Sy Karlin


Director of Teacher Preparation for Secondary Education and Special Education, NCE

Programs/Classes Taught:

  • History and Philosophy of American Education
  • Introduction to Teaching at the Secondary Level
  • Teaching Social Studies in the Secondary Schools
  • Contemporary Issues in Education
  • Urban Scholars Teacher Education Partnership Seminar
  • Alternative Certification Internship
  • Seminar for Student Teachers
  • Sub-Certification for Secondary Education Social Studies

Areas of Expertise:

Service Learning
Social Studies Instruction
Curriculum and Instruction
Urban Residency Programs
Curriculum Development
Reading and Literacy Instruction for Social Studies


I arrived at NLU in summer 2003 teaching as an adjunct in the Educational Foundations Department. I have been at National Louis for nine years, five on the tenure track, two on the non-tenure track and two as an adjunct professor in the departments of Educational Foundations and Secondary Education. In 2003, when I started teaching for NLU, I learned so much from my experiences as an adjunct by teaching in the Educational Foundations Department. I was fortunate to find a teaching adjunct position to jumpstart my career at National Louis. Having a Masters Degree in history made me comfortable and helped me relate the content of the course to student’s background experiences. Role playing various classroom scenarios as part of the History and Philosophy of Education were utilized. As part of my coursework, I was also able to incorporate other role playing aspects of progressive education. My teaching expanded across all the campuses during my adjunct experience. I taught classes at the Chicago, Evanston, Lisle, Wheeling and Elgin campuses. Teaching at all these different campuses helped me to learn about the background demographics and diversity of my students. This knowledge was very valuable in helping me see the varied and diverse ways my students understood what role education had on their own school experience based on where they grew up. My work in teaching at all campuses was as important in my own development as an assistant professor in secondary education as well as understanding and developing my own philosophy of education for teaching in urban, suburban and rural areas. The rich experiences of teaching I gained across urban and suburban schools before I arrived at National, was well respected and helpful by the candidates I taught. Over the past nine years, I have found that teaching is the most important aspect of my work at National Louis. I cannot discount the other areas of work done for the university, but truly teaching provides me the most rewarding facet of employment at the university. It is out of my strong conviction for teaching that all my other work done at the university is related. Good teaching results in classrooms that provide the pedagogy of best practice instruction, the belief that content should be taught in relationships to what our professional and state standards mandate. For social studies instruction, good teaching is providing instruction that is challenging in character, critical thinking in nature, collaborative in process and thematic in organization. The content should be substantial and relevant. It should addresses the real issues of the day that make our students productive citizens in exploring and solving the issues in life and the community that can make a difference especially in the lives of young students.
The courses that I have taught at NLU include there basic principles that are fundamental to my teaching. The first is to take into account and consider the background knowledge and individual differences of the students I teach. My course design, delivery and classroom activities are prepared to provide an instructional model that is grounded in this first principle. The second principle that is basic to my quality of instruction and teaching is to provide relevancy and meaning to the work my students will do in the classroom. I use significant and meaningful examples that explore and probe the thinking processes of how students will answer my questions that I pose for particular classroom settings and scenarios. This has helped me to organize and deliver my instruction in considerable ways for my students to be dynamic in their own teaching, allowing me to arouse in them the passions of teaching. Finally, the last principle I incorporate into my teaching is to take into account the element of engagement. Students need to be challenged and questioned using the pedagogy and teaching theories they learn. There needs to be an equal balance of why and how to utilize best practice, creating student centered lesson and unit plans and developing assessment products that monitor student learning and progress. All three of these basic principles involve critical thinking and reflection as the means to create a positive classroom teaching environment. This helps to generate a real learning atmosphere that teaching candidates can apply and develop across all content areas. Therefore, based on these principles, all my students do take an active role in my classes.


Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.
Dissertation: A Description of Factors Which Influence Social Studies Teachers’ Decisions to Use Textbooks in United States History Classrooms.

M.A. British History, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.

B.S. in Education, Social Studies Major and Political Science Minor; Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ilinois.

