. Monica Burke, Dr. Jill Duba Sauerheber, Dr. Aaron Hughey (faculty in WKU Department of Counseling and Student Affairs) along with Dr. Karl Laves (Associate Director of WKU Counseling and Testing Center) have recently published a new textbook, Helping Skills for Working with College Students: Applying Counseling Theory to Student Affairs Practice.

A primary role of student affairs professionals is to help college students in dealing with developmental transitions and coping with emotional difficulties. Becoming an effective helping professional requires the complex integration of intrapersonal, interpersonal, professional awareness, and knowledge.

For graduate students preparing to become student affairs practitioners, this textbook provides the skills necessary to facilitate the helping process and understand how to respond to student concerns and crises, including how to make referrals to appropriate campus or community resources.

Focusing on counseling concepts and applications essential for effective student affairs practice, this book develops the conceptual frameworks, basic counseling skills, interventions, and techniques that are necessary for student affairs practitioners to be effective, compliant, and ethical in their helping and advising roles.

Rich in pedagogical features, this textbook includes questions for reflection, theory-to-practice exercises, case studies, and examples from the field.

Link to Purchase on Amazon

Congratulations, Graduates!

Congratulations to all WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences graduates who will be “walking the line” on Saturday, December 10, 2016! We are so incredibly proud of you, and know that you will go on to accomplish amazing things. Remember that we are here for you, even after you leave our halls.

“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.”
-Edward Koch


Make sure to share your graduation photos with us by using the hashtag #cebsgrad on your social media posts!

3 selected for 2017 class of Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame

3 selected for 2017 class of Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame

Members of the ninth class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame have been selected.

The three chosen by the statewide selection committee are Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield. Members of the 2017 Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame will be inducted during a ceremony scheduled for March 8 in Frankfort.

The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame was created in 2000 through a gift by late Gov. Nunn, who hoped to recognize the vital role that primary and secondary teachers in Kentucky play in the education of young people and the positive impact education has on the state’s economy. WKU was selected as the home of the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame because of its more than 100-year history in teacher education.

Opal T. Sibert

A native of Manchester, Opal T. Sibert began her life in education as a first grade dropout, but grew to become one of the most dedicated and influential educators in the Laurel County School System.

Opal T. SibertOpal T. Sibert

Sibert began her career in education in 1953 on the Clay County Board of Education, followed by teaching first and second grade students at the Franklin, Ohio, 2nd Street School in 1954-55. Sibert attended Sue Bennett College (1945-47, two-year teaching certificate), Eastern Kentucky State College (now Eastern Kentucky University, 1956-63, four-year teaching certificate), the University of Kentucky (1965-69, Certification, Speech Pathology), and Eastern Kentucky University, 1970-74, Certification, Supervision of Special Education).

In 1956, Sibert began her 30-year career in the Laurel County School System as a substitute teacher. She then became a homebound teacher from 1958-1968. In this role, Sibert changed the lives of many students, such as Sandra Stidham, who was unable to complete her education in the local schools. Stidham, who was born with a rare congenital bone disease, said: “She taught me to read and instilled in me a lifelong passion for books. She poured knowledge into me and encouraged me every step of the way. Most of all, she made me believe in myself.” Stidham was Sibert’s homebound student from first through 11th grades.

From 1969-1970, she taught special needs children in a renovated school room, going on to work as a speech therapist in the Laurel County School System from 1970-1980. Sibert served as a special programs coordinator from 1980-1986. She retired in 1986, but has continued to be involved in her community and in education.

During the course of her teaching career, Sibert was known to be both dedicated and extremely persistent, working for what was right and for the betterment of the lives of Laurel County students and families. “The word in Frankfort was, if I wanted something, they may as well give it to me because I would not hush until I got it,” Sibert said. “That was the way I felt about any programs that would help the children.”

Some of the many initiatives developed by Sibert include a work-study program that prepared students for future careers, a pre-vocational training program for ninth and 10th graders, the securing of grant money through the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) that provided students with special needs opportunities to become successfully employed before leaving high school, and an after-school daycare program, which is still in operation to this day. Sibert also had a hand in starting the Laurel County Chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, and in 1984 she was named an Outstanding Member of the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children.

