2009 College of Education Commencement Awards

Alumni, Faculty, Advisers, Students


Clinical & Academic: James Archer
Research & Leadership: Cecil Mercer


Alumnus Achievement: Lesley Hull
Outstanding Young Alumni: James Cagle Miller
Outstanding Young Alumni: Elayne Colón


May 18, 2009



Alumni, Faculty, Advisers, Students


Clinical & Academic: James Archer
Research & Leadership: Cecil Mercer


Alumnus Achievement: Lesley Hull
Outstanding Young Alumni: James Cagle Miller
Outstanding Young Alumni: Elayne Colón


Undergraduate Teacher of the Year: Erica McCray
Graduate Teacher of the Year: Jane Townsend
Adviser of the Year: Robin Rossie


Outstanding Undergraduate Leadership: Melissa Nuñez
Outstandijng Undergraduate Professional Practice: Anna Harageones
Outstanding Graduate Research: Erik Black
Outstanding Graduate Leadership: Behroz Nowrojee
Outstanding Graduate Professional Practice: Danna Sabis-Burns
UF Hall of Fame/Outstanding Undergraduate Leadership/ Outstanding Four-Year Scholar: Julianne Scherker



LIFETIME Achievement

Lifetime Achievement: Clinical and Academic

James Archer

James ArcherIt’s no coincidence that the rise to national prominence for UF’s counselor education program has occurred during the illustrious tenure of Professor James Archer. His colleagues portray him as one of the leading counselor educators whose life work has profoundly influenced their profession. Archer will retire this June after 27 years at UF—first as director of UF’s student counseling center from 1981 until 1994, and for the past 15 years on the counselor education faculty. UF’s student counseling center became known as one of the nation’s best under his direction. Since joining the counselor education faculty, the program has compiled a remarkable streak of top-5 rankings in the U.S. News and World Report national survey—including the top position in 1997.  Archer has had help from other leading faculty, but he has served the counseling profession on all levels while educating several generations of counselors.  He has held some 15 national leadership posts in the counseling profession, served on five journal editorial boards and has produced more than 80 professional publications and presentations worldwide. His accomplishments led the American Psychological Association to name him an APA Fellow in 1995—the association’s highest honor, and he was awarded a Diplomate by the American Board of Professional Psychology, its premier practice award.

Lifetime Achievement: Research and Leadership

Cecil D. Mercer

Cecil MercerCecil Mercer was the type of versatile, forward-thinking scholar that a university program needs to forge an enduring national reputation. That may explain why UF typically commands a top 15 spot among special education programs in the yearly U.S. News national rankings—this year as the No. 4 program in its specialty. Mercer emerged as a giant in his field during his 31 years (1974-2005) on UF’s special education faculty. In 1998, he became the first College of Education instructor to be promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor. A three-time selection as COE Teacher of the Year, Cecil Mercer is one of the most widely recognized names in the field of learning disabilities. His nationwide studies of how various states defined “learning disability”—and how educators were using the term to classify and place students—led to improvements in many states and to more stringent federal guidelines. His research in mathematics yielded evidence to support systematic and explicit instruction for students with learning disabilities. Mercer’s most enduring legacy, though, may be the joint College of Education-College of Medicine project he helped to institute in 1980 called the Multidisciplinary Diagnostic and Training Program (MDTP), which today continues to provide innovative evaluations and interventions for children with challenging learning difficulties.

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ALUMNI honors

Alumnus Achievement

Lesley Hull
BAE ’86; MAE ’92; Ph.D.’97

Lesley HullJacksonville 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.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Jamee Cagle Miller
BAE ’01, Med ’02

Jamee Cagle 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 education degrees from UF: a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2001 and a master’s in 2002 in education technology.

Elayne Colón
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.

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Undergraduate Teacher of the Year

Erica McCray

Erica McCrayErica McCray, an assistant professor in Unified Elementary ProTeach, believes she’s doing more than teaching facts, figures and processes. She is instilling attitudes in the next generation of teachers. "I teach by example. I teach for social justice," McCray says. She started teaching as a substitute middle school teacher, but soon enrolled in master’s level courses to improve her teaching skills. Wanting to make a big impact on education, however, she charted her course as a teacher educator. She completed her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida in 2006, with emphasis in special education, and became a UF assistant professor in special education in 2007. "Dr. McCray carefully plans her classes, uses a range of instructional methods and addresses complex, controversial issues using a delicate but direct approach," says James McLeskey, who heads the special education program. It’s the attention to her students, playing to their strengths and working through their weaknesses, that makes McCray stand out as an instructor. Her students say she practices what she preaches by treating each and every student as an individual—just the lesson she wants to send into the classroom with her newly trained teachers.

