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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
April 24, 2007
DeKalb — A longtime chemistry professor now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will lead the Northern Illinois University College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning.
Paul Kelter, who arrives in July, says the opportunity to connect with students on a personal level is one he’s desired for more than a quarter-century across several campuses and appointments. Each “huge” lecture to 350 students of “General Chemistry” provided that reminder.
And, he adds, “education is my natural home.”
“I wanted something different than to be at a place where the goal is to be away from the process of education,” Kelter says. “My goal was to come to a place where education – the life of the mind – is the focus.”
His 26-year career as a chemistry professor with a specialization in chemical education laid a good foundation for his new work, he says, as he spent many years working with future science teachers.
“If we look at education broad-based, we’re looking at this general issue, particularly at the college level, of teaching students to think independently and intellectually. It’s the same at the pre-college level,” he says. “Working with students to develop their understanding of the world and to see the world in interesting ways, what I call the life of the mind, is what we do in school.”
Dean Christine Sorensen said Kelter’s “enthusiasm is contagious.”
“He brings a wealth of experience to NIU – in research, in grants, in teaching. He is very excited about the opportunities here and about the people. We have great faculty and staff here and I think Paul will be a wonderful addition,” Sorensen said. “I think he also can help us strengthen the bridges between Liberal Arts and Sciences and Education as we look at the national and state contexts and the need for us to work collaboratively to address the needs of schools.”
Kelter received his bachelor’s degree from the City College of the City University of New York in 1976 and was awarded a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry in 1980 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Before coming to the University of Illinois in 2003 as professor and director of the General Chemistry Division, he worked as an educational specialist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and held the M. F. Rourk Chair in Chemistry and Chemical Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The author of several chemistry textbooks is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Distinguished Teacher/Scholar at the University of Illinois and the recipient of several awards for outstanding teaching.
Kelter will replace Pam Jackson, who served the Department of Teaching and Learning for one year as interim chair. Jackson is a retired professor from the Department of Communicative Disorders in the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Although mostly known as the department that prepares elementary school teachers, TLRN also is home to faculty of early childhood education, special education and curriculum and instruction.
The new chair already has established e-mail contact with many of the faculty and professional staff, and is looking forward to meeting the seven or so new faculty members coming aboard in the fall.
His goal for all, he says, is to support their professional and personal goals.
“Whenever you have so many young, enthusiastic faculty, there are so many opportunities. This is just a place where opportunity abounds,” he says.
“We want to make sure that TLRN continues and enhances its involvement in the surrounding community and statewide. We have great faculty who are deeply interested in state and national programs, and I’ve discussed some new ideas. My personal interest being in science education, I would love to develop programs related to that.”
NIU’s abounding opportunities extend beyond campus, Kelter says.
“NIU is a vibrant place. It’s a diverse place. It’s a place whose student body reflects Illinois. I don’t view NIU as a castle where you need special admission, where only if you have certain requirements are you entitled to work with people. At NIU, while it’s not open admission, it’s much more broad-based admission with the opportunity to work with all kinds of students,” he says.
“It’s healthy for NIU, it’s healthy for students and it’s healthy for society to have an inclusive, rather than exclusive, view of postsecondary education. I like that. I’m interested in the education of young people,” he adds. “We’ve got a dean who is deeply committed to the college and exceptionally effective. The department chairs … are experienced, passionate and effective. Carol Patitu, an experienced – yet new here – associate dean, is a real plus. All signs are pointing in good directions.”
The move north also puts Kelter and family closer to some relatives.
Barb Kelter’s sister lives in Evanston, and her parents are in Lincoln, Neb. Son Seth, 19, is a freshman at the U of I. Aaron, 16, is a junior in high school who is looking at NIU as his first choice in colleges.
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