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Alumni Award Winners

Jason Gallant – 2014 Outstanding Young Alumnus

MED ’07, PhD ’11

JasonGallantJason Gallant, who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in school psychology from UF’s College of Education, has been given the college’s 2014 Outstanding Graduate Leadership Award. Among numerous achievements, he was recognized for tripling the number of families served during his first year as chief psychologist at the Boys Town Central Florida Behavioral Health Clinic in Oviedo, Fla. Gallant received his latest honor during the COE’s 2014 Recognition Banquet, held April 11 at the UF Hilton. He says his focus on improving the lives of youth through early identification of behavioral problems was inspired by his mother, an elementary school teacher who he says had “a genuine passion and enthusiasm for giving children the gift of knowledge.” Gallant grew up in Fort Lauderdale and earned his B.S. from Florida State University in 2004. He received his master’s in 2007 and his doctorate in 2011 from UF. “I truly appreciate the faculty at the College of Education,” Gallant said. “The faculty, staff and my peers helped me to become the person and professional I am today.” Gallant completed his pre- and post-doctoral fellowships in behavioral pediatrics at the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health in Omaha, Neb. His personal interests include health and fitness, traveling and spending time with Lola, his Jack Russell terrier.

Michael Sulkowski – 2013 Outstanding Young Alumnus

MEd ’07, PhD ’11

Sulkowski, MichaelSulkowski, currently an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Arizona, received his M.Ed. degree in 2007 and his Ph.D. diploma in 2011 from UF.  His rapid emergence as a high achiever and rising scholar became evident during his graduate coursework and has carried over into his professional life. While at UF, his dissertation research, investigating college students’ willingness to report threats of violence on campus, received wide coverage in the news media and scholarly publications and contributed to his receiving the College of Education’s 2011 outstanding graduate research award.  Sulkowski completed his predoctoral internship at Louisiana State and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of South Florida.  At Arizona, he teaches classes on law and ethics in psychology, behavior modification and personality and social-emotional assessment.  His research focuses on how youth are affected by bullying, peer aggression and school violence. Corollary studies finds him exploring the role of bystanders on bullying and aggression. He also is interested in increasing schools’ mental health services and improving students’ emotional well-being through effective interventions.  His clinical specialties include assessing and treating childhood mood, anxiety, tic, obsessive-compulsive spectrum and disruptive behavior disorders.

Brian Dassler – 2012 Outstanding Young Alumnus

MEd ’02

While an undergraduate at UF, Dassler’s numerous honors and campus activities led Florida Leader magazine to select him as its 2001 Florida College Student of the Year. He received his M.Ed. degree from UF in 2002 and has been making his mark ever since as a superb teacher and education thought leader. He taught high school English for five years in Broward County and in 2007 became the districts youngest recipient of its Teacher of the Year Award. Dassler last year was named the founding principal of the KIPP Renaissance School in New Orleans, a progressive charter school in the city’s impoverished Upper Ninth Ward. He has served on several state education advisory groups. Opinion columns written by Dassler have received widespread coverage on hot education topics such as the achievement gap in America’s schools and the pros and cons of virtual schooling.

Jocelyn Moore – 2012 Outstanding Young Alumnus

MEd ’00

Jocelyn Moore chose an unconventional career path in public policy after earning her master’s in Student Personnel in Higher Education in 2000, but she attributes her problem-solving and creative-thinking skills to her UF graduate studies experience. She has worked for 12 years as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, currently as the legislative director for Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV.  She oversees the progression of bills and initiatives he is involved in and also is staff director of the Senate finance subcommittee on health care that he chairs. Moore previously worked for former Florida U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and helped him develop a stipend program for all UF students interning on Capitol Hill. Her career highlights include helping to elect President Barack Obama, working with mining companies to improve mine safety, and helping to lead our nation’s health care reform effort. She is a Life Member of the UF Alumni Association and previously served on the board of the Washington, D.C., Gator Club. She volunteers with the Junior League of Washington to promote literacy. She received the 2010 First Focus Champion for Children Award and the 2009 Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Congressional Staff Leadership Award.

