School of Education  

School of Education Faculty & Staff

Dean of Education

Susan English, Ph.D.
Interim Dean, School of Education

Office: AB 260
Phone: (616) 632-2045


Susan English, Ph.D., is serving as the Interim Dean for the School of Education for the 2015-16 academic year. A tenured Associate Professor, Dr. English is also the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness for Aquinas College. Her areas of expertise include accreditation, strategic planning, institutional research, educational technology, online teaching and learning, evaluation, and assessment. Dr. English has been with the college since 1994.

School of Education Staff

Valene Bia




Valène Bia

Administrative Assistant

Office: AB 260

Phone: (616) 632-2440



Valène Bia is an Administrative Assistant for the School of Education. She graduated from Northern Michigan University with a B.A. in Political Science and French. She speaks 4 languages fluently; Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, French and English. Valène has 11 brothers and sisters. She enjoys reading, learning new languages and traveling. 



Dan Diedrich

Dan Diedrich, M.A., M.S.

Director, Field Placement

Office: AB265

Phone: (616) 632-2427



Dan Diedrich has been the Director of Field Placement for student teachers in the School of Education at Aquinas College for nearly a decade, since 2005. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. He also has two masters degrees from Indiana University; one in History (1977), and one in Education (1979). From 1972 through 1974, he began his teaching career in Uganda, East Africa. After his stint in East Africa, he helped start and directed an award winning alternative program, Horizons High School in Wyoming, Michigan for 25 years. Dan has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses at Aquinas College in Education Theory and Methods for 30 years.


He received a National Defense Education Fellowship in History and Swahili from Indiana University, 1974-76. Under his tutelage, Horizons High School was named Outstanding Alternative Program in Michigan, in 1989 and again in 1995. In 1994, Dan was named Outstanding Principal and Advocate for Alternative Education in Michigan. He was an Advisory Board member and guest editor of Changing Schools: Journal of Alternate Education from 1997 through 1999. He was also awarded the Outstanding Catholic Educator in Grand Rapids by the Notre Dame Club of Grand Rapids in 2005.


Dan and his wife, Kate, who is a local artist and retired art teacher, have three sons and one grandson.

Elizabeth Flores

Elizabeth Flores, B.S.I.B.
Director, Educator Preparation Services

Office: AB 255
Phone: (616) 632-2436


Elizabeth Flores joined the School of Education in 2000 after graduating from Aquinas College with majors in International Business and Spanish.  Elizabeth serves as the liaison with the Michigan Department of Education on all matters pertaining to teacher certification.  She provides academic advising to all prospective and current Education students and guides candidates through the certification process.  Elizabeth also develops the Education course schedule each semester, maintains and updates the academic catalog for Education, and creates program plans for all SOE major, minor, and endorsement offerings.  She also serves as the SCECH coordinator and facilitates summer professional development offerings for educators.  In addition, Elizabeth serves as the Director of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Consortium for Teacher Preparation.  Through this partnership with the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education, Aquinas serves as the administrator for a unique program through which Michigan certified teachers may take online courses to add an endorsement in Deaf/Hard of Hearing to the teaching certificate.


Elizabeth is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Spanish, teaching Spanish courses at the College.


Elizabeth met her husband, Omar, when they were both students at Aquinas College. Elizabeth and Omar, who graduated from Aquinas College in 2002, reside in East Grand Rapids with their two young sons.

Natalie Tassell

Natalie Tassell

Assistant Director of Field Placement

Office AB 260

Phone: (616) 632-2442


Natalie Tassell handles all the administrative support for the Student Teaching and Introduction to Education placements. She also handles the budget for the Education department. Natalie graduated from Aquinas College in 2006 with a B.S. degree with a dual major in Business Administration and Communication.


Natalie and her husband, Chris, enjoy the many outdoor activities Michigan has to offer.

School of Education Full-time Faculty
Nkechy Ezeg

Nkechy Ezeh, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Education

Office: AB 232
Phone: (616) 632-2431

Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, an international scholar, is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Education and Director of Early Childhood Education Program at Aquinas College.  As Dr. Ezeh prepares new teachers for Early Care & Education, she is able to draw upon perspectives gained through her direct involvement in the community. As a former Early Care & Education teacher she spent many days in the classroom, specifically with vulnerable children, gaining valuable insight on the practical implementation of educational theory. 


Dr. Ezeh has served as an Adult and Parent Educator, not only teaching parents but listening and learning from those who can best describe what life is like for low income families. Finally, she has assisted several non-profit agencies as an Early Childhood Education Consultant, providing curriculum and evaluation expertise at a level that many would not normally have been able to access. In addition, for the past 15 years, Dr. Ezeh has conducted Professional Development and Parent Education workshops throughout the United States of America, Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Nigeria and Zambia.


