Early and Middle Grades Education

Early and Middle Grades Education Office
106B Recitation Hall
West Chester, PA 19383
Call 610-436-2944
FAX: 610-436-3102

News and Notes


Heather Leaman (2005), Professor

B.S., M.Ed. Millersville University
Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University

Prior to joining West Chester University faculty in 2004, Dr. Heather Leaman spent eleven years teaching sixth grade in a Pennsylvania public school. Her research interests include teacher research, teacher professional development and social studies education in grades K-8. At West Chester University Dr. Leaman typically teaches Social Studies Methods Courses in the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate certification programs. She also teaches The Reflective Teacher, and Teacher as Classroom Researcher in the M.Ed. in Applied Studies in Teaching and Learning program.

Katherine Norris (2007), Associate Professor

Assistant Chairperson
B.S. Ed. West Chester University
M.S. Ed St. Joseph's University
Ed.D. Temple University

Before joining the faculty at West Chester University, Dr. Katherine Norris taught for the Philadelphia Public School System for over eighteen years.  In Philadelphia, she taught elementary school, gifted support and literacy/language arts/social studies at the middle school level and Eng/LA at the high school level.    Dr. Norris spent time teaching College Study Skills at LaSalle University and she taught Multicultural Children’s Literature at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey.   In addition, Dr. Norris works as a part-time early intervention special instructor.  Her research areas include Multicultural Education, Diverse Families, Early Childhood and Teacher Education.  Dr. Norris has current publications in Multicultural Education and Teaching Young Children.   Here at West Chester University, Dr. Norris serves as a faculty mentor for the Office of Multicultural Education in addition to other campus wide service committees.

Karen J. Johnson (2007), Associate Professor

Coordinator of Field Experiences
B.S. Trenton State College
M.Ed. Rutgers University
Ph.D. The University at Albany

Prior to joining the faculty at West Chester University, Dr. Karen Johnson taught elementary school for ten years and education majors at a college in New York for four years. Her research interests include technology integration and student teaching. She has presented her research at conferences throughout the United States as well as in Austria and Canada and has a chapter published in Technology Implementation and Teacher Education: Reflective Models. At West Chester, she typically teaches social studies and health methods for both early and middle grades, the sophomore level two field class for both early and middle grades, and supervises student teachers. She is currently serving as the Coordinator of Field Experiences for the department, the Chair of the Field Experience Committee of CPE, and the Field Experience Focus Group Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators.

Lisa J. Lucas (2008), Associate Professor

Graduate Coordinator, Post-Baccalaureate Certification Programs PK-4 & 4-8
B.A. Lock Haven University
M.Ed. Cabrini College
Ed.D. Immaculata University

Before joining the faculty at West Chester University, Dr. Lisa J. Lucas was a school district administrator for five years, a literacy coach for two years and a classroom teacher for fifteen years. Her research interests include coaching, mentoring, mindfulness in education and incorporating writing across the curriculum. At West Chester, she typically teaches Engaging Learners and field courses in addition to supervising student teachers, and teaching in the M. Ed. ECE Program. She is currently the Graduate Coordinator for Post-baccalaureate programs.

Connie L. DiLucchio (2003), Professor

Coordinator, M.Ed. in Applied Studies in Teaching and Learning
B.S. Pennsylvania State University
M.Ed. Pennsylvania State University
Ed.D. University of Pennsylvania

Dr. DiLucchio taught for 18 years in public K-12 schools and 10 years at the university level before joining the faculty at West Chester.  As the Graduate Coordinator for the Department, she works with students in the Post-Baccalaureate Certification and M.Ed. Programs and teaches courses focusing on educational change and teacher research.  She also supervises student teachers. Her research interests are directly linked to her work with the preparation of pre-service and the professional development of in-service teachers.  In collaboration with colleagues, she is studying student teachers’ use of descriptive and collaborative frameworks for child study and the role of action research and classroom inquiry in the professional lives of teachers.

