Faculty Profiles

School of Education Faculty

Faculty in the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound have extensive professional experience as well as an in-depth commitment to their particular disciplines in education and counseling. High quality teaching is a hallmark of our program and the university, and several of our faculty have received teaching awards. Below are brief profiles of the faculty you’ll work with in the School of Education.


Terry Beck, Distinguished Professor

I taught for four years in a Federal Way, Washington elementary school before moving to Kykotsmovi, Arizona to teach middle school students on the Hopi Indian Reservation.  From Arizona, I returned to Federal Way where I team-taught in a 6th grade classroom, taught 3rd – 6th grade students in a gifted and talented program, and coordinated what was then called the District’s computer program.  I managed all that before accepting my first principalship.  When I was appointed to start a new school in the Federal Way School District, I also entered a doctoral program at the University of Washington.

In my doctoral work, I focused on a core issue I was experiencing as a practitioner—how to invite our diverse citizenry in to the democratic project of public schooling.  I centered my graduate work on educating people for democratic citizenship, particularly in the public school classroom.  Working productively with people who are amazingly different from me and from each another is what I continue to study and to think about today.

My masters degree is from the University of Puget Sound, so when a position came available in the teacher education program, I jumped at the chance to work here.  I knew from first-hand experience that Puget Sound offers a learning environment where professors come to know students well in order to both support and challenge them.  At Puget Sound I’m continually developing greater expertise in my field while remaining in close contact with amazing students—students who are changing the world for the better. 

View Terry Beck's website.


Mary Boer, Clinical Instructor

I began my teaching career as a high school English teacher at Conifer High School in Colorado, and to this day, I cherish the students and faculty who helped me grow as a beginning teacher. After two years teaching there, I moved back to Tacoma, thrilled at the prospect of continuing to work with high school students. At that time, secondary English positions were scarce, so I accepted a position as a 4th grade teacher at Pt. Defiance Elementary in Tacoma Public Schools. Unsure of what to expect of nine-year olds, I welcomed a new class of 4th graders. They were amazing, brilliant, eager to learn, and I was hooked. In time, I added an elementary endorsement to my certification so I could continue to teach 4th and 5th grade.

After eleven years at Pt. Defiance Elementary, I was given an opportunity to become Director of Education for “Seattle Study Club,” a private, continuing education company that serves dentists who want to further their knowledge to provide excellent care to each patient. During those three years I helped to develop curriculum and worked with and learned from remarkable and creative individuals. From this work I transitioned into the role of Clinical Instructor in the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound, where I had also earned both my B.A. in English Literature and M.A.T. degrees.

I am thankful for every day that I get to work with the faculty and students of the University of Puget Sound School of Education. I believe deeply in its commitment to reflective learning, supportive and sustained relationships with its students and alumni, and centering social justice, race, and culturally responsive teaching in its curriculum. In my role as Clinical Instructor, I am fortunate to be able to teach courses to our graduate students as well as supervise our teacher candidates when they are in school-based placements.

View Mary Boer's website.


Betsy Gast, Instructor

My path to teaching counseling at the University of Puget Sound has been a circuitous and lucky one.  I received a B.A. in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of Oregon and began my career in education in Northern California as a teaching assistant and then teacher of three to six year olds with speech and language disabilities. After moving to Washington State, I substitute taught in special education, grades K-12, and secondary education in Tacoma and Bethel School Districts.  Recognizing that I was primarily interested in the emotional lives of my students and how that impacted their well-being, I enrolled in the Masters in Counseling Program at Puget Sound.  I was fortunate to be a graduate assistant for the program and had the opportunity to assist in teaching.  

My clinical experience includes working for Catholic Community Services as a family therapist providing in-home counseling with high-risk, high-need families in Pierce County.  Though I had planned initially to go into school counseling, working for CCS as a family therapist and supervisor was pivotal in my career development.  Entering the homes of families in crisis was humbling and expansive; I learned to respect each family member’s life experience and perspective, a stance that is foundational to my counseling practice and teaching philosophy.  After two years, I returned to the K-12 setting as a junior high counselor in South Kitsap School District.  I began a small private practice in 1983 which continues today. 

