Teacher Education Faculty Spotlight

TE Spotlight on Dinah Volk


Dr. Dinah Volk is retiring in June 2015 after 28 years at Cleveland State University.  After nearly three decades, the professor of early childhood education is as much a student of the profession as she is a teacher.

“When I started teaching, I enjoyed sharing knowledge with students,” Dr. Volk recalled during a recent conversation while overcast skies peered through her Julka Hall office window.  “I realized, though, that teaching isn’t about transferring knowledge.  Learning is an active, engaging process.  Teaching and learning are linked.  It’s about connecting with students, young and old, understanding what they bring and engaging them to create knowledge, more than it’s about sharing knowledge.”

Dr. Volk, who earned her Ph.D. in bilingual education from New York University (NYU), began her career as an early childhood teacher in New York, Connecticut and the South American country of Chile.  Teaching young children was very different then.

“We’re living in a time where much of what happens in the classroom is inappropriate for young children,” Dr. Volk said.  “Tests along with pencil and paper tasks are not the way most young children learn.  The task we’re charged with is preparing future teachers to teach in an environment where they’ll have to challenge the norm.”

Dr. Volk, the 2011 Cleveland State Distinguished Faculty for Teaching award winner, had her sights set on social work while in college before being bitten by the teaching bug.  She taught an urban education course at NYU before spending two years as a professor at Bank Street College (New York City) and four years at the Center for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University (New York City). 

“Teaching is challenging,” said Dr. Volk, who earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from Bank Street College and her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brandeis University (suburban Boston, Mass.).  “The more I know, the more I realize what [teaching] can be.  I’m always searching for new strategies when it comes to teaching.”

Dr. Volk, who spent the Fall 2013 semester as a visiting professor at Teachers College, helped found what is now the Dean’s Diversity Council for the College of Education and Human Services when she and a group of colleagues began an informal diversity discussion group in 2007.

“Over the years, I’ve enjoyed being able to collaborate with some wonderful colleagues,” Volk said.  “I’m looking forward to continuing those relationships in the years ahead.  I will keep working with colleagues for another three years on a grant project developing culturally responsive curriculum with dyads of early childhood teacher educators and teachers.”         

“I must say, though, I’m looking forward to having no more meetings,” Volk added with a bright smile.


Favorite music group: La Santa Cecilia

Favorite movie: Boyhood

Favorite food: Sticky toffee pudding

Favorite thing about Cleveland: All the great neighborhoods

My hidden talent is…. Knitting