David Horton – 2011 Outstanding Young Alumnus

PhD ’09

Shortly after David Horton Jr. received his doctorate in higher education administration from UF in 2009, a search committee for Ohio University’s counseling and higher education department hired him as an assistant professor, impressed by his potential as an outstanding scholar. Within two weeks of his appointment, the committee was proven right when Horton won the 2009 Outstanding Paper/Dissertation Award from the Southeastern Association for Community College Research (SACCR). He also was the SACCR’s featured speaker at its annual conference that year. Horton, who played baseball at the junior college and community college level in Texas, wrote his dissertation on the academic performance of community college athletes, a topic seldom studied. At Ohio University, his teaching and research areas include the organization, governance and funding of higher education, multicultural development, diversity in higher education, the persistence of community college students, and the academic success of student-athletes.  Horton, 33, came to UF with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history from Dallas Baptist University. During his doctoral studies, he worked as a recruiter and assistant in the College of Education’s office of outreach, recruitment and retention. He also received funding to attend the College Sports Research Institute’s annual meeting.

Phillip Poekert – 2011 Outstanding Young Alumnus

PhD ’08

Philip Poekert is a clinical assistant professor in the college’s school of teaching and learning and a UF Lastinger for Learning professor-in-residence in Miami.  He began his teaching career in the South Bronx as a Teach for America instructor, but today he is a leader in two UF programs in south Florida.  He directs Ready Schools Miami, which partners UF’s Lastinger Center with Miami-Dade County schools and local community groups. He also coordinates the center’s Florida Master Teacher Initiative, an on-the-job professional development and advanced degree program in education for teachers in Miami‐Dade and across the state. Poekert recently co-authored a successful $6 million federal grant to expand the Master Teacher initiative, offering a new degree track in early childhood education. His group was one of 49 winning applicants, beating out more than 1,600 others nationwide for a share of the stimulus funds.  Poekert previously taught in public schools in Oakland, Los Angeles and West Palm Beach before pursuing his UF doctoral degree.  The National School Reform Faculty organization recognizes Poekert as a national facilitator. His research includes evaluation studies of the impact of collaborative professional development on the instructional practice at the early childhood and elementary level. He has published in several national and international journals, including Teacher Education Quarterly and Professional Development in Education.

David Westling – 2010 Alumnus Achievement

PhD, ’76

David WestlingFor anyone who has taken a special education class, there’s a fair chance David Westling wrote the course textbook. Westling has published five major textbooks used in college classes around the nation. Since graduating from UF in 1976 with a doctorate in special education, he has divided his time between teaching and research— studying instruction for students with disabilities and the preparation of special education instructors. He has garnered more than $5.6 million in grant funding in his career and has published over 50 articles in prominent special education publications. Westling has taken his research to an international level; he served as a Fulbright research scholar in Austria in 1994 and was a guest professor in Germany in 1997. Following his travels, he published articles about inclusive practices and support in international schools. He’s now the Adelaide Worth Daniels Distinguished Professor of Special Education at Western Carolina University, where he has taught since 1997. He previously taught at Florida State University for 20 years. Through his research, teaching, writing, and mentoring, Westling has impacted special education tremendously over the last several decades.

Kevin Berry – 2010 Outstanding Young Alumnus

BAE ‘97, MEd ‘98, EdS ‘06

Following his internship at Alachua Elementary, he distinguished himself as an exemplary classroom teacher, school leader, and Professional Development Community faculty member.  Kevin is well respected both inside and outside the school as a superior teacher.  He has taught inclusive third and fourth grade classrooms and is presently teaching gifted classes for grades three through five.  Even as a beginning teacher, he showed a mastery of the complexities of positive student management and engaging instructional delivery typical of veteran teachers.  He was one of the school’s first group of National Board Certified teachers and developed a mentoring model to help other teachers earn this designation.  He has also become a leader in using technology to fundamentally change classroom instruction, not just do old things in new ways.  Kevin also has a natural insight into the human machinery of a school that shapes its culture, and is frequently sought after for his advice and guidance.  He was selected by his peers as Teacher of the Year.  Kevin was also instrumental in the success of a pilot Professional Development Community partnership project, which has since expanded to ten other schools.  He was selected by the college to become an onsite adjunct professor providing both subject area coursework and daily clinical supervision for 15-20 pre-interns assigned here each semester.  Teacher Inquiry is a major focus of the pre-internship program, and Kevin has helped the school integrate practitioner research into our culture as a method of ensuring continuous growth.  Because of the success of the PDC model, Kevin has been invited to present at numerous state and national conferences with UF faculty, and is presently a Co-Editor for the Professional Development Schools Journal.

