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Manchester's Schilling joins board of Progressive Education Network

Heather SchillingNORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. – Dr. Heather Schilling, chair and director of teacher education at Manchester University, has joined the board of directors for the national Progressive Education Network.

It allows her a wider platform in which to prepare the next generation of teachers to “step into a public school, infuse their classrooms with progressive principles and push back against the status quo.” This also provides Manchester students with a nationwide network and broadened experiences off campus and outside Indiana. 

Progressive educators support their students’ deep intellectual development and healthy identity formation, treating them as developing individuals, as active learners and engaged citizens in the broader world.

Her passion for the progressive approach to teaching was sparked during her own student days at Manchester, which brought with it her introduction to the liberal arts. As a high school English and history teacher before returning to Manchester, Schilling realized early in her career what a difference empowering students to own their knowledge and skills can make.

“Despite being trained in a traditional education program, I have always been a progressive educator at heart, even when I didn't have a label for it,” she said. 

 “My courses were infused with interdisciplinary projects and discussions driven by students' questions. In the mid-1990s, I joined three of my colleagues to create a school within a school completely centered on project-based learning, and I witnessed firsthand the synergy created in a classroom when students drive the direction of their learning experiences.”

After 12 years of teaching in a public school, she joined the Education Department at Manchester, a small, liberal arts institution in northeast Indiana. Manchester is deeply rooted in social justice and peace studies, and one of the institution’s earliest missions was teacher preparation.

“Here at Manchester, I have realized my role in changing the face of education in America,” Schilling said. “By preparing the next generation of educators to embrace and infuse their vocation with progressive ideas, I can revolutionize the learning experiences of hundreds, maybe thousands of children and young adults.”

She became interested in the Progressive Education Network about three years ago, after a former students sent her a Facebook message telling her that he had found her “people.”

“My heart flipped,” Schilling said. She was accepted for NIPEN 3.0 – the network’s intensive, six-day, small-group experience – “and found, for the first time in my career, a group of people who immediately asked how they could help the revolution advance.”

A group of her preservice teachers meets weekly in MU’s Progressive Education Academy. They give up their Friday mornings to engage in enriching professional conversations. They conduct research related to progressive education and teacher preparation, and they are developing the academy to serve as a resource, training site and home for preservice and classroom teachers.

“Children deserve schools which engage them in authentic ways, and children certainly deserve to be in control of their learning,” she said.

Hands-on, inquiry-based practices allow students to gain knowledge by doing, particularly by participating in projects that improve the lives of others. 

“The goal is to shift the paradigm to progressive education as the best practice in education. I am a dreamer who works tirelessly to make her dreams reality,” Schilling said.

Schilling is engaged in her local and state communities, serving in leadership capacities on MU’s North Manchester campus. She is past president of the Indiana State Reading Association with a membership of more than 3,000 teachers. 

She is active in the Indiana State Teachers Association and works closely with the Indiana Department of Education as a program reviewer.

Schilling received her bachelor’s degree from Manchester, her master’s degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and her doctorate from Ball State University.

About Manchester University
Manchester University, with campuses in North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Ind., offers more than 60 areas of academic study to nearly 1,600 students in undergraduate programs, a Master of Athletic Training, a Master of Pharmacogenomics and a four-year professional Doctor of Pharmacy. It has students from 20 nations and is home to the world's first undergraduate peace studies program, established in 1948. Learn more about the private, northern Indiana school at www.manchester.edu.

November 2017