An outdoors enthusiast who enjoys running, hiking and kayaking, NMU assistant professor of education Kristen White said that her first four years residing in Marquette have been nothing short of wonderful.
“When I lived in the Detroit metropolitan area, I had become accustomed to driving two to three hours to do the outdoor activities that I can do here in Marquette,” said White. “Being near the lake and many trails, I love that these activities are accessible the moment I step out of my front door. I love spending time with my family and doing anything I can with them outdoors.”
White joined the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service (SELPS) faculty at NMU in August 2018.
“We have one of the best teacher education programs here at Northern, and I am really proud to be a part of it,” said White. “I love NMU and the people I've met here. I even started trail running with colleagues and am in a running group here.”
Although she has spent much of her career working and living in lower Michigan, White is no stranger to the Upper Peninsula. Her great grandparents emigrated from Finland to work in the mines, and her father was born in the U.P. She lived in Hancock for a year as a young girl. Hailing from a long familial line of teachers, White said that she was drawn to the field of education after spending time in her mother's classroom.
The responsibilities of White's job at NMU encompass three areas of focus: research, service, and predominantly teaching. White teaches reading methods courses to students pursuing elementary and special education. She also sometimes teaches in the SELPS master's program.
White's passion for anti-racist activism is infused throughout her scholarship and teaching, both on campus and beyond. During the winter 2021 semester, she collaborated with first-grade teacher Heather Marsico to establish virtual reading partnerships between NMU teacher candidates and Cherry Creek Elementary School students.
With support from a grant from NMU, White provided her teacher candidate students with Snowbound Books gift cards. Each NMU student used those funds of $68 each to purchase anti-racist books to use during the semester and to keep for their future classroom libraries. Funds were also allocated to Cherry Creek for the same purpose. NMU provided funding for her to continue this endeavor the following fall.
White is also involved in a research project with teacher educators who teach reading methods courses at various universities nationwide.
“We work together by using a self-study methodology to study our own practice in order to move it toward anti-racist teaching. This work is lifelong. It's never complete. I feel fortunate to have fallen into this project with these fantastic women.
“These women and all women of the world collectively are my role models in life. Historically, women haven't had access to education, voting and more. It is still hard for women. I admire all the women whose shoulders I stand on.”
White said that the most rewarding aspect of her job is working with teacher candidates and watching them grow. She said the partnerships NMU establishes with local and regional schools as well as the campus community drew her to the position.
“During my interview, Dr. Lubig [associate dean for teacher education and director of SELPS] brought me to an area school. I saw NMU's involvement in the community. That partnership is what really drew me to the job here at Northern. There's a commitment here to children, families, schools and the whole U.P. region itself.”
White began her career as an elementary school teacher. She has served media specialist roles and traveled the country to offer professional development opportunities in multisensory reading instruction for kids labeled “dyslexic.” She earned her master's degree in educational technology from Madonna University in 2011.
A passion for reading inspired White to earn her PhD in 2018 in curriculum, instruction and teacher education with a language and literacy specialization from Michigan State University. She is co-authoring a book which builds upon her dissertation that will expand upon Jeanne Chall's scholarly exploration of reading from the 1960s-1980s.
White said that, above all else, her biggest accomplishment in life has been becoming a parent to her sons Adam and Drew. She said that her husband Andy and family have provided a strong support system throughout her life and career.
This story was prepared by NMU alumna Jill Vermeulen, who will start her full-time teaching career this fall.