Monday, November 24, 2014

Five Minutes With Nell Duke

Tags: duke, five minutes

This is the final installment of “Five Minutes With…” Everyone at the School of Education has interesting stories to tell, whether those stories are about their work, their travels, their hobbies or their home life. “Five Minutes With…” has worked to provide snapshots into the lives of our faculty and staff.

Nell Duke

Nell Duke’s work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty. Her specific areas of expertise include development of informational reading and writing in young children, comprehension development and instruction in early schooling, and issues of equity in literacy education. Duke received her doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is the recipient of the American Educational Research Association Early Career Award as well as awards from the Literacy Research Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the International Reading Association. She currently serves as co-principal investigator on projects funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation. She has served as author and consultant on a number of educational programs, including Buzz About IT, iOpeners, National Geographic Science K-2, and the DLM Express, and speaks widely on literacy education. Duke also has a strong interest in improving the quality of educational research training in the United States.

What was the most interesting research you’ve done/class you’ve taught?
I don’t know. But right now I’m very interested in research we’re doing developing and testing project-based units to teach social studies and informational reading and writing to young children. It’s a great challenge to figure out how to develop units that are educative and engaging, and it is fascinating seeing how children respond.

What’s the most underrated place on campus?
The Wave Field on North Campus. A great spot for a picnic. Pick up lunch from Zingerman’s Deli or fragels from Bagel Fragel on the way...

Name two essential items in your briefcase/backpack/handbag.
(1) My laptop. (2) My laptop charger.

Where would you take an out-of-town visitor (Ann Arbor or in the region)?
Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. It has the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the car in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and many, many other important historical artifacts.

Biggest change you’ve seen on campus since you’ve been here?
I grew up in Ann Arbor so, in a sense, I’ve “been here” a long time. I think the fast-growing number of university buildings is among the biggest changes.

What’s your strategy for dealing with Ann Arbor traffic?
Listening to National Public Radio and riding my bike whenever possible.

Best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Vacation. I’m sorry, can you remind me what that is? The word sounds familiar but I can’t quite place it.

Favorite place for lunch on campus or in town?
Frita Batidos. Black Bean Frita with avocado spread, Light Bright Salad, yum!

Who was the most influential mentor you've ever had?
I have been fortunate to have so many influential mentors; I would not want to single out one. I appreciate that I have several colleagues even just here at U-M from whom I get wise advice.

What is it about teaching that gives you the most satisfaction?
I appreciate thinking about the ripple effect—that my students will go on to affect other students who will go on to affect other students, and so on.

What's the biggest difference you see in today's students that wasn't apparent when you first started teaching?
Today’s students can access so much more information so much more quickly and easily than previous generations.

What's the number one reason you chose your particular area of expertise/research?
I believe that the ability to access and communicate information is a human right and that we must begin to develop this ability early in children’s lives.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working (hobbies, etc.)?
Hobbies. I’m sorry, can you remind me what those are? The word sounds familiar but I can’t quite place it.

Actually, I do attend every production of the Michigan Opera Theatre, of which my husband is principal trumpet.

Nell K. Duke is Professor

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