Dr. Ezeh completed her M.Ed. at Grand Valley State University, and Ed.D in Child and Youth Studies with specialization in Curriculum Development and Systemic Change from Nova Southeastern University. She was one of the US delegates to Reggio Emilia, Italy and a panelist on the Oxford University Early Literacy Round Table. Dr. Ezeh conducts training on Early Childhood related topics and on integrating the Reggio Emilia principles into a staff development and teacher preparation programs – the focus of her doctoral dissertation. Her true passion is bringing quality care and education to vulnerable children and promoting parental engagement through education, modeling and coaching.


In 2010, Dr. Ezeh was approached by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to conduct a current reality research on children living in the core city of Grand Rapids, Michigan and in 2011 to lead a collaborative process to establish an Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) for the purpose of planning and designing an intentional preschool service system aimed at providing, expanding and sustaining the capacity of high quality early care and education programs in the vulnerable neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.  Her research and recommendations resulted in a $5 Million grant award to ELNC in 2012.


Dr. Ezeh joined Aquinas College in 1998 Dr. Ezeh and her husband Pius have five children: Onyinye MK, Obinna, Akuezumkpa, Nnenna and Niki.

Gina Garner

Gina Garner, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Education

Office: AB 226

Phone: (616) 632-2432



Gina Garner, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education and serves as the Learning Disabilities Program Coordinator. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy from Michigan State University in 2009. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (1991) and a Master's of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (1992) from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Dr. Garner worked in the public schools in suburban Chicago and St. Louis for nearly ten years before coming to Michigan to begin graduate work. Her research interests include examining and evaluating technology targeted for students with special educational needs, adapting curriculum for student access, administrator perspectives on special education policy, and research methodology in education. Additional interests include science, nature, and the intersection of pop culture with scholarly research.


Dr. Garner moonlights as a musician and blues singer when she is not in the classroom or in front of a computer.

Rui Niu-Cooper

Rui Niu-Cooper, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Education

Office: AB 234
Phone: (616) 632-2428


Rui Niu-Cooper, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Education (English As Second Language) at Aquinas College. She is also coordinating both ESL and Bilingual Programs at the college. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Sichuan University, China, an M. Ed. in School and Teaching Improvement from Acadia University in Canada, and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Engaging Diverse Learners/ESL from Michigan State University. She has worked as a classroom teacher, adjunct faculty,assistant professor in Pennsylvania and as a researcher. She established and ran a Tutoring Center in Pennsylvania for students coming from low-income and non-native speaking backgrounds. She has written and co-written articles on how to improve environments and teaching practices for English language learners from various backgrounds, and has done extensive literacy consulting in the Eastern part of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Currently, she is a member of the Michigan State ESL Advisory Committee. She loves children and has strong feelings for English Language Learners. She also loves reading (professional, personal, and young adult and children’s books), traveling, comparing different cultures, and spending time with her husband, Garth Cooper, and their daughter, Alexandra.

Julia Reynolds, Ph.D.

Julia Reynolds, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education

Office: AB 224

Phone: (616) 632-2055

Julia Reynolds, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Education (Literacy Studies) at Aquinas College (2006-2008, 2010-present). She is also the Director of Curriculum and School Improvement in Northview Public Schools, where she previously served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. She has a B.A. in Criminology and Law Studies from Marquette University, a B.A. in English and Reading and an M.A.T. from Aquinas College, and an Ed.S. in Educational Administration and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Literacy from Michigan State University. She has worked as a classroom teacher in Wyoming Public Schools and Forest Hills Public Schools, worked in curriculum development in Grand Rapids Public Schools, and worked as an adjunct instructor at Aquinas College (before becoming part of the faculty), Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Calvin College, and San Diego State University. In literacy, she has served as president of both the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) and the Michigan Reading Association (MRA), written or co-written articles and book chapters on best practices in literacy instruction, and done extensive literacy consulting in the region. In her spare time, she loves reading (professional, personal, young adult and children’s books) and spending time with her husband, Billy, and their son, Liam.

Carol Winkle

Carol A. Winkle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education

Office: AB 222
Phone: (616) 632-2434

Carol A. Winkle, Ph.D. earned her B.A. from Michigan State University in 1969. She taught in public schools in grades 1-4 and 6-8 over a period of 12 years. During three years of that time, she served as a Title I Director. She earned her M.A. in educational psychology with specialization in child and adolescent growth and development in 1973 from Michigan State University. In 1983, she earned her Ph.D. in social-philosophical foundations from Michigan State University.   While working on her doctorate at MSU, she also served as a teaching assistant in the area of educational psychology.

From 1990-1993, Dr. Winkle served as the Director of the Student Support Services Program at Aquinas College. She became a faculty member of the Aquinas College Education Department in 1993. Her responsibilities first included coordinating the Introduction to Education courses. Currently, Dr. Winkle is involved in teaching Introduction to Education and Foundations courses.