Lesley Hull- 2009 Alumnus Achievement

BAE ’86; MAE ’92; Ph.D.’9

Jacksonville marriage and family therapist Lesley Hull regularly steps outside of her own successful counseling practice for adolescents and their families to help the next generation of practitioners at UF prepare for their counseling careers. She has dedicated her life’s work to supporting Florida’s adolescents and youth. Hull received two graduate degrees from UF’s counselor education program, most recently in 1997. In her own practice, she helps adolescents deal with substance abuse problems, focus on school work and redirect their attitudes and actions toward success. She returned to UF in 2004, though, for double-duty as an adjunct faculty instructor and supervisor of UF graduate students in mental health and marriage-and-family counseling. Hull offers her students understanding and structure, bringing real-world situations to light rather than relying strictly on didactic textbook case studies. Whether ministering to an adolescent struggling through puberty or leading counselor education students in self-reflective professional inquiry, Hull delivers inspiring instruction with a compassionate heart. Certified in Florida as a clinical supervisor for mental health licensees and for marriage and family interns, Hull is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, and the International Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society.

Jamee Cagle Miller- 2009 Outstanding Young Alumna

BAE ’01, MEd ’02

Jamee MillerWhile Jamee Cagle Miller, a fourth-grade teacher and team leader at Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lake Mary, Fla., teaches with the Sunshine State Standards in mind, she believes teaching goes beyond textbooks. As she explains: “I must equip the students with life skills and street sense … and experiences they need to be successful in life.” Cagle makes it a practice to meet one-on-one with each of her students daily, yet also finds time to supervise junior and senior teaching interns. She recently created a social studies curriculum for the school’s entire fourth-grade program that combines reading assessment benchmarks in tandem with Florida history content. She was named Seminole County 2008 Teacher of the Year, in part, for creating “Cagle’s Caring Crocs” under a $500 grant from the Golden Rule Foundation. The innovative project combines writing assignments with community service opportunities for her students to become role models in their community. She has also been featured as the Orlando Sentinel’s Teacher of the Week and chosen as Evans Elementary Teacher of the Month. Cagle graduated summa cum laude for both of her elementary education degrees from UF: a bachelor’s in 2001 and a master’s in 2002.

Elayne Colon- 2009 Outstanding Young Alumna

MAE ’02, PhD ‘05

Elayne ColonThe College of Education didn’t have to look far before selecting Elayne Colón as a 2009 Outstanding Young Alumna. Just one year after receiving her doctorate in school psychology from UF, the College took notice of her extensive assessment background and hired her to head the its national, state and institutional accreditation efforts, including the arduous preparations for the upcoming 2010 accreditation visit and review by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE ) and the Department of Education. Colón joined the education faculty in 2005, working as a psychoeducational consultant at UF’s Multidisciplinary Diagnostic and Training Program. The MDTP clinic was a collaborative effort between the colleges of Education and Medicine, serving the needs of children with learning and other developmental disabilities. Her research interests include the assessment and remediation of students with learning disabilities, particularly related to difficulties in reading. Other work has focused on curriculum-based measurement, the response-to-intervention model of service delivery in the schools and program evaluation. She has published journal articles in peer-refereed journals, including the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, and presented numerous papers at national and state conferences. She holds state and national certifications as a school psychologist.