Catherine Prudhoe (1992), Professor

Coordinator, M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education
B.S., M.S. Pennsylvania State University
Ph.D. University of Delaware

Dr. Prudhoe teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the early childhood education program. She received her doctorate from the University of Delaware in Family Studies with a concentration in early childhood and early childhood/special education. Her bachelor's and master's degrees are from Penn State in Individual and Family Studies and Human Development and Family Studies, respectively. Dr. Prudhoe has taught young children in Head Start, the Penn State Child Development Laboratory, the Keene State Children's Center, and the University of Delaware's Preschool Laboratory Program. Her scholarship focuses on early literacy development and multicultural education.                  

Michael J. Bell (2001), Professor

B.A. Arizona State University
M.A. Northern Arizona University
Ph.D. University of Texas

A former classroom teacher of preschool children and elementary students, Dr. Michael J. Bell has been a school district early childhood program director and a state-level administrator of early childhood programs in Arizona.  He believes in the importance of understanding child development, critical thinking in school and the profound power of a play in development, growth, and learning.  Dr. Bell has presented professionally throughout the United States and internationally.  He is a member of The Association for the Study of Play, the International Play Association, and the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play. His scholarly interests include, the study of play in the liberal arts, and the physical and psychological benefits of play across the life span. Dr. Bell is the faculty sponsor of the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association of WCU.

James B. Blackburn (1998), Instructor

B.S., Shippensburg University
M. Ed. Villanova University

Professor Blackburn brings to his classroom a myriad of experiences accumulated during his 30+ years serving as a classroom teacher, principal, Director of Curriculum and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum in three Pennsylvania public school districts. At West Chester University he teaches EGP 220: Theory and Field Experience and supervises student teachers and is chairperson of the College of Education Scholarship Committee. Professor Blackburn is enthusiastic about his West Chester students and credits their humor, energy, vitality and dedication to his personal enjoyment and satisfaction each semester at the University.

Wei Wei Cai (1996), Professor

B.A. Beijing Teachers College
M.A. Bloomsburg University
Ed.D. Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Dr. WeiWei Cai is the recipient of numerous awards including the Civility Award, the University Faculty Merit Award, and Commitment for Faculty/Staff Development Abroad Initiative Award from West Chester University, TOKEN/STAR Recognition Award honored by the United Nations Development Programme, and several others.  She has been a visiting professor at several universities in the U.S. and P.R.C.  Dr. Cai has taken the leadership role in the Faculty/Staff Development Abroad Initiative and developed numerous international exchange programs for faculty and students.  She has also been the U.S. director/coordinator for various international exchange programs sponsored by different agencies and organizations in both the U.S. and P.R.C. Dr. Cai’s research interests include the areas of cognitive development, ways of thinking, and multicultural and global education.  She has presented research papers on these topics at international, national, and state conferences and has been a frequent presenter for PASSHE Leadership Institute for Faculty Women.  Dr. Cai’s recent publication was “Promoting Critical Thinking through an Interdisciplinary Study Abroad Program”, co-authored with Dr. Gopal Sankaran, in the Journal of International Students, 2015, N1.  She has also delivered a research paper at AERA Annual Conference, on April 17, 2015, titled "The Global Perspective among College Students: A Cross-country Research Study". Dr. Cai is also an experienced study abroad professor since 2001.

Martha A. Drobnak (1992), Professor

B.A. Grove City College
M.Ed. University of Pittsburgh
Ed.D. Nova University

Prior to joining the faculty at West Chester University, Dr. Martha Drobnak taught elementary school for five years and education majors at a college in Western Pennsylvania for ten years. She has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate level courses and has supervised early field courses and student teachers. Her research interests include elementary education curriculum and instruction and social studies education. She has presented her work at a variety of conferences including international events in England, Japan and Korea.

Laura E. Fiorenza (1994), Instructor

B.A., West Chester University
M.Ed. West Chester University

Prior to teaching at West Chester University, Professor Fiorenza taught at Delaware County Community College, Pennsylvania State University, Grand Canyon University, and online for the University of Phoenix. She has taught in elementary, middle, and secondary schools for thirty five years. As a full time grade school teacher she taught in the second and fifth grades and as a substitute (since 1988) she has experienced multiple classroom environments. Professor Fiorenza is certified in Elementary Education, and in Elementary and Secondary Counseling. Her experience as a guidance counselor was with the Chester County Intermediate Unit where she was responsible for three different schools for grades K-8. Professor Fiorenza joined West Chester University 21 years ago and she has consistently taught Child Development coursework, as well as many other courses for the education department. She has supervised student teachers for the last 12 years.