I think of myself as a practitioner and find teaching in the counseling program at Puget Sound requires that I continually develop creative ways to translate theory into practice.  Watching as each student develops his or her own unique way of practicing counseling is extremely rewarding. 

View Betsy Gast's website.


Fred Hamel, Professor

My own journey toward teaching has many roots but partly started in a community college English classroom.  I was so impressed by the leadership and thoughtfulness of my teacher, and by the relationships she created with students, that I began to see teaching English as something for me.  After some graduate coursework, I took my first teaching job at a private inner city school in Chicago – without state certification—and only later returned to get my MAT when I realized I needed more knowledge about learning and teaching.  My M.A.T. program at the University of Chicago exposed me to a rich educational community, to fascinating learning theory, and to concrete tools for teaching in my subject area.  My perspective on teaching, learning, and students changed dramatically. 

After my M.A.T., I taught English in secondary schools in the Chicago area, as well as in Washington State, before starting a Ph.D. program in curriculum & instruction at the University of Washington.   I continued teaching high school (I love teaching 10th graders) while completing my degree – trying to maintain a strong blend of theory and practice.  My interests throughout this time have focused on literacy education, how teachers can better understand students as learners, and also how teachers can develop as learners in the profession.  Part of my work in the School of Education is to initiate and maintain strong community-based connections, and I especially enjoy the relationships I’ve been able to develop with local educators and schools since coming to Puget Sound in 2000.

I greatly appreciate the small, collegial atmosphere of the School of Education.  My colleagues are tremendous, they help me grow, and I learn so much from our interactions and shared endeavors. 

View Fred Hamel's website.


Grace Kirchner, Professor

I feel fortunate to have spent most of my professional life teaching in the counseling program at the University of Puget Sound. Prior to my arrival on campus, I obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology that included an internship in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington. My clinical experience includes work at Comprehensive Mental Health Center in Tacoma, a sabbatical in the counseling office at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, and working with college-age students at the Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center at Puget Sound.

Having received my undergraduate education at a liberal arts college (Oberlin), I was, and continue to be, attracted to the type of education that is available here. Because our program is small, usually limited to 12 new students each year, we get to know each of them very well and remain in touch with many for years, even decades, after graduation.

My greatest satisfaction comes from observing the success of the graduates of our counseling program and from hearing from professionals in schools and mental health settings that our graduates are sought after, particularly in the South Puget Sound area.

View Grace Kirchner's website.


Heidi Morton, Assistant Professor

My journey to becoming a counselor began early in life. Both of my parents (both proud Puget Sound grads) were career educators, and my father had been a school counselor before I was born. Finding ways to improve people’s lives, both inter- and intrapersonally, has been a constant goal throughout my life. Music has also been a life constant and was part of what brought me to Puget Sound initially as an undergraduate student. I played violin in the university symphony orchestra and completed a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in religion. It was in part my experiences teaching violin and guitar, working with students of all ages to overcome challenges and move toward their individual goals, that helped motivate me to pursue a career in counseling in order to help people with their overall life journeys. I graduated from the University of Puget Sound’s counseling program in 1997 after completing both the school and mental health counseling tracks.

I have been a school counselor since 1997, working in rural and urban school districts at the high school and elementary levels. I have had the opportunity to create a comprehensive school counseling program from the ground up, help open a new high school, and participate in and lead high-functioning counseling teams. My commitment to social justice and equity has led me to work on local and national initiatives, particularly those related to the LGBTQIA community and those related to increasing educational equity, access, and support for K-20 students. The desire to contribute to the profession on a broader level led me to pursue and complete my Ph.D. in Counseling through Oregon State University.

Being a two-time Puget Sound graduate, the things that drew me here initially are what I still love and appreciate about Puget Sound today: the rigorous and supportive learning environment, commitment to social justice and to community, the instillation of a love of lifelong learning, and the pursuit of unlocking human potential to create better lives and a better world.