Research and Interests:

Service-Learning My research agenda is an interesting one that links directly to the work I do in the classroom. I have been able to implement and engage my department in the area of service-learning. This research has allowed me to take some risks with my students and have them commit to working with their students on service-learning projects. In doing so, I was able to assess the change of dispositions from my student candidates at the start of their service-learing projects to the completion. I have been successful in obtaining interesting data to present at conferences and write for some national publications. I have devoted most of professional growth and development in the area of service-learning. As a form of experiential education, service-learning engages students in activities that focus on local and global community needs together with well planned activities intended to support student learning and growth. Reflection, reciprocity and academic rigor are key concepts of service-learning at any life stage. They are particularly crucial in postsecondary and graduate education. On the university level we attempt to involve our graduate students in worthwhile service-learning projects that can significantly contribute to their own learning and growth. Within our university classes, we tout service-learning pedagogy as meaningful experience and learning-by-doing to teacher candidates for use in their middle level and secondary classrooms. In our alternative certification programs, teacher candidates are assigned a service-learning project during the first term of their graduate course work. We require teacher candidates in our program to embed a service-learning component into one of their high school classrooms. The teacher candidates select one of their classes to implement the service-learning project. Various templates are used as graphic organizers to help candidates focus and capture the major components of service-learning. The major components delineate the four stages and elements of service-learning: preparation, action, reflection, and demonstration. Research stresses the need for youth voice in all the stages, but really want to be sure the adolescents have a strong voice in the preparation stage, so they have a stake in participation throughout. When I piloted a service-learning project as a requirement in the TFA seminar course a few years ago, I learned that teacher candidates had an inaccurate understanding of what service-learning involved, the benefits of using service-learning projects in their classrooms, and the time constraints associated with implementing service-learning projects. Teacher candidates become trained in: • taking the notion of community service to a higher and more meaningful level for urban youth; • implementing and requiring service-learning projects from their students; • agents for change in traditionally underserved school settings; and • understanding how service-learning projects develop a better understanding of cross curricular connections and greater empathy for the inner city youth that they encounter in their classrooms. This further led to my implementation of pre and post service-learning survey instrument to evaluate shifts in teacher candidates’ understanding and dispositions regarding service-learning. I also utilized other sources including video narratives/testimonials, teacher candidates’ presentations, and reflections written by the teacher candidate’s middle and high school students in order to begin gathering data concerning the impact of service-learning on the dispositions of TFA teacher candidates and their students. My research agenda will continue in a way to examine and reveal the reactions and dispositions of our alternative certification students in recorded and documented experiences through videos and reflective writing as well as pre and post surveys. Grant Work-Professional Development – CUTAP The grant work I conducted at Wells Career Academy High School has provided me opportunities to implement my work in the area of service-learning, but more important it provided me with the opportunity to work closely with teachers in developing a high school curriculum for students going into education. The Principal of Wells Career Academy had the confidence to make me part of his collaboration efforts in formulating a significant and interesting project. I was part of a three member team that went to Fort Lauderdale to look at some high schools in Broward County that were part of a Teaching Academy supported by local community colleges. From this model I was able to work with a team of high school teachers and the principal to formulate the new Chicago Urban Teachers Academy Program, CUTAP. I am proud to be part of this work. Chicago Urban Teachers Academy Program is the first in the Chicago Public School System. My work to create a four-year teaching academy at Wells will focus on creating a new teaching curriculum for high school students and provide the necessary support that National Louis can provide as partner in this endeavor. It is my strong belief that working with high school students at an early age will help them to gain an early and productive authentic experience exactly as the ones we create in our teacher education programs at NLU. The teaching academy will provide a four-year high school curriculum I have worked on designed to prepare students to enroll in a college elementary or secondary teacher education program. The earlier we can start to convince students of why it is important, exciting and rewarding to be a teacher can make a huge difference in attracting them into the field. I feel that this work can lead to other CPS high schools joining in this process.

Contact Information:

Office:  Chicago Campus- Room 3068

Phone 312-261-3434


    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

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    Established in 1988 and located in one of the city's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to six classrooms, this location features a conference room, a computer lab with high-speed Internet access, an extensive research library and comfortable student lounges.

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