Judy Smith, a colleague of Sibert’s for over 20 years, said: “I found her to never be satisfied with the present education system. She looked beyond the classroom toward providing a means to prepare students for life success.”

Ron Skillern

Ron Skillern, a native of Bowling Green, has taught in Warren County and Bowling Green Independent schools for over 30 years. Currently a social studies teacher at Bowling Green High School, where he has been since 1996, Skillern has led an interesting and influential career. Skillern attended WKU (B.A., History & Political Science, 1978), Vanderbilt University (M.A. in Education, 1984), and also received his Rank 1 in Education from WKU in 1987.

Ron SkillernRon Skillern

“I was determined to honor my family’s sacrifice and achieve both a college education and a good career,” said Skillern, who grew up a farmer’s son. “School has always been an ideal place for me, and from the first day I attended first grade, I was hooked.”

His teaching career began in 1985 at Warren Central High School, where he taught 10th-12th grade social studies. Skillern then moved to Greenwood High School, teaching 10th-12th grade social studies. Also during this time, in 1992, Skillern began teaching a three-week intensive course in the summers for students in seventh-10th grades, titled Nazi Germany & the Holocaust, through The Center for Gifted Studies’ VAMPY program (The Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth). He has continued to teach this summer course to this day. Skillern began teaching 10th-12th grade social studies at Bowling Green High School in 1996.

Skillern considers his greatest achievements to be building an Advanced Placement program, creating an ACT preparation program, and converting an old room used for a discontinued welding program into a classroom that serves more than 300 students per day.

Skillern has received many awards and recognitions over the years, including the Governors Scholars Program “Outstanding Educator Award” (numerous years), 1988 Teacher of the Year for Warren County Schools, 1997 Teacher of the Year at Bowling Green High School, a Distinguished Alumni Summit Award from WKU and The Center for Gifted Studies in 2015, and was also named 2017 Kentucky Teacher of the Year by Valvoline, Inc. and the Kentucky Department of Education.

Former students of Skillern stated: “Motivation; that is Mr. Skillern’s super power, that is where he works his magic. Quite simply, he is the best motivator I have ever met.”; and, “Mr. Skillern is a U.S. History teacher, but he recognizes that the most important lessons he can teach students are how to learn and how to believe in themselves. He doesn’t see students as who they are; he sees them as who they can be.”

Joe Westerfield

Joe Westerfield, a native of Hartford and a resident of Owensboro, spent 33 years as an educator in Daviess County schools before retiring in 2002. Westerfield has been, and continues to be, extremely active in political forums and activism over the years, serving on various related committees and registering over 5,000 students to vote. Westerfield earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky (1969), his master’s degree from WKU (1971), and his Administration Rank 1 from WKU (1973).

Joe WesterfieldJoe Westerfield

Westerfield began his teaching career in 1969 as a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Daviess County Junior High, where he remained until 1973. From 1973-2002, he taught 11th grade U.S. history and 12th grade American government at Apollo High School, with the exception of 1984-1985, when he served as Director of Instructional Support with the Kentucky Department of Education. At Apollo, Westerfield served as the social studies department chairman, was a member of its site-based council and sponsored many different clubs.

Westerfield immersed himself in social studies to better his teaching by attending numerous state and national social studies conferences and conventions. At Apollo High School, he organized many candidate forums for school assemblies and took students on field trips to Frankfort.

Westerfield also served four years as the Congressional District Contact Team Person for the National Education Association in the 2nd District, and was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Federal Funding for Education. Among his many awards and honors, Westerfield was chosen in 2004 as the winner of the Liberty Bell Award, which is given each year by local bar associations in conjunction with Law Day to honor outstanding citizens within the local community. The award recognizes outstanding service performed by a non-lawyer citizen who has given of his or her time and energy to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law, in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution.