Molly Pugh, Clinical Instructor

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, poses an important question in her poem, “The Summer Day.” She writes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In the years since I graduated from high school in the mid-size town of Twin Falls, ID, my wild and precious life has taken numerous turns, pauses, and jaunts along paths both planned and unplanned. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After living across portions of the West and Intermountain West, I began my higher education at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. While there I gained a strong foundation in liberal arts, studied abroad in England and, in 1997, earned a Bachelor of Arts in English after completing a senior thesis on Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights

In 2002, I returned to higher education to pursue my Masters of Arts in Teaching here at the University of Puget Sound. Upon completion of my master’s thesis on attitudes and practices around reading at the secondary level, I began my career as an English teacher at Gig Harbor High School. While there, I was charged with creating the first offering of Advanced Placement Literature & Composition as well as teaching a variety of courses from an integrated, team-taught history and literature class, to intensive writing courses like Short Fiction & Poetry and Personal Essay. In addition, much of my time at Gig Harbor was spent working on the selection, implementation and development of core curriculum for the English department. This work was well supported with the school’s shift to a focused Professional Learning Community, which provided weekly opportunities for me to work alongside other English teachers and reflect on student achievement as a result of our current practice and the continued implementation of best practices.

In 2007, I earned my National Board Certification after a year of intense teaching, reflecting, and writing. This proved the best professional development of my career and reinforced the reflective and rigorous practice that I had adopted as a MAT student and educator. Then, in 2010, I formally mentored a MAT candidate from the University of Puget Sound and discovered how much I enjoy and am motivated by working with new teachers. While it was difficult to leave the public school classroom, I was ecstatic to join the company of the School of Education. This small group of highly reflective and collaborative educators prides itself on providing a rich and meaningful experience to its students. I am proud and grateful to have joined such a faculty.

Mary Oliver’s question has followed me from sea to shining sea, abroad and back to the gardens of my back yard. Ever present in my mind, I can only imagine how this next adventure will unfold. Beyond anything I know it will be both “wild and precious.”

View Molly Pugh's website.


Amy E. Ryken, Dean and Distinguished Professor

I began my teaching career in Berkeley, California. I taught high school biology, chemistry, and integrated science for seven years. For another seven years I coordinated a program that connected high school and community college students to internships in the San Francisco Bay Area’s many biotechnology research and manufacturing laboratories. I enjoyed teaching in the vibrant Berkeley community because of the focus on curriculum innovation, the racially and ethnically diverse community, and sustained teacher collaboration to improve teaching and learning opportunities.

While working as the biotech program coordinator, I completed a doctorate in educational policy because I wanted to link the everyday interactions I engaged in classrooms with larger policy debates about educational reform and educational inequality. In my teaching and research I’m deeply interested in the life-long journey of becoming the teacher each of us hopes to be. I study teacher learning and I’m particularly interested in partnerships that foster connections between schools and community resources such as outdoor environments, museums, and work places. I’ve written environmental education and art curriculum guides, presented at regional and national conferences, and have published articles on teacher learning in a range of journals. I work very intentionally in my teaching and research to be one model of a teacher-scholar.

What attracted me to the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound is the commitment to reflective teaching practices, collaboration, and engaging the dilemmas of the profession. I feel very fortunate to engage daily with students and colleagues who pose challenging questions and are willing to make themselves vulnerable by making their teaching practices public for critique and analysis. I love working with a cohort of students over a year; I get to know my students well and very much enjoy contributing to, and witnessing, their growth as professionals. It is very rewarding to learn and grow as an educator in collaborative dialogue.

In addition to my duties as Dean, I teach undergraduate courses focused on classroom teaching, and science and math courses in both the K-8 and secondary M.A.T. programs.

View Amy Ryken's website.


Teaching Awards

Thomas A. Davis Teaching Award

The Thomas A. Davis Teaching Award is given to honor excellence in teaching and is named to honor Thomas A. Davis, who served as dean of the university from 1973 to 1994. 

  • Mary Boer (2017)
  • Fred Hamel (2015)
  • Betsy Gast (2004)
  • Amy Ryken (2004)


President's Excellence in Teaching Award

The Puget Sound President’s Excellence in Teaching Award was established by former trustee Hal Eastman ’60 and his wife, Jacque ’61. Recipients are selected for their genuine passion for teaching, an ability to inspire students to learn, a capacity to set high expectations and challenge students to meet them, a respect for students as individuals, an enduring intellectual curiosity, and the capacity for growth, change, and vitality in the classroom and beyond.

  • Terry Beck (2018)
  • Amy Ryken (2007)