UNC presents teaching award to UF special ed graduate

Melissa Miller (BAE ’93, MEd ’03, PhD ’07), a Triple EduGator with three UF degrees in education, received the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s 2011 Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction and Mentoring. She is an assistant professor of special education at UNC and coordinator of the special education-general curriculum program. Miller previously taught and worked as a research assistant at UF. (Read more in PDF, pg. 4: http://soe.unc.edu/news_events/slate/slate_spring11.pdf)

Life-Long EduGator Talks About Norman in the 70’s

Joyce Miller-Alper (MED ’71, ES ’74) has been teaching for over 40 years. Says Alper, “In the early 1970’s everyone wanted to intern in Gainesville and stay there to teach.”  She began at Gainesville High but quickly wanted to teach at the “new school”, Buchholz High,where at the time everyone was vying to work.  She taught at Buchholz for nine years before moving to Texas where she has been teaching ever since.

Several college of education professors had a profound impact on Alper, including Dr. Timmons and Dr. Casteel, who “would drink so much coffee when they visited the campus”.  She noted that Professor Ted Hipple debated with Alper for years whether or not you teach students or you teach the subject.  She recalls meeting with Dr. Hipple years later at a conference in Knoxville and continuing the debate.

“The University of Florida made me who I am. I am proud to be a Gator and to have been recognized by the college,” says Alper, “but the foundation was my professors. To them I am grateful for eternity.”

In 1989 Alper was named Outstanding Graduate by the UF College of Education and Texas Teacher of the Year.

UF Distinguished Alumna and Education Donor Speaks Out About Education

Read the following letter from alumna, Anita Zucker, regarding her view of education and the necessity of proper funding of education as a way to secure a better future for our country.











Recent COE Grad Starts New Teaching Position in Pakistan

Mueen Aizaz Zafar (PHD ’11, Higher Ed Admin) has been hired as Associate Professor at Riphah International University in Islamabad, Pakistan teaching PhD and MS students this fall .  In addition to his doctorate, he also has  master’s degrees in Development Policy and Planning (UK), and Business Administration (IBA, Karachi, Pakistan). Mueen, a native of Pakistan, previously served as Chair of Business Administration at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as Senior Vice President at the MCB Bank Ltd. in Pakistan. He also has taught business related courses for several international universities. In 2006, Mueen and his wife, two daughters, and son came to Gainesville, where he worked with the UF Department of Housing and Residence Education and received the Florida Excellence in Housing Award (2010), Outstanding Student Employee Award (2009), and IHLUAC Recognition for outstanding leadership and distinguished service (2008).

During his time at UF, Mueen was involved in numerous research initiatives with his adviser Professor Linda Behar-Horenstein, some of which are still continuing even after completing his PhD.  Mueen is very thankful for Dr. Behar-Horenstein, stating “I owe her so much!”.

The EduGator Nation is Everywhere

The EduGator Nation is everywhere, including Isparta, Turkey.  Muhammet Demirbilek ( MED ‘01, PHD ‘04 Ed Tech) is an assistant professor of Educational Technology and vice dean for the College of Education at Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta, Turkey. Demirbilek is the founder and director of The Games, Learning & Society (GLS) Eurasia game research group and vice president of the Asia-Pacific Association of Multimedia-assisted Language Learning (APAMALL). He also serves as faculty affiliate of Games, Learning, and Society (GLS) group. To read an article in Wired Magazine about Demirbilek’s research, click here.


COE Alum Releases First Novel

Michelle Donice (PhD 2005, Higher Education Administration) teaches English and creative writing in Florida. “Teaching is Michelle’s dream job, and she loves discussing literature and teaching students how to express themselves through writing,” according to Michelle’s blog.


EduGator Appointed Assistant Professor at UC

COE alum Carlee Escue (MEd ’07, PhD ’10, educational leadership) was appointed assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Cincinnati for the start of the 2010-2011 school year.  She minored in research and evaluation methodology.  To read more in the UC Educator, click here. To view Escue’s experience, awards and publications, click here.

EduGator at UNC-Chapel Hill Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

Melissa Miller (BAE ’93, MED ’03, PHD ’07) was chosen for the Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction and Mentoring.  Miller is an assistant professor of special education and coordinator of the special education-general curriculum program at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Miller is a triple EduGator receiving three degrees majoring in special education. Her experience includes teaching at an Ocala school for 8 years and serving as a research assistant at UF.

For a full article, click here and go to page four.

Dozier: Nationally Recognized Educator

Therese Dozier finds life’s purpose in teaching

By Desiree Pena
COE student-intern writer

Few can fathom the tragic circumstances surrounding Therese Knecht Dozier’s (M.ED, 1977) early childhood-and how she overcame them to become a nationally recognized educator.

She was born in Saigon in 1952 to a Vietnamese woman and German soldier who had once served Hitler during World War II. He escaped the German army and fled to French Indochina under a false identity, where he married Therese’s mother. Before Dozier’s second birthday, her mother died and her father sold Therese and her brother to a Chinese businessman. When authorities found the children, they were placed in a French orphanage where U.S. Army advisor Lawrence Knecht and his wife, Anne, adopted them in 1954. She describes this as the point at which her life “took a wonderful turn.”

“I am very conscious that my life would be totally different, in fact that I might not even be alive today, had I not been adopted. So I believe I am here for a purpose, and that I am fulfilling that purpose through my work in education,” Dozier said.

She and her brother were the first Vietnamese children adopted by U.S. citizens. Dozier’s turbulent past, though, has given her a chance to improve others’ lives rather than cloud her own.

The Knechts brought the children to Florida, where the young girl grew up as Therese “Terry” Knecht and graduated first in her class at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda.

In 1974, she received UF’s Outstanding Scholar Award with a 4.0 grade point average. Three years later, she completed her master’s degree in education at UF and in 1985 she was named the U.S. National Teacher of the Year. She also served as special advisor to U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley from 1993 to 2001. Dozier is currently the director of the Center for Teacher Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, which promotes teacher leadership to improve teaching and learning.

“My two most significant achievements were to be named Teacher of the Year and my service as the first classroom teacher to advise a U.S. Secretary of Education. In that role I led the Clinton Administration’s efforts to elevate the importance of teachers and teaching, including passage of Title II of the 1998 Higher Education Act, which resulted in the largest federal investment in teacher education in almost 30 years,” she said.

Knecht has traveled extensively around the globe and taught in Singapore where she worked with students from 45 different countries. Her lifelong achievements were acknowledged by UF in 1986 when she received the Distinguished Alumni of the University of Florida Award. In 1997 she was named as one of UF’s 47 Women of Distinction, which recognizes successful alumnae.

“Much of my outlook on life is an outgrowth of my education. So in a very real sense, becoming a teacher was my way of repaying a debt to the society that has given me so much. And of all the wonderful things I have enjoyed as an American, it is my education that I prize the most,” said Dozier.

Philip Poekert : Lastinger Professor, Outstanding Alumni

Philip Poekert (PhD ’08)
Ph.D., curriculum and instruction, 2008, University of Florida College of Education

Poekert, a 2008 doctoral graduate of UF’s College of Education, 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 that are on the cutting edge of education reform.

Poekert, 31, directs Ready Schools Miami, which partners UF’s Lastinger Center with Miami-Dade County schools and local community groups to ensure at-risk children enter school healthy and ready to learn. 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.

“This is the area where we can generate the highest return,” Poekert said. “We can literally change the trajectory of children’s lives,” said Poekert, who 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.