2017 Faculty Awards Reception Honors CEBS Professors

On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Western Kentucky University recognized several faculty members across campus, including honorees from the College of Education & Behavioral Sciences, at the annual Faculty Awards Reception in the WKU Faculty House. Each year, select faculty members from each college are recognized in the areas of teaching, research and creativity, public service, student advisement, and part-time teaching.  The following faculty members from CEBS were chosen and honored this year:

Mr. Rico Tyler (School of Teacher Education) – Teaching Award
Dr. Monica Burke (Counseling and Student Affairs) – Research/Creativity Award
Dr. Susan Keesey (School of Teacher Education) – Public Service Award
Dr. Pitt Derryberry (Psychology) – Student Advisement Award
Ms. Juanita Cole (School of Teacher Education) – Part-Time Teaching Award


WKU joins Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate

WKU is one of 22 new graduate schools of education to be accepted into the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate as members of the consortium.

The institutions join more than 80 current schools of education in the important work of redesigning professional practice preparation in education for the improvement of Pre K-20 education and the organizations that support it. CPED institution members and their faculty engage in a model of professional development to learn from and with each other the best ways to design professional preparation.

“Although I believe our current program aligns to the ‘spirit’ of many of the guiding principles and design-concepts of CPED, I look forward to the opportunity to learn about models of excellence within CPED by which to evaluate and improve our program,” said Tony Norman, Director of WKU’s Educational Leadership Doctoral Program.

Providing essential leadership and representation at CPED meetings will be Sam Evans, Dean of the College Education and Behavioral Sciences; Margie DeSander, Chair of the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research; and Dr. Norman, who serves as Principal Investigator.

“WKU being selected to join the CPED Consortium could not have come at a better time for our Educational Leadership Doctoral Program,” Dr. Norman said.

Read the full story: WKU joins Carnegie Project

Contact: Tony Norman, (270) 745-3061

Class of 2017 inducted into Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame

Members of the ninth class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame were inducted March 8 in Frankfort. From left: Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield. (WKU photo by Bryan Lemon)

Three new members of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame were inducted Wednesday (March 8) during a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

Members of the ninth class, chosen by a statewide selection committee, were Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield.

Sibert, who spent most of her 30-year career as a homebound teacher, special needs teacher and speech therapist in Laurel County, said she found satisfaction every day in helping children succeed.

“When I went to homebound I got as much satisfaction from helping the children as the parents. They were so thankful, appreciative,” she said.

Sibert, who retired in 1986, was drawn to a career in education from the age of 4 when a cousin who was a teacher lived with her family in Clay County.

“He taught me how to read and stuff, say my ABC’s,” she said. “He became one of my principals one of the first years I taught.”

Skillern, who teaches social studies at Bowling Green High School, has received numerous awards in a teaching career that has spanned more than 30 years, but he is quick to share the credit.

“As a high school teacher, I stand on the shoulder of giants,” he said. “Every preschool teacher, every elementary teacher that has laid the foundation for whenever we get those children.”

Skillern said he still enjoys making an impact on students’ lives and preparing them for the future. “From the time I walked into school, I’ve been hooked,” said Skillern, who was named the 2017 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. “It is such a dynamic day. No day has ever been the same.”

Westerfield, who taught social studies for 33 years in Daviess County schools, said he was thrilled and humbled by the Hall of Fame recognition.

“Just to be considered is an honor,” he said. “To be selected as one of the winners is mind boggling.”

Westerfield, who retired in 2002, said he was lucky to have a job that he enjoyed. “I knew from a long time ago that this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had a great career. I loved it.

The 2017 class was inducted by Dr. Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, and WKU President Gary A. Ransdell.

“On behalf of everyone in Kentucky, thank you for what you have done and continue to do in our classrooms,” Dr. Ransdell said. “What a special moment. I’m proud to be part of this ceremony.”

Sen. David Givens and Rep. John Carney offered congratulations on behalf of the Kentucky Senate and House and thanked the inductees for the impact they’ve had on thousands of students and their families.

“Because of the impact you had on them, they came out a different person,” Givens said.

“Thank you for your service to your communities,” Carney said, “and most of all to the children of the Commonwealth.”

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.

Nominations for the 2018 Class of the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame are being accepted. The deadline is July 15. For information, visit http://www.wku.edu/kythf/nominations.php

For information on the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, contact Tammy Spinks by phone at (270) 745-4664 or by email at tammy.spinks@wku.edu.

More: Video from the 2017 induction ceremony.

Alumni Spotlight: Kurron Carmichael

When recent graduate Kurron Carmichael discusses his goals, you can see the joy in his smile and hear the wholeheartedness in his voice. “My goal for my career is to change the world. I know a lot of people say this is what they want to do, but not many of them have the opportunity that I have to do so every single day,” said Carmichael, a Louisville native who studied middle school education and mathematics at Western Kentucky University. “Being an educator in today’s society is just as important as being a parent, so I truly have a chance to accomplish my goal.”

Carmichael’s other goal is to be the best teacher that he can be for his students and for himself. “For me it has been a goal for a while to be an educator, as a young African American male that did not grow up in an environment built for success, I have a story to tell. I can reach students through my story, and show them that I truly care for them and their well-being.”

At WKU, staff members are aware that everyone’s route to teaching is different. Because of this, the Office of Teacher Services assists with field experience, student teaching, teacher certification, minority recruitment and retention, advising, alternative routes to the teacher certification program, and TEACH grants. Carmichael, like many of WKU’s minority students, participates in programs to assist with recruiting minority educators.

“My experience at WKU has had its ups and downs. From not having the grades to stay in school after two semesters, to persevering through the struggles, and to now graduating and pursuing my career. Overall, my experience has been worth it, and I would not change anything about my time at WKU, not even graduating sooner. I have had tremendous help from the African American leaders on campus by just keeping me focused, confident, and ready to battle every day for my education. I have also received so much help from my program, specifically Karen Long.” Long is a coordinator for SKyTeach, a mathematics and science teacher education program at WKU.

“A big resource for me were the professors I had in my time at WKU. One professor sticks out above the rest in a great way, Natasha Gerstenschlager (Dr. G). I do not know where I would be without these people, but one thing is for sure, I would not be where I am today.” Dr. Natasha Gerstenschlager is an assistant professor of mathematics.

To those considering an education at WKU, Carmichael says, “You have a great opportunity to become someone special. This campus is special; come get involved and love every minute of your time on the hill as I did.

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 stepfather, 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. For 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 tammy.spinks@wku.edu.

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