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WGU Teachers College Learning Community Thought Leadership

Explore trends in the education professions in these interviews with thought leaders and difference makers on the forefront of change.

Changing Trajectories for Students Nationwide

Education’s Dynamic Duo: High Standards, High Support

headshot stacey ludwig johnson Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson

By Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Senior Vice President of Western Governors University (WGU) and Executive Dean of the School of Education


Without a doubt, our nation’s entire education ecosystem has been upended with pandemic-driven challenges and change. The most startling example has been a massive teacher shortage that has affected communities across the country: according to recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics, 44 percent of public schools currently report full- or part-time teaching vacancies.

Despite such challenges, educational institutions can learn from the past while building for the future. For example, 25 years ago, Western Governors University became an early pioneer of competency-based education and ignited its “student obsession” – mapping relevant skills to ensure that a student’s investment of time and resources provides the most effective and efficient path to academic success.  

In tandem with setting up the building blocks of this supportive mission, leaders in education across the country partnered together to conduct research into the teaching and learning worlds, unearthing applicable standards by finding that both teachers and students perform at a higher level when held to higher expectations.

Solutions and discoveries such as these still ring true today. As we collectively work to innovate at scale, teaching colleges can be on the right track to producing the next generation of dedicated educators by finding the power between two commanding concepts: high standards and high support. Here are some ways that WGU’s School of Education has elevated this dynamic duo:

Remove Barriers

At WGU, we have always strived to change lives for the better by creating pathways to opportunity. During the pandemic, we witnessed so many of our demonstration teaching (student teacher) students nationwide experience a range of hardships, including financial burdens related to tuition, food, housing, health care, and childcare.

To help boost students economically during student teaching, WGU sprang into action and sought and received funding from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) II & III. 3,300 of our eligible student teachers received $3,000 emergency aid grants, with nearly $10 million distributed in total.  

Our students are a vital part of not only our collegiate community but also the communities that they serve as educators....

School of Education Experts Center

Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson
Dr. Aaron Popham
Dr. David Bell
Kelley Harrer
Dr. Verna Lowe
Dr. Mamie Pack
Dr. Carrie Pottinger
Dr. Kim Round
Dr. Lauren Santoro
Dr. Avril Smart Goggins
Dr. Paula Westerman

Reach out and connect with these experts

Videos and Webinars with Education Leaders

WGU Teachers College: 20 Years from Idea to Impact

This fascinating panel discussion recalls the journey from past to present and into the future in WGU’s mission to transform lives through education. Celebrating 20 years of the Teachers College as part of the 2021 SXSWEdu activities, this group takes viewers back to a gathering of visionary governors looking to introduce the country to competency-based education two decades ago, all the way to today where explorations into stacking credentials are again reinventing education. 

The conversation is lively and peppered with insights and memories of those who took part in the journey, including alumni, education luminaries and governmental leaders. Enjoy the stories shared by these education difference-makers who disrupted a system to take us to new levels of achievement and access.


  • Rahim Rajan, Deputy Director Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Tom Vander Ark, CEO, Getting Smart 
  • Dr. Sally Johnstone, President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS)
  • Dr. Marni Baker Stein, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, WGU

Host: Dr. Mark Milliron, former SVP WGU, and Executive Dean, WGU Teachers College 

Meeting this Moment by Pushing Educational Boundaries

In the world of education, this last year of the pandemic and hard social-justice work has pushed us to try new things, rethink and reexamine long-held practices and beliefs, and begin to visualize a different kind of road ahead. This presentation reflects on this tumultuous time and a projection of the possibilities we now can champion around new learning models, teaching strategies, and leadership principles for engaging and readying students for an increasingly dynamic time in learning, earning, personal growth, and civic engagement.


  • Stacy Caldwell, CEO Mastery Transcript Consortium
  • Rahim Rajan, Deputy Director Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Tom Vander Ark, CEO, Getting Smart 

Host: Dr. Mark Milliron, former SVP WGU, and Executive Dean, WGU Teachers College 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Today's Classroom

This compelling and timely conversation was recorded as a Facebook live webinar. The discussion centers around complex subjects many teachers are trying to address successfully across the DEI spectrum. Viewers can experience many learnings from this recording. Focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classrooms, participants share personal stories of challenge and triumph and provide observations for further discussion and reflection. Watch and learn more about how to tackle these topics in your classrooms. 



  • Jason Thompson, Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, WGU 
  • Dr. Mamie Pack, Course Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, WGU Teachers College 
  • Dr. Mark Milliron, former SVP WGU, and Executive Dean, WGU Teachers College 

Host: Dr. Aaron Popham, Dean and Academic Vice President, WGU Teachers College 

Culture Change: How to Leverage the Past to Create the Future of Education

Founded in 1873 as one of two HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) that enroll only women, Bennett College is steeped in tradition. From being the first Black college accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to the activism and strategy employed during the civil rights movement, the women (Bennett Belles) of Bennett College have strong cultural beliefs.

When Dr. Suzanne Walsh was named president in June of 2019, one of her charges was to implement some dramatic change. In this presentation, Dr. Walsh shares her approach and how she relied on the past to bring people to the vision of a new future. She discusses important strategies and concepts including the increasingly popular conversation around ‘anti-fragility’ and how becoming ‘unbreakable’ and stronger through challenges is part of a resilient path forward. 

Guest: Dr. Suzanne Walsh, President, Bennett College

Host: Dr. Mark Milliron, former SVP WGU, and Executive Dean, WGU Teachers College

Book Shelf

The Teachers College community regularly discusses books of interest to the education professions. We'll post some highly recommended reads here for your consideration. 

book cover think again

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, by Adam Grant.

book cover the extended mind

The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, by Annie M. Paul.

Rising Thought Leaders: Alumni Podcasts

alumni podcast logo

Enjoy these podcasts from the WGU Alumni Association with our Teachers College graduates. 

Graduate Maureen Stover – episode 16

Maureen was recently named North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and was one of four finalists nationally for U.S. teacher of the year. Listen to her share how drawing upon the WGU model helps her in her classroom today.

Graduate Jillian Hernandez - episode 23

Fifth-grade teacher and Arizona Teacher of the Year finalist, Jillian reflects on her interesting pathway to becoming a classroom teacher. 

Graduate Winnie Obilor – episode 29

Winnie believes no matter where you live, education has a transformative power. Winnie talks about her capstone project designed to help underprivileged women in her home country the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Graduate Marah Jordan – episode 36

Marah shares her story as a community college transfer student, and her excitement at being a first-year teacher. Marah is currently working on her master’s degree in English Language Learning.