Many of his former students and colleagues have wonderful things to say about his influence on them as an educator and an activist. Meg Lawson, a former student who graduated from Duke University majoring in political science, said: “There wasn’t a semester at Duke when I did not use knowledge gained in Mr. Westerfield’s class. Scratch that – there wasn’t a week that I didn’t use what he taught me. His boundless enthusiasm, which caused him at times to accidentally knock over his stool in excitement, are greatly missed.”

Keith Johnson, a counselor at Apollo High School, said: “Although retired from his job in education, Joe was seen supervising student teachers and interns for a regional university for eight years, serving on his local election board, as well as serving on other local and state boards. He is and always will be an advocate for educators.”

Another former student, Leigh Bowen, said: “I looked forward to Government class every day since the very first time I walked in the door. Joe Westerfield was just the kind of teacher that made you want to learn and enjoy government as much as he did.  It was his dedication to both the subject and the subjects in his class that made him the best teacher I have ever been fortunate enough to have.”

For information on the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, contact Tammy Spinks at (270) 745-4664 or

Media Contact: Kristy Ketterman, (270) 745-4020

Twice-Exceptional Students Seminar on November 11, 2016: Learn Strategies for Educating Gifted Young People with One or More Disabilities

Gatton Academy, Center for Gifted Studies

Twice-Exceptional Students Seminar
Brought to you by The Center for Gifted Studies

Learn strategies for educating gifted young people with one or more disabilities.

November 11
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Knicely Conference Center
2355 Nashville Road
Bowling Green, KY
Register FREE:

Meeting the needs of all students in today’s educational climate has become increasingly challenging for educators. The challenge is particularly true for a group of students whose needs require program options that include both special and gifted education. This workshop will:

  • Utilize the new National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice definition to explore characteristics, programming options, and strategies to support learning for this unique population of learners
  • Discuss collaborative approaches to building support
  • Reflect on what can be learned from twice-exceptional students and how in meeting their needs, we might better serve all students

*EILA credit will be available for educators

Daphne Pereles, M.S.

Daphne Pereles, M.S., is an independent educational consultant specializing in the areas of twice-exceptional and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). Over the course of her more than 30-year career, she has held positions as a general, special, and gifted education teacher, a district-level special education and gifted coordinator specializing in twice-exceptional, and as Executive Director for Learning Supports at the Colorado Department of Education. She has published multiple articles, most recently in Teaching Exceptional Children (March, 2015) and Gifted Child Today (October, 2015). She is an active member of the National 2e Community of Practice, a multi-organizational group founded to create a consistent message across educational groups regarding the support of 2e individuals.

For more information, or to register, please visit: You may also call The Center for Gifted Studies at (270) 745-6323 or email

2016-2017 CEBS Student Ambassadors

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Student Ambassadors serve as public relations and promotional representatives to academic programs within the College of Education & Behavioral Sciences at Western Kentucky University. The CEBS Ambassadors assist the College departments at events such as open houses, college fairs, campus preview days and the Academic Transitions Program (ATP). Additionally, members provide campus and building tours, participate in CEBS events, and serve as peer mentors to other students.

CEBS Ambassadors support the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences’ vision as “leaders in scholarship and innovation” and its mission of “empowering individuals to lead and serve our dynamic world.”

Meet our 2016-2017 CEBS Student Ambassadors:

For more information about the College of Education & Behavioral Sciences Student Ambassador program, please contact

Denise Hardesty

Office of Teacher Services

2053 Gary Ransdell Hall

(270) 745-2996

Andrea Ford

Office of Teacher Services

2051 Gary Ransdell Hall

(270) 745-6249

Teacher Education professor explores graduate course opportunities at Harlaxton

Teacher Education professor explores graduate course opportunities at Harlaxton

Dr. Lisa Murley, an associate professor in WKU’s School of Teacher Education, was awarded an International Activities Grant for an exploratory visit to Harlaxton College in Grantham, England.

Dr. Murley researched international opportunities for graduate students in the MAE Teacher Leader program and collaborated with Dr. Kay Gandy, WKU Teacher Education Professor who is teaching at Harlaxton College during the 2016 fall semester.

“Harlaxton College offers numerous scholarly and international opportunities for our graduate curriculum,” Dr. Murley said. “It is an exciting educational adventure for our students and faculty.”

