Ryan Carpenter: Compassionate leader, PSU doctoral student

Estacada School District Superintendent and PSU doctoral student Ryan Carpenter is making sure his students don’t go hungry during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carpenter

A recent article in the global, multimedia news organization “Time” highlights Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter’s compassionate response to the coronavirus quarantine.

Carpenter, also a doctoral student in the Educational and Leadership Policy program in the Portland State University College of Education, knew that half of the 1,700 students in his rural district (southeast of Portland in Clackamas County) qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Due to statewide school closures during the COVID-19 quarantine, students no longer have access to school breakfasts and lunches.

But Carpenter wouldn’t let his students go hungry. He established a food service delivery program for his district via school bus, with help of about 40 staff members.

“We have a lot of families that may not have the gas money to receive the proper nutrition for their children,” Carpenter said in the “Time” article.

But how did Carpenter become a compassionate leader in education? He will be the first to tell you that he followed in his father’s footsteps, in terms of his profession and his personal values. That means working hard for those you love and for what you believe in.

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PSU department chair lands president’s role in national organization

Curriculum and Instruction
Department Chair Will Parnell

Professor Will Parnell—Ed.D., chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department in the Portland State University College of Education—was recently named the president of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE).

Members of NAECTE organization advocate for improvements in early childhood teacher education, and the organization holds two conferences per year in conjunction with the nonprofit advocacy group National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).Parnell—whose two-year term as president of NAECTE began in November 2019—said he feels “quite honored to be elected to this prestigious role” during “remarkable and changing times.”

“We are in the middle of a dynamic period,” Parnell said, “when 14 organizations, including NAECTE and NAEYC, have launched a campaign called the Power to the Profession, which invites voices from every corner of our profession to birth a Unifying Framework that articulates the career pathways, competencies, qualifications, standards, compensation, and infrastructure for the education of young children.”

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PSU Professor co-leads international Research Symposium

PSU Professor Dilafruz Williams is the co-chair of the North American Association for Environmental Education Research Symposium. Photo by Jenny Treis Photography

Portland State University’s leadership in an international research event demonstrates the University’s alignment with the environmental values of area school districts and the community, said Dilafruz Williams, a Portland State University professor in the College of Education (COE).

Williams serves as co-chair of the 17th Annual North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Research Symposium, which will be held from October 13-14, 2020, in Tucson, Arizona. NAAEE is a nonprofit organization that fosters and advocates for excellence in environmental education. NAAEE has 54 affiliate organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico with more than 16,000 members, and the organization also has members in more than 30 countries.

Participating in this type of event sets the PSU COE on an international stage, but Williams said above all, it shows that the University is in touch with its community and the community’s values of sustainability and environmental conscientiousness.

“It says a lot, in terms of having our University being so well-connected to our city and community,” said Williams, also chair of the COE Educational Leadership & Policy Department. “I think it’s a synergy that people who know about Portland and Portland State can relate to.”

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PSU grad a crucial staff member at award-winning nonprofit

Award-winnings and those who empowered them are beaming at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in March. From left to right are: Eco-School Network Program Manager Rachel Willis, Jeanne Roy, Eco-School Network Executive Director Amy Higgs, and Henry Anderson.

When Eco-School Network earned an award at the Green Schools Conference and Expo this March in downtown Portland, Professor Dilafruz Williams was delighted to see Portland State graduate Rachel Willis standing onstage among the recipients.

“Of course, I was beaming with joy since she is a Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) alumna,” said Williams, chair of the Educational Leadership and Policy Department at the PSU College of Education (COE). “I’m so proud of her, and there were so many of our alumni there at the conference.”

Willis, the program manager at Eco-School Network, earned a Master of Science in LSE. LSE is a degree co-founded by Williams, which emphasizes social and ecological justice, relationship building and long-term sustainability.

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Mobility Matters organizers pivot during COVID-19 crisis

Mobility Matters organizers prepare for Wednesday’s big summit. From left: Becky Morton, a COE grad student , and Mobility Matters founder Amy Parker, a PSU assistant professor. Photo by Julie Wright

Within days of hearing that Portland State University was canceling in-person classes and events because of the coronavirus pandemic, Amy Parker, Mobility Matters founder, and her team chose not to cancel their event.

Instead, they transformed the all-in-person event into a virtual haven via Zoom video conferencing.

“This story is one of persistence and community,” said Parker, assistant professor at the Portland State College of Education.

Mobility Matters, held March 18, is an annual University summit that shares advances in technology and new approaches for transportation systems that benefit people with disabilities. This year, the event transformed into an all-day online forum featuring national experts.

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Mobility Matters Founder Amy Parker Shares How Family Nourished Her Passion for Inclusion

Top row: On the right is Mobility Matters founder Amy (Tollerson) Parker. Parker is with her siblings (from left to right): top row: John Tollerson; bottom row, Matt Tollerson and Melody Tollerson. They are playing Rook over Christmas at Melody Tollerson’s home in Tennessee. Photo by Abby Parker (Amy Parker’s daughter)

Mobility Matters founder Amy Parker, Ed.D., explains that the roots of her passion for inclusion are grounded in her family’s love.

Parkers recalls a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky in the 1980s with her parents and three siblings, including her sister Melody, who uses a wheelchair.

The park now has a webpage on its site devoted to accessibility, but at the time, there was only one usable trail for people in wheelchairs, and it was a short path. It didn’t matter. Her family simply went on that little trail together.

“For my parents, it wasn’t even a thought in their mind to go anywhere without Melody,” Parker said. “It was simply, ‘We’re only going to do things where she can go.’”

Parker’s sister and the way her family supported Melody influenced who Parker is today, she said. In turn, Parker’s devotion to inclusion has improved the lives of those around her. She is a PSU assistant professor in the Special Education Department of the College of Education (COE). In 2018, Parker founded Mobility Matters, a summit that updates attendees on advances in technology and new approaches for transportation systems that benefit people with disabilities. Slated to return on March 18 at Portland State University, the third-annual Mobility Matters will feature youth leaders and focus on youth themes, although the event continues to be aimed at people of all ages and abilities.

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