PSU College of Education shares memories of Assistant Professor Xander Davies

Assistant Professor Alexander “Xander” Davies died October 22. He was 35. Submitted photo

By Jillian Daley

Time is precious. Yet PSU College of Education (COE) Assistant Professor Alexander “Xander” Davies shared his hours unstintingly with students, faculty and staff.

Maybe that’s why Davies impacted so many people, even though he died so young. He passed away at age 35 on October 22 at his home. 

“Our thoughts and condolences are with his family as well as his friends, students and colleagues in our community,” COE Dean Marvin Lynn says.

Compassionate colleague

Soon after people learned of Davies’ passing, stirring comments from all of those whom he affected, especially his students, started flowing in to the university. Davies began teaching in the COE’s Curriculum and Instruction Department in fall,  2018.

Ross Faulkenberg, an Edison High School teacher and COE Master of Special Education student, was among those who offered a message about the impact Davies had on his life, speaking directly to the late faculty member.

“Your warmth and positive light will always stick with me,” says Faulkenberg, who took a class with Davies on strategies for working with diverse students this past spring. “You are such a breath of bright, fresh air that inspires and welcomes anyone who crosses your path.”

Davies earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Northern Iowa before obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida in 2018. He joined PSU shortly afterward, specializing in English as a Second Language (ESOL) and elementary education. 

“He was a promising researcher, teacher and servant leader,” Lynn says. “He was a beloved professor and a well-respected colleague. Although he had been teaching at PSU for only a couple years, his passion for teaching future teachers came through in his work every day.”

Curriculum & Instruction Chair Will Parnell says that Davies would often swing by his office to chat or to confer about serious conversations he’d had in class, including one discussion about the institutional and structural racism some students had experienced in K–12 schools. 

“He was focused on family involvement and community engagement in K–12 schools right at the time we met,” Parnell says. “As well, he had a love for working with people who wished to be educators foregrounding equity, dual-language and social justice in classrooms, schools and communities.”

Parnell says Davies relished other languages and cultures, traveling recently to Egypt and Cambodia. Davies wrote his dissertation about an elementary school in its first year of transitioning to a dual language program. Davies used the paper as an opportunity to thank teachers who work in what he called “one of the most difficult professions.” 

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A well-timed project: PSU partners on anti-bias education film

John Nimmo is working on an anti-bias film with colleague Debbie LeeKeenan. Photo courtesy of Nimmo

By Jillian Daley

The early 2021 release date of Portland State Associate Professor John Nimmo and colleague Debbie LeeKeenan’s anti-bias education film seems so perfectly in line with the current cultural shift that they couldn’t have planned it better had they tried.

In a way, it’s no coincidence. Advancing equity and eliminating discrimination are Nimmo and LeeKeenan’s longtime passions, so it’s no surprise that their voices should be among those crying out for change. It just happens that more people may be paying attention right now. By the end of this year, filming should be a wrap on Reflecting on Anti-Bias Education in Practice, which will feature an analysis of anti-bias strategies in early childhood classrooms. What’s different about this film is its direct focus on teachers’ own reflections, rather than solely relying upon experts and research. This offers crucial insight into the complexities of practicing anti-bias teaching in real-life settings.

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Curriculum and Instruction chair earns accolade for book on early childhood research

Will Parnell and Jeanne Marie Iorio, co-authors and co-editors of the award-winning Meaning Making in Early Childhood Research: Pedagogies and the Personal, visited Aarhus, Denmark, to speak on the Living in and with Documentation and the Out and About Projects. Photo courtesy of Parnell

By Jillian Daley

A prestigious national organization recently lauded Portland State University College of Education Curriculum and Instruction Department Chair and Professor Will Parnell for a book he co-authored.

Society of Professors of Education (SPE) announced on its listserv, website and Facebook page this July that it had bestowed an Outstanding Book Award Honorable Mention upon Parnell for Meaning Making in Early Childhood Research: Pedagogies and the Personal. He shares the recognition from SPE — among the nation’s oldest professional and academic associations — with author/co-editor Jeanne Marie Iorio. Iorio is a senior lecturer in early childhood education at the University of Melbourne in Australia and Parnell’s longtime colleague and collaborator. 

“I feel honored to be recognized for this hard work!” Parnell said. “Jeanne and I poured a lot of our time, energy and thinking into our Meaning Making book! We conjured with many early childhood scholars and their practitioners, children and communities to realize another intimately personal and artfully narrative research publication in early childhood!” 

Parnell added that SPE is a well-regarded society of mentors, which makes the honor even more significant for him. Iorio is ecstatic for the impact this recognition could have.

“I was just excited because it brings more attention to new ways of thinking, learning and researching!” she said.

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PSU department chair lands president’s role in national organization

Curriculum and Instruction
Department Chair Will Parnell

By Jillian Daley

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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Teacher Education Advocacy Group Recognizes College of Education

Marvin Lynn

Dean Marvin Lynn

The College of Education’s Secondary Dual Educator Program was one of two innovative educator preparation programs from across the United States featured in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Research to Practice Spotlight this year. AACTE is the world’s largest and most prestigious teacher education advocacy organization.

College of Education (COE) Dean Marvin Lynn said that this is “fantastic national recognition for the COE.”

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