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Faculty & Staff

The Whitworth School of Education has as its greatest resource an exceptional faculty. This diverse group is dedicated to the concept of teaching as a calling. From the classroom to field supervision to leadership in higher education, our faculty and staff stand out as leaders in education.

Meet the Director

Ronald Jacobson, Ph.D.  

Dean, School of Education

Interim Director, Master in Teaching Program

What drew you to a career of preparing teachers?

I have had the privilege of preparing educators (teachers, principals, school counselors) at three institutions across the state. In those years of service, working for small private institutions and large public institutions, I have spent countless hours in schools, observing candidates, as well as in deep conversations with those candidates. Two truths have become exceedingly clear during these experiences: 1. There is a deep need for equitable access to quality education for our P-12 students. The playing field, even though we struggle to admit it, is not even. And, the research is clear; what makes the foremost difference in leveling that field is a quality teacher in the room. I am deeply passionate that every P-12 student in our state be given all of the tools and experiences necessary for them to find their way, to excel, and to employ their potential and curiosity to the fullest. We desperately need these students (all of them!) to bring to the table what they have, helping us face the daunting challenges of 21st-century life. 2. I have witnessed a deep passion, a calling, in the teacher candidates that I have had the privilege of working with over the years. This has never been demonstrated more fully than here at Whitworth. Our MIT candidates come with a passion for providing the kinds of access and care necessary to allow our next generation of citizens to thrive. How could I not be involved in such a project!


Jacobson earned his B.S. in operations analysis (economics) from Central Washington University, his master's in applied theology from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Washington. Ron also serves as a board member and Executive Committee member for the Professional Education Standards Board (the agency tasked with regulating educator preparation in Washington). Ron is married to a career educator, Michele, who taught special education in the Edmonds School District for years, and now teaches pre-service candidates online at Central Washington University. He and Michele have two grown children: Andrew, a software engineer in Seattle, and Katie, a working musician in New York (married to Ivan, also a musician). Ron's hobbies include running, woodworking, listening to great jazz, and hanging out in bookstores, coffee shops and bakeries.

Meet the Assistant Director

Ellie Powers 

Assistant Director, Master in Teaching Program

What drew you to become the assistant director for Whitworth's MIT program?

I received my undergraduate degree from Whitworth in elementary education and appreciated the preparation I received from caring faculty members who equipped me to go out into the classroom. Whitworth’s MIT program is known for its excellence in preparing teachers to be difference-makers in their community; being part of a program that is helping to equip educators is rewarding work.

I enjoy being able to walk alongside people as they pursue their goal of becoming a certified teacher and educator. Working with students in the K-12 setting is important work and I like being able to support the MIT program as Whitworth equips them to be inspirational teachers.

Powers' hobbies include reading, stand-up paddle boarding, traveling, and time with family and friends.

Meet Our Faculty

Gary Spencer, Ph.D.

What drew you to teaching as a career?

I knew I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was Mrs. Stuart, my fifth grade teacher, who really had a heart for her students; or Mr. Pointress, my middle school social studies teacher, who made the class come alive; or Mrs. Senn, my high school English teacher, who fired me up with a love for reading. Together, these and many other teachers touched my life and ignited a love for learning.

What memory would you like to share?

I came to Whitworth from a wonderful life growing up on a farm in Northeast Washington. However, the highlights of my summers were limited to changing irrigation pipes in the alfalfa field and bucking bales of hay to earn some spending money. When I came to Whitworth, the world opened to me. I joined the debate team, and in my first year went to nationals in Houston. This was my first time on an airplane! I hold dear my memories from my time as an undergrad at Whitworth, and I look forward to sharing my love for learning with future teachers.


Spencer was an elementary educator and principal for 32 years. He earned a B.A. in elementary music education and an M.Ed. in public school administration from Whitworth University and a Ph.D. on philosophy in educational leadership from Washington State University. He also spent 27 years in the Washington Air National Guard in the weather field, and is a proud veteran. He is married with three grown sons and six perfect grandchildren.

Doreen Keller, Ed.D. 

What drew you to teaching as a career?

My mother: She was an elementary-school teacher for 36 years. She taught students in some of the poorest neighborhoods, and she always loved what she did. I remember her former students approaching her in grocery stores, at theme parks, and in restaurants to tell her how thankful they were to have had her as their teacher. As a child, I saw firsthand how much she affected young people's lives, and I knew that teaching was what I wanted to pursue.

What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in becoming a teacher?

Make sure you are getting into teaching because you love and care about kids. The relationships you make with your students are the most important factor in your success and theirs.

What's your fondest memory of a teacher from your own K-12 experience?

My high school English teacher was the perfect balance of smart, demanding, consistent and, above all, loving. She pushed me to do better with my writing and introduced me to the idea of having to work harder for the first time. She passed away shortly before I began my first year of teaching, and I wish I had shared with her how much she influenced my life.


Keller has taught and advised Whitworth MIT candidates since 2013. She has extensive experience in secondary teaching and learning including 11 years of instructing English/language arts classes as well as seven years of experience as a clinical faculty instructor at Gonzaga University. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of Washington, an MIT degree from Gonzaga University and she completed her doctorate at Washington State University in 2013.