Graduate Teacher of the Year

Jane Townsend

Jane TownsendHaving lived as a child in Ethiopia and Turkey, Jane Townsend started her teaching career in the mid-1970s with a deep interest in the language and learning of people from diverse backgrounds. Her first job in education—teaching high school English to poor, black and Hispanic 10th-graders—led to additional college coursework in language learning and, ultimately, to a major career shift. She joined the UF education faculty in 1994 after teaching for eight years at the University of Texas-Austin, where she also earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in English/language arts education. “My instructional focus is helping future and current teachers respect the diversity of languages, cultures and dialects in their classrooms” she says. “This broadens our reach and includes more people in the conversations of learning.” Townsend lately has added the arts to her teaching toolkit to engage students’ creative and critical capacities. Teaching, to Townsend, means nudging students forward with questions and feedback that open their minds to new ideas. Her graduate students describe her as a “fully-involved” mentor and adviser, taking the time to help the budding teachers and professors in their course design and instructional skills. She also helps her doctoral students stay on track even during the final, “all-but-dissertation” stage of their studies, when they typically work unsupervised.

Adviser of the Year

Robin Rossie

Robin RossieAs anyone who has ever sat across the desk from Robin Rossie knows, shrewd advice is best accompanied by a sincere smile. Navigating credit requirements, majors and grades can be overwhelming for any student. This year, the College of Education has chosen to acknowledge a student adviser for exceptional professionalism and achievement. In Rossie the College is also recognizing a person who stands on the student’s side. Rossie joined the university as a clerk typist in 1995. What began as her heartfelt interest in the success of the College’s students has evolved into her professional role as coordinator of academic support services. Although Rossie claims advising for a comparatively small college like Education makes it easier to provide one-on-one support, she has advised thousands of students over the years, while making each one feel valued. "Robin is one of the finest examples of student advocacy on our campus," said Theresa Vernetson, assistant dean of student affairs. “She goes above and beyond for everyone and has the students’ interests at heart in all her decision-making.”

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STUDENT honors

Outstanding Undergraduate Leadership

Melissa Nuñez
BAE ’09, Elementary Education

Melissa NunezMelissa Nunez, a stellar student in the Unified Elementary ProTeach program, is devoted to enhancing the university experience for UF’s Hispanic-Latino students as much as she is to her own academics. She takes it all on—from individualizing classroom assignments for struggling elementary students to directing the only statewide leadership conference for Hispanic-Latino students. An Ambassador for Multicultural and Diversity Affairs as well as an Embajador for the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, Nuñez is also president of the Dominican Student Association (DSA). Her mentoring proficiency—whether for elementary students in her internship assignments or for incoming freshmen as a UF Preview staffer—sets her apart as a leader, an exceptional future educator and an ideal role model. While in ProTeach, Nunez was praised for her work with students at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School incorporating Sunshine State Standards into lesson plans during her pre-intern coursework.  A member of the Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in education, Nunez received an Association of Hispanic Alumni Scholarship.

Outstanding Undergraduate Professional Practice

Anna Kristina Harageones
BAE ’09, Elementary Education

Anna HarageonesKey to Anna Harageones’ developing professionalism is her ability to connect with her students. She also believes that when all else fails—SING. Working in a challenging practicum with several students with special needs, she developed a language-arts learning strategy based on the popular “High School Musical” Broadway play and television show. Her students gave it two thumbs up as a smash hit. While employing creative ways to muster student engagement, Harageones regularly assesses her own teaching strengths and weaknesses, always building her lesson plans based on her students’ interests and needs. As active in the community as she is on campus, the former University Chorus singer uses her musical talents as much as her teaching skills, volunteering in after-school tutoring programs, children’s choirs and a local church choir. She received several scholarships and is a member of Golden Key and the Florida Education Association.