Eric J Smith – 2008 Alumnus Achievement Award

DED ’84

Eric SmithThroughout his career as an educator, UF alumnus Eric J. Smith has been the kind of innovative leader our most-troubled schools need. When he came on board as superintendent of North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system in 1996, for instance, he re-envisioned the entire system from the ground up, looking for the reasons behind the educational inequities in the school system and resolving to do whatever it took to solve them. The result was a restructured system in which all school children – black or white, rich or poor – were held to the same high standard of academic excellence, and given the specialized instruction they need to meet that standard. By the end of his term, nearly half of all Charlotte students took at least one advanced placement course, two-thirds completed 10th-grade geometry (traditionally considered a college-prep course) and 86 percent were reading at grade level. Smith got his start as a teacher and later principal in Orange County, Fla., before moving on to district-level administration positions in Volusia County; in Newport News, Va.; in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and finally in Anne Arundel County, Md. In 2006, he was appointed senior vice president for college readiness by the College Board, a non-profit group dedicated to improving college access for every student in America. Smith was working in that position in October 2007 when the Florida Department of Education selected him as the state’s new Commissioner of Education – the chief executive officer for the entire state educational system. Smith holds an Ed. D. in curriculum and instruction from UF, and has been honored as North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, winner of the Harold. W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education (established by the McGraw-Hill Companies) , and recipient of Business Week’s “Break the Mold Award” for innovative educators.

Fred Spooner – 2008 Alumnus Achievement Award

PhD ‘ 80

Fred SpoonerDuring his 27-year career at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, UF alumnus Fred Spooner (Ph.D., ’80) has become known as one of the nation’s leading authorities on teaching students with significant disabilities. He has published six books and more than 90 refereed articles on this topic and others related to special education, and his work has appeared in influential publications such as The Journal of Special Education, Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities and Exceptional Children. His academic success led him to editorships at three of the nation’s leading special education journals: Teaching Exceptional Children, The Journal of Special Education and Teacher Education and Special Education. He has also been a pioneer in the use of online instruction to prepare special education teachers – work that has gained Spooner national attention and convinced various state agencies and universities to seek out his advice on online education.

Kelly Fykes – 2008 Outstanding Young Alumna

MED ’98

Kelly FykesKelly Fykes received her master’s degree in foreign languages education from UF in 1998 and is an ESOL resource teacher at Dodgertown Elementary in Vero Beach, where she  conducts ESOL testing, provides teachers with support for ELL students and helps modify the curriculum.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish from UNC-Chapel Hill and is certified K-12 in Spanish and is ESOL and reading endorsed. Kelly represented Indian River County and Florida at the National Association of Bilingual Educators Conference in San Jose in 2007 and helped recruit bilingual teachers to come to Florida. She has trained more than 100 teachers, assistants and parents. Outside the classroom, Fykes is an avid runner and volunteers at local races, including the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Lunetta Williams – 2008 Outstanding Young Alumna

PhD ’05

Lunetta WilliamsLunetta Williams received her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction in 2005 and is an assistant professor in literacy education at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.  She is currently on the Board of the Florida Reading Association and serves as co-editor of Florida Reading, a journal which reaches 5,000 teachers in the state. Lunetta regularly presents papers at national, state, and local conferences, including the International Reading Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Reading Conference and has published 10 articles in national and state refereed journals. While managing these responsibilities, she has also found time to conduct research, publishing 10 articles in refereed journals in recent years.

Susan Homan – 2007 Outstanding Alumna

BAE ’69, PhD ’78

Susan HomanSusan Homan is a professor of literacy at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Her areas of expertise include adolescent struggling readers, emergent literacy and diagnosis. She has co-authored several books and published over 30 articles in the literacy education field. Homan was one of the developers of Accelerated Literacy Learning, orALL, an early intervention program for first-graders performing in the lowest 20th percentile. She is currently co-director of the program, which is in place in 11 Florida school districts. She is the author or co-author of a number of books on teaching reading,and is co-creator of the Homan-Hewitt Reading Formula, which is used in reading programs nationally and internationally. Her most recent research documents the beneficial effects of a singing software program (Tune in to Reading) on the reading improvement of struggling readers. Homan received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Florida and a master’s in reading from the University of Central Florida. She returned to the University of Florida to earn her Ph.D. in elementary education curriculum and instruction. She has won many honors for her teaching and research, including the Marguerite Cogorno Radencich Award, given by the Florida Reading Association.