Daniel Kirk: a profile on the new education dean

Ren Gennerman, Features Reporter

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Fresh from teaching and travelling around the world, Daniel Kirk assumed the role of Dean of the College of Education for Winona State University on July 8.

Arriving on the eve of the unveiling of Education Village, Kirk was excited for many reasons to join Winona State.

“There’s not many institutions across the country that put education at the forefront of their strategic planning,” Kirk said. “We are really saying that teacher education is a key part of our mission as a university.”

Aside from the sense of community he felt among the students, he also felt community within his own staff.

“I’ve worked at large research institutions with 35,000-40,000 students in colleges where you don’t know the people down the hallway,” Kirk said. “I like the fact that Winona was big enough to have the opportunities and growth we would need, but it is still personable. You still know folks.”

Kirk, who is from England, grew up wanting to be in the army. However, upon graduation, the army informed him that they wanted him to get a college degree first. Kirk went to school and studied English literature, then decided to get a post-graduate degree in teaching. Through this, Kirk got to travel the world.

After teaching middle and high school language arts in the United Kingdom, Kirk travelled to France, Bermuda, Dubai and various places in North America. During this time, he earned his doctorate at the University of Georgia, which is where he became interested in research and teacher preparation. Kirk’s experience in other places gave him appreciation for how culture plays into the classroom.

“Everywhere is the same and everywhere is different,” Kirk said. “They might look different, sound different, be from different cultures, but at the end of the day, learning happens the same way.”

After earning his doctorate, Kirk moved from being an assistant professor, to full professor, to department chair and finally to Dean in both Oregon and outside Dubai. His and his wife’s desire to come back to the United States is what led them to Winona State.

Kirk said he is looking forward to seeing what exactly he can bring to the university. Within the year, he plans to gather all education professors and come up with a plan on where they want to be within five years. However, he does have some goals of his own already in place. Kirk wants to use the new Education Village facilities as a catalyst for educating teachers in a better, more informed way than ever before. He believes that places like Helble Hall, with flexible classrooms, technology and space to collaborate, Winona State can keep continuing to produce classroom-ready teachers.

Kirk also wants to be nationally known as one of the best colleges for teachers. In five years, he wants to be the national leader for teacher preparation in the country. Kirk also discussed the possibility of offering summer classes and professional development opportunities for teachers around the country.

However, Kirk’s biggest goal for the university is in regard to teacher retention. As the national and global shortage of teachers increased, he realized that educators have no problem producing great teachers but fall short on the support they give them once they enter their own classroom. As of 2019, 50,000 people in Minnesota are licensed teachers not practicing in a classroom. He wants to change this, stating that support of new teachers is of the utmost importance, as the job is difficult.

“Any teacher who tells you that they didn’t go into the book cupboard and cry during their first year of teaching is lying to you,” Kirk said. “But keep hold of the reasons you went into teaching, and we as a university staff have a duty to support them.”

However high his goals are, it is clear the university staff support Kirk.

On May 29, Patricia Rogers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, told the Winona State University News Blog just how excited she was for him to come to Winona State.

“Dr. Kirk will bring to WSU his clear vision, demonstrated success in leadership, and an international perspective with a deep understanding of preparing teachers for our global society,” Rogers said. “He is dedicated and knows that student success is inextricably bound to the success of our faculty.”