The Learning Curve

News and updates from the College of Education and Human Development .

CEHD Alumni Shine as Exceptional ND Leaders


Pictured: UND’s Education Building.
Dr. Jenny Bladow

Last September, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum created the Task Force for Teacher Retention and Recruitment to address the critical and ongoing teacher shortage in the state. On Tuesday, Oct. 31, Burgum released the names of the 15 appointees who will represent the education community in this initiative. The only appointee from an institute of higher education is Dr. Jenny Bladow, director of Teacher Education in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at UND.

CEHD prides itself on educating the next generation of leaders, and Bladow is no exception. The former science teacher is a teacher education representative on the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board (ESPB) and chair of their Program Approval Advisory Committee (PAAC). She is a part of the Next Education Workforce NDDPI Fall 2023 cohort as well as a North Dakota Higher Education representative for the Hunt Institute’s The Path Forward. Dr. Bladow is a three-time UND CEHD graduate, having earned her BS in Elementary Education in 2008, her MS in Education-General Studies, Middle Level Education in 2009, and most recently, her Ed.D in Educational Practice and Leadership in 2023.

Dr. Mike McNeff

Another CEHD graduate mentioned in the news in the past week is Dr. Mike McNeff, Jr. On Friday, Oct. 29, the North Dakota Association of School Administrators (NDASA) announced that the Rugby School District leader was the 2023 ND Superintendent of the Year. When asked about what drives him to push for success and excellence in his schools, he shared that he was a public school success story himself. Growing up in a difficult home situation with a parent who struggled with addiction, McNeff found that “school was that refuge…with caring people who helped me learn.” Because “lots of adults were there when [I] needed it,” school helped build the foundation for becoming the person he is today. Although he recognizes that the national narrative around public school education isn’t always positive, McNeff urges North Dakotans to stop listening to outside voices and recognize how great the public school system is in the state. He wants to “help people realize how strong our schools and teachers are.”

McNeff’s own career in higher education was elevated when he joined a cohort experience at UND with 15-20 other educators. During his graduate studies, he developed a great professional network of people who are now principals and superintendents throughout the region. McNeff praises the experience of discussing and learning along with others in his cohort, as well as the guidance he received from faculty such as Dr. Sherry Houdek (now professor emeritus) and Dr. Cheryl Hunter (current interim dean of CEHD), who helped guide him in qualitative research. Dr. McNeff holds an MS in Educational Studies and an Ed.D in Educational Practice and Leadership from UND.

Principal Ryan Hanson

Earlier this year, Devils Lake High School principal and CEHD graduate Ryan Hanson was named the NDASSP Secondary Principal of the Year. According to a press release from NDCEL, he began his career as a high school math and science teacher. Hanson also coached several basketball teams before attaining the principalship at Devils Lake. Interestingly, the award-winning principal once swore he would never be an educational administrator since his father was one for over thirty years, but now he can’t imagine doing anything else.

When asked about what makes a great leader, Hanson offered the following: “A leader must be willing to follow, understand they do not know everything, admit mistakes, and communicate effectively.  Leaders listen to learn not to answer.  A growth mindset is vital!” He admonishes current teachers and prospective teachers to “never stop learning!  Build your professional cadre of resources.  Ask questions!  Steal ideas.  Make sure you are okay.  Leaders forget about themselves far too often.”

Regarding his studies at UND, Hanson fondly remembered the late Dr. Angie Koppang, who he described as “patient and kind”, as well as the aforementioned Dr. Sherry Houdek, who challenged him “to understand many perspectives, be decisive, and effectively communicate.” Hanson completed his MS in Educational Leadership (now Educational Studies) at UND.

A special mention also goes out to Grand Forks High School assistant principal and 2022 ND Assistant Principal of the Year Dr. Gabe Dahl, who earned both his MS and  EdD in Educational Leadership from UND, as well as Red River High School teacher and 2023 ND Teacher of the Year Ivona Todorovic, who earned her BS and MS in Elementary Education from UND. CEHD takes pride in the work these outstanding educators are doing in the state of North Dakota. It’s unknown who the next great leader in education will be, but the odds are that that person will be a CEHD graduate.

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