Tears well in her eyes and words catch in her throat when Dr. Jeannine Klomes, Ed.D., Associate Professor in Governors State University’s College of Education, talks about children who have poor educational experiences, particularly if the struggle stems from a teaching deficit.
“Career teachers must own self-excellence,” she said.
Klomes is an early childhood development expert who has spent nearly four decades observing, researching, teaching, and advocating about the education of children.
Following years of teaching and mentoring students at the elementary, undergraduate, and graduate levels as well as serving on a number of university and community boards, Klomes has arrived at a simple but striking theory for human behavior.
“We all experience the temperaments and stages of child development until the day we die,’’ said Klomes, who joined GSU in 1993 and also serves as coordinator of the Early Childhood Education program. “As a child development specialist, you realize when children say they want something there is a significant reason for that desire. Are they hungry, jealous, upset, lonely, confused, maybe simply bored? These various expressions and behaviors continue on throughout our entire life.’’
Klomes brings her powerful observations and extensive research to her program coordinator duties, designing curriculum and securing relationships that have helped position GSU for Southland students seeking education degrees and professional credentials.
Klomes herself earned one of her two master’s degrees at GSU in Education Administration and Supervision. She has an educational doctorate from Northern Illinois University, where she studied the school reentry process for children impacted by a traumatic brain injury for her doctoral research.
Klomes also earned an undergraduate degree in Childhood Development and a second master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education.
At GSU, both students and peers have recognized Klomes’ work, winning her Faculty Excellence nominations year after year. In 2007, she won the award for teaching excellence. For a decade, she has been a COE Faculty Senator as well as Executive Senator, positions perfectly suited for Klomes, an ardent advocate for the proverbial “little guy."
GSU Newsroom: What is the concept of “significant other” and why is it important?
Klomes: There are three areas of child development – physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. I am most passionate about the social-emotional because if a child doesn’t have confidence, pride, or self-worth, he/she is not likely to embrace the academic achievement of language, math, science or social studies. The child is almost stuck in the mode of seeking out a friend, care, love, and/or safety. As a teacher, if you cannot recognize and foster a child’s social-emotional development, you will not be fully effective in helping him/her learn. As a teacher, you need to be that child’s “significant other” - someone who helps build confidence, offers security, maintains consistency, and in turn, provides education. As a teacher, you must comprehend, that at any given time, you may be the most stable person in a child’s life.
GSU Newsroom: How does GSU’s Early Childhood Program collaborate with community colleges in the area?
Klomes: Recently, Governors State’s Early Childhood program was awarded a state grant called Education Program Preparation Innovation (EPPI) to explore ways to improve our partnership with two-year colleges in the area. We already had a good relationship with both Prairie State (College) and South Suburban Community College—particularly because of our Dual Degree Program—however, this grant helped us identify ways to make it better. We added English as a Second language to the COE undergraduate program and looked at our transfer agreement between institutions regarding course credit eligibility and Gateways credentialing expectations. Engaging in a grant with our partner community colleges is hugely important because 90 percent of our students come from these partner institutions.
GSU Newsroom: What inspires you most about the GSU student?
Klomes: I admire the students in the Southland region. I work with juniors, seniors, and graduate students already committed to their major, and I firmly believe they are of the ‘pull-your-boots straps-up and make-it-happen’ perspective. My students have been around the block, per se. They work, care for family members, have attended other colleges, own homes, volunteer for organizations, etc., and are determined to graduate, often with honors, holding a degree that meets their career path choice.
In addition, I believe the vast majority of my GSU students are getting an education with the intent of returning right back to their local community to make a difference. They are invested in educating children as well as making a positive difference in their community.