Dr. Murley and Dr. Gandy met with Simon Hawkes, Harlaxton Programs and Events Planner, and Sheridan Edwards, Head Teacher at Denton Primary School, to gain ideas for the graduate study abroad course. Dr. Murley conducted a roundtable discussion with Dr. Gandy’s Harlaxton education students and shared insights of the teaching profession.

Harlaxton College is located in Grantham, England, about an hour north of London. The University of Evansville owns the 19th century manor, and WKU has a contract that allows students to study abroad there every semester.

The WKU School of Teacher Education in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences prepares students to serve as reflective decision makers in instructional settings for diverse learners. The professional education unit is a community of learners committed to lifelong learning in their own lives, as well as fostering a spirit of inquiry in the lives of others. Professional education faculty members provide a dynamic, intellectually stimulating environment that reflects current knowledge of how individuals learn and the best instructional practices to facilitate learning and development.

Contact: Kristy Ketterman, (270) 745-4020

WKU selected by Wallace Foundation for initiative to improve principal training

WKU selected by Wallace Foundation for initiative to improve principal training

7 universities will participate in 4-year, $47 million project

WKU is one of seven universities across the country selected by The Wallace Foundation to participate in a $47 million initiative to improve training for school principals.

WKU will spend the next four years working with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board to “conceptualize principal preparation and be more inclusive and cooperative with community, state and other stakeholders,” said Marguerita Desander, head of the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research in WKU’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

WKU will receive more than $1.7 million in the first year of the University Principal Preparation Initiative along with guidance on redesigning the program from the Foundation. At the end of the four-year initiative, an independent study by RAND Corporation will capture lessons from the participating universities and their partners to be shared with policymakers and practitioners across the country. (More: Wallace Foundation news release)

The WKU proposal will bring all 11 principal preparation programs in Kentucky together, Dr. Desander said. WKU will take the lead on helping redesign curriculum by looking at the changing needs of principals and school districts, what current programs do well and not so well, and developing a leadership tracking system.

“This will provide all kinds of information so we can understand different schools and dynamics, who is exceling, trends and patterns,” she said. “We will also be thinking about how we can scale this to the state level.”

While the program will “entail a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Dr. Desander said her department is excited and engaged.

“We have to be nimble,” she said. “Education is at a crossroads of accountability and we want the best possible preparation for our school leaders.”

The Wallace Foundation was interested in finding university programs that serve districts with large numbers of disadvantaged students whose schools could benefit from effective school leadership. WKU’s application was different in that it proposed partnering with GRREC, a cooperative of 42 school districts, instead of three individual districts.

“We know from research that school principals require excellent training with high-quality, practical experiences to become effective leaders, but most are simply not getting this,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Because many school districts don’t have the capacity to train as many principals as they need or to train future principals at all, the best way to reach more aspiring school leaders is through the university programs that typically provide needed certification. We are confident that the selected universities want to raise the bar for their programs, work in partnership with their local school districts and serve as models for other universities.”

Others selected were Albany State University in Georgia, Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut and Virginia State University.

“We are seeking to learn how these seven universities accomplish their program redesign as an important first step in improving how principals are prepared for the demanding job of leading school improvement across the country,” Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace, said.

The University Principal Preparation Initiative builds on 15 years of Wallace-supported research and experience about what makes for effective principals and their “pre-service” training at universities. The initiative seeks to explore how university programs can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals, and then to share these insights to benefit the broader field.

The foundation hopes the initiative can contribute over the long term to the development of a new national approach to preparing effective principals, one focusing on evidence-based policies and practices in three areas:

  • Developing and implementing high-quality courses of study with practical, on-the-job experiences.
  • Putting in place strong university-district partnerships.
  • Developing state policies about program accreditation, principal licensure or certification, and other matters (funded internships, for example) to promote more effective training statewide.

The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.

Dr. Sam Evans, Dean of the WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, stated “This initiative will be a game changer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond and were are very pleased to have been selected.”

For more information, please contact:

Marguerita Desander, (270) 745-6039,
Kristy Ketterman, (270) 745-4020,