Outstanding Graduate Research

Erik W. Black
PhD ’09 Education Technology

Erik BlackDoctoral graduate Erik Black is building the scholarly literature for the burgeoning education technology field—from the ground up. He has presented his research in national and international venues since beginning his Ph.D. program, and is considered a rare expert in the emerging specialty of virtual schools research. His impressive portfolio of peer-reviewed publications and presentations, in addition to grant submissions, editorial responsibilities and conference proceedings, reads like a lifetime of career achievements. But he’s only just beginning. During his doctoral training, Black co-authored a nationally covered report about medical students being too open-faced on Facebook, was the featured webinar presenter about virtual school data collection, and worked with an AT&T grant-funded team developing evaluation methods for virtual schools. He seems to be everywhere that distance learning can go. A mentor and leader among his peers as well, he enthusiastically supports his colleagues. Black has a master’s degree in counseling and human services from the College of New Jersey.  A nationally certified mental health counselor, he is a recipient of the Ralph D. Turlington and University of Florida Graduate Alumni fellowships and the Sara Livinia de Keni Scholarship.

Outstanding Graduate Leadership

Behroz Nowrojee
MEd ’09 Special Education

Behroz NowrojeeBehroz Nowrojee leapt into her graduate studies armed with a bachelor’s in elementary education and a minor in dance. Passionate about her chosen field—special education—Nowrojee sets her standards high in her classroom and in her community work. She organized a Katrina Relief Fund, established a drive to collect school supplies for a school in South Africa, and uses her dance expertise not only to entertain, but to educate. She regularly participates in community festivals and events. Nowrojee is the Young Women’s Division leader for the United Nations-affiliated nonprofit Soka Gakkai International (SGI-USA), where she promotes world peace and serves as a role model for young women. As the group’s leader, she planned the local SGI-USA’s Victory Over Violence campaign, a program begun in response to the rise in youth-related violence; she also organized and performed in a California youth culture festival. She was named a 2008 Aspiring Educator by Teachers-Teachers.com, and has received numerous graduate awards and scholarships named for the following individuals and groups: J.W. Martin & A.M. Martin Phillips, Reach for the Stars, Minority Teacher Education, FEZANA and Paula Porcher Criser, among others. Nowrojee is a member of Golden Key, the Florida Education Association and the National Collegiate Honors Society.

Outstanding Graduate Professional Practice

Donna Sabis-Burns
MAE ’09, Language and Literacy

Donna Sabis-BurnsBelieving you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Donna Sabis-Burns figures the books teachers and librarians choose for their students also should  be judged by the content of their pages. Her dissertation—analyzing children’s literature portrayals of encounters between Christopher Columbus and the Taino People—reflects not only her academic study of children’s literature, but the personal insights of a Native American woman well-versed in romanticized depictions of Columbus and Native American culture. Sabis-Burns, an enrolled member of the Mohawk (Turtle Clan) tribe within the Iroquois Six Nations, strives to infuse truth into children’s literature and education. A distance-learning student working toward her doctorate in elementary education, she is a full-time U.S. Department of Education employee with the Office of School Support and Technology in Washington, D.C.  She works with indigenous populations in outlying territories such as Guam and American Samoa. She previously worked in the Office of Indian Education helping to create two widely distributed digital workshops for teachers of American Indian and Alaska Native students. She has a B.A. in elementary education and a master’s in language and literacy from UF, with a focus on Native American education and children’s literature. 

UF Hall of Fame / Undergraduate Leadership / UF Outstanding Four-Year Scholar

Julianne Scherker
BAE ’09

Julianne ScherkerOnce Julianne Scherker arrived on campus, it didn’t take her long to discover she had a penchant for leading—and for organizing other student leaders to take action. She joined the Florida Cicerones/ Student Alumni Association in her freshman year, giving tours and serving as a student ambassador at university and alumni events. She led the group’s community service activities and organized FCAT Pep Rallies at local schools, encouraging students through singing, dancing and cheering. Scherker also became a group leader for the Camp Boggy Creek for seriously ill children and was a top recruiter for UF’s Teach for America campaign. Her favorite activity was managing the UF student-led “Dream Team” for Project Makeover, helping local under-resourced elementary schools improve their outdoor play and study areas. She worked on landscaping, murals and volunteer recruitment, and raised money to replenish school and art supplies. She somehow balanced her many extracurricular commitments with her scholarly work in elementary education, earning top grades, participating in the prestigious Reitz Scholars program and undertaking an original research project for her high honors coursework.

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