Professor Fiorenza enjoys the enthusiasm of pre-service teachers and feels that teaching is a reciprocal process where the instructor is also the student in the classroom. Her areas of interest include child development with a focus on linking developmental issues with environmental issues as they impact student behaviors in the classroom. Additional areas of interest include examining personality styles in the classroom to enhance the planning and preparation of instruction, assessment, and the management of classroom environments. Professor Fiorenza is the co-creator with Dr. Sara Lamb Kistler of an elective graduate course the examines school bullying. She has an interest in educating pre-service teachers about the school bullying. A particular focus is on exploring the impact bullying has on the students, teachers, and the classroom and school environments.

Linda G. Hanna (1995), Associate Professor

B.A. Immaculata College
M.A. Villanova University
Ed.D. Immaculata College

Dr. Linda Hanna comes to WCU with extensive experience in: K-8 education, curriculum development and educational administration. Holding certificates in PA K-8, English 7-12, and Supervision and Administration, Dr. Hanna served as an elementary teacher and principal for twenty-five years before coming to WCU in 1995. She enjoys her work in field-based courses and student teaching supervision with special research interests in: differentiated instruction, personality types/learning styles, home schooling and classroom management.


Sara Lamb Kistler (2004), Associate Professor

B.S., M.A. West Chester University
Ph.D. University of Delaware

Before joining the West Chester University faculty, Dr. Lamb Kistler taught linguistics and education courses and held a number of administrative positions, mainly at the University of Delaware and Widener University. She began her career as a public school teacher in Delaware. Her research interests include service-learning and community engagement in higher education, diversity in education, personality and differentiation of instruction, student teaching, language teaching and learning, and bullying prevention in schools. She is also a member of the Linguistics Program faculty.


Vicky M. Patton (1992), Assistant Professor

B.A. University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
M.A. (Hons.) University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
Ph.D. Temple University

Dr. Patton has been teaching college students since 1986 and joined West Chester University in 1992. She has taught EDE 251 Child Development; EDE 352 Self and Group Processes in the Diverse Classroom; EDE 401 Creativity in the Classroom: and EDE 543 Creative Expression in the Elementary School. She wants her students and teachers to become better thinkers by enhancing their critical and creative thinking skills. Her current research focuses on facilitating self-reflective teaching and supporting creative expression in the classroom. She has recently published two articles that describe using teaching portfolios to scaffold self-study.    

Donna R. Sanderson (2001), Associate Professor

B.S James Madison University
M.Ed. Widener University
Ed.D. University of Pennsylvania

Before joining the faculty at West Chester University, Dr. Donna Sanderson held a variety of teaching and administrative positions in a public school district in Pennsylvania. She has taught courses for the Department of Literacy at West Chester University and at Arcadia University and Gwynedd-Mercy College. At West Chester, Dr. Sanderson's teaching focuses on preparation for teaching the early grades, especially the Pre-K Methods and Field course. Dr. Sanderson's research focuses on the importance of play, working with parents, using hands-on manipulatives as teachig tools, and the importance of service-learning experiences for teacher candiates. 

Jacqueline G. Van Schooneveld (2013), Assistant Professor

B.S.Ed. Bucknell University
M.Ed. Columbia University
Ed.D. University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Van Schooneveld worked for many years in the NYC public school system as a classroom teacher and Dean of Students.  She continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania.  While working towards her doctorate, she participated on three National Science Foundation grants to provide STEM experiences to underserved K-12 students in the Philadelphia region, and improve teacher education in those academic fields.  She continued her research interests in teacher education, professional development, and STEM education.  She joined the West Chester University Department of Early and Middle Grades faculty in Fall 2013. Dr. Van Schooneveld teaches EGP 220: Theory and Field Experiences, and supervises student teachers.