Natalie Young, Ed.D. and Ed.S., grew up in an underserved school district.
She wants all of her early childhood education students to realize the great need for devoted teachers, especially in communities with fewer resources. That’s why Young started the Open Doors program at NIU, giving Huskies firsthand classroom experiences with at-risk students.
It’s just one of the real-world lessons the assistant professor offers students on their education journey, fueling their desire to become the best teachers.
“I want all of my students to be that teacher that everybody wants to have,” Young said.
While Young helps prepare her students for whatever they might encounter in their careers, her research is focused on preparing for today’s culturally diverse classrooms. Some of her students get that exposure through Open Doors.
“My students weren’t getting enough opportunities in schools where they serviced students of color,” she said. “I felt like there was a need there and you kind of fear what you don’t know. I wanted to have that open door for my students to experience at-risk communities.”
Another tool she uses is sharing her own experiences from working nearly a decade as a primary grade-level teacher. Since leaving those classrooms for NIU, she has become a beloved and valuable mentor to many.
In recent years, Young has received “most valuable professor” and “influential professor” distinctions, as well as an excellence in teaching award and a recognition for exceptional contributions in diversity and social justice.
Former student Veronica Riva, who now is an Early Childhood Education teacher in St. Charles, said she carries many lessons from Young into her classroom.
“Natalie is going to change the world by teaching teachers how to support their students no matter their background,” Riva said.