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Acclaimed study adds new dimension to college chemistry instruction

To 3D or not to 3D? College instructors in chemistry and other science disciplines are debating whether it’s best to use traditional, two-dimensional renderings of basic structures like organic molecules and crystals, or to adopt new technology that can render images of molecular structures in three dimensions.

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AERA honors UF Special Ed professor for impactful research

Special Education professor Stephen W. Smith, one of the College’s most prolific researchers and federal grant generators, has been chosen to receive the Distinguished Researcher Award from the Special Education Research special interest group of the American Educational Research Association.


Paying It Forward

Shelley Warm, senior lecturer and Site-based Implementation of Teacher Education (SITE) program director, has been honored as Florida’s Outstanding Teacher Educator of the Year by the Florida Association of Teacher Educators (FATE). The Mary L. Collins award recognizes dedication to the field of teacher education and advocate of high-quality education.


The Historical Perspective Of Being A Teacher

Doctoral candidate of Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education Elizabeth Currin has been awarded the Rothman Doctoral Fellowship for her interdisciplinary research as part of her dissertation, “Storied Stance: An Oral History of Long-Term Teacher Researchers in the Age of Accountability.” By focusing on the oral history of teachers during the final years of the 20th century, providing teachers with a platform for their experience during the “Age of Accountability,” Currin hopes her research will benefit future teachers by providing them with historical context.

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UF College of Education jumps five spots in national rankings; still No. 1 in Florida, and best in Southeast among publics

The UF College of Education jumped five spots in the US News annual rankings of America’s Best Graduate Education Schools–placing 14th among public education colleges and 24th overall. Once again, that makes UF the top-ranked education college in the state and among public institutions in the Southeast.

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Counselor Ed student shows early promise in the ‘right career path’

Montana Sewell, a third-year M.Ed/Ed.S. student in Counselor Education, has been chosen to receive the 2018 Outstanding Entry Level Student Award from Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), an international honor society for the counseling profession.

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UF scholar doubles up on national honors for advancing learning disabilities field

Prof. Mary Brownell is feted twice for leading reform efforts in Special Education teacher preparation.

COE online programs garner more No. 1 national rankings

While the College of Education at the University of Florida may have America’s best online graduate program in education for the second straight year, according to the latest annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report, what does that say about the college’s individual online degrees programs?

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Counselor Ed. professor doubles up on national laurels

Shon D. Smith, clinical assistant professor in Counselor Education, has recently drawn national attention in his field for two major achievements involving separate divisions of the American Counseling Association (ACA).

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Learning disabilities group honors UF Special Ed grad

UF Special Education alumnus David Allsopp (MEd ’90, Specific Learning Disabilities; PhD, ’95, Special Education), has been named the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year by the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

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Six students honored for outstanding scholarship and professional work

The college bestowed the awards on April 21 at its annual recognition dinner, when COE alumni, donors, faculty and other supporters are invited to campus to hear updates about the college and honor the academic year’s high-achieving EduGators.

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World’s largest education research group honors UF grad school dean

Henry “Hank” Frierson, associate vice president and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Florida with a faculty appointment at the College of Education, has received the Presidential Citation from the American Educational Research Association.

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COE repeats No. 1 ranking in US for online graduate degrees

U.S. News and World Report rated the distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education as America’s best online graduate education degree program for the second consecutive year.

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UF College of Education ranked in top 10 by USA Today



The University of Florida College of Education rates No. 9 among the nation’s best undergraduate teacher education colleges, according to a ranking published today (Sept. 8) by USA Today.

The 2017 survey for the top colleges nationwide was released by USA Today and College Factual, a Troy, N.Y.-based education technology company that provides the data used in the national newspaper’s third annual ranking of the top U.S. universities.

“We are delighted to have the accomplishments of our College of Education faculty, and staff reflected in these highly favorable rankings,” said Glenn Good, dean of the college. “They have been working with creativity, commitment and passion to provide the best learning experiences for our students.”

UF was Florida’s highest ranked education college in the survey.

College Factual surveyed 1,387 four-year U.S. universities and 449 colleges of education to come up with its rankings.

Compared with similar surveys, College Factual says its rankings are focused on outcomes, such as starting salary and student loan default rates, rather than inputs, such as acceptance rates. All told, the rankings are based on 10 metrics, which also include the percentage of students at the school who are studying a specific major, post-graduation resources, accreditation and even sports and campus lifestyles.

Specifically regarding pay results, College Factual gets its data from Seattle-based PayScale Inc., which says it has the world’s largest database of salary profiles, and from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), to provide an estimate average salaries for graduates.

In addition to being listed in the top 10 overall, UF’s College of Education ranked high in specific sub-categories: Teacher Education and Development, Specific Subjects – Overall Best (No. 4) and Special Education (No. 11).

The complete rankings of education colleges are available on the College Factual website. The rankings of other academic specialty areas in education and other disciplines will appear in future issues of USA Today.

The USA Today/College Factual survey comes after U.S. News & Reports in March ranked the UF college No. 20 among public institutions in its 2017 Best Graduate Education Schools survey.

Last year, U.S. News rated the College of Education’s online graduate education program No. 1 in the nation. The college also received the nation’s highest score for online student admissions selectivity, recognized as an indicator of high-quality student enrollment.

Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director of News and Communications, (352) 273-4137

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COE doctoral student honored for ‘teaching tolerance’

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Ninth-grade students at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School are starting the school year today in the classroom of a language arts teacher who has recently gained state and national attention for his effective instructional methods.

Cody Miller, 27, who is in his fourth year teaching ninth grade English language arts, reaches far and wide for inspiration to teach writing and literature to students — and it is paying off.

Miller was one of five U.S. educators honored for excellence by the Southern Poverty Law Center at a July ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama.  The center’s Teaching Tolerance project says it selects K-12 teachers who excel at reducing prejudice and supporting equitable experiences among students for the $2,500 biennial award.

Miller also was among a select group of Florida instructors ranked by Florida Department of Education for having the highest impact on the academic growth of their students during the past three years.

In addition to teaching high schoolers, Miller is pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in English education from UF College of Education.

In an interview, Miller talked about his teaching philosophy and the methods he uses to engage students in literature and language arts.

“Helping students become both writers and readers and understanding that literacy and literature is a way for them to gain autonomy and power in society really drives my English language arts curriculum,” Miller says.

He credits Paulo Freire, an influential Brazilian educator and thinker, for being a big influence. Freire emphasized dialogue with students and concern for the oppressed.

Miller says students aren’t empty vessels, that education is a relationship between teacher and students as opposed to a “banking model” in which the educator makes deposits into the mind of the student.

Educator Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of emeritus at Ohio State University, who pioneered what she called a “windows and mirrors” concept to children’s literature, also has influenced Miller.

“Students should be able to have literature and poetry and narratives that act as mirrors so they can see themselves and windows so they can see other people’s experiences,” Miller says.

He tries to set this foundation from the first day of class when students exchange personal letters with him about their learning experiences and later as they “co-create” the curriculum for the class.

In addition to classics such as “Romeo & Juliet,” Miller assigns texts like “If You Could Be Mine” by Sarah Farizan, an Iranian-American who writes about a teenage lesbian in Tehran, where homosexuality can be punished by death. Such books inevitably become a rich source of dialogue and study among students and often gives them the courage to tell their own stories in and out of the classroom, Miller says.

In a recent video about Miller, several of his teenage students were asked to describe him in one word. Among the responses: “woke” (meaning aware of injustices), “intelligent” and “decolonial.”

Miller co-sponsors the “De-colonizing Club,” a lunchtime discussion group open to all students to explore globalization and how colonialism and the dominant U.S. and Western culture has influenced their identities. He also leads school-wide professional development on creating inclusive spaces and curriculum for LGBTQ students.

After he completes his doctorate degree, expected in 2009, Miller wants transition to a career as a professor of English education. “I would eventually like to work with future teachers and think about how I can broaden my sphere of influence,” he says.

Source: Cody Miller, 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

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School psychology professor wins second Mensa research award

UF school psychology Professor John Kranzler has received the 2016 Award for Excellence in Research from Mensa International Ltd.

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Nepali PhD candidate cited for promoting global engagement


Uttam Gaulee speaks at Turlington Plaza during a vigil to commemorate the earthquake victims in Nepal.

Nepal native Uttam Gaulee has scaled some impressive peaks as he has pursued a doctorate in higher education administration at the UF College of Education.

Earlier this year, he was one of 10 scholars nationwide chosen by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) to receive the 2016 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, which recognizes leadership ability in teaching and learning.

The AACU was impressed with Gaulee’s academic work and contributions to the university and the community. He represents “the finest in the new generation of faculty who will be leading higher education in the next decades,” AACU President Carol Geary Schneider wrote in a letter announcing Gaulee’s award.

In May, Gaulee defended his dissertation for a doctorate in Higher Education Administration with a research paper titled “American Students’ Experiences with their International Peers on Campus: Understanding Roadblocks, Enhancing Pathways of Global Engagement.”

He used surveys, interviews and focus groups to uncover roadblocks to improving global engagement among U.S. students. Despite the professed importance of “global competency” in an increasingly interconnected world, he found that most domestic students largely missed opportunities to create rich meaningful relationships with foreign students.

Gaulee’s interest in international learning stems from his personal journey, which began on the other side of the globe, in a valley not far from the world’s tallest mountains.

He grew up as the eldest boy of eight children in a poor family in the small city of Surkhet. His parents were subsistence farmers. No relatives had ever attended college. But Gaulee showed academic promise, became a star student and pursued a college degree while working as a high school English teacher.

In an interview, Gaulee laughed about how naïve he was and how limited his worldview had been.

“In Nepali, my name means the best,” Gaulee said. “And I grew up thinking my family is the best, my country is the best, my language is the best, and so on.  It wasn’t until I was able to cross those hills and was exposed to other parts of the world that I learned from people from many different countries.”

In time, he traveled to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, where he earned a master’s in education from Tribhuvan University and then to England for an international academic conference. This led him to apply for and receive a Fulbright Scholarship to earn another master’s degree, in education administration and policy studies, at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 2012, Gaulee came to UF, where he has worked closely with Dale Campbell, professor and coordinator of higher education administration, who chaired of his dissertation committee, and with David Miller, his committee co-chair and director of the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education.

Gaulee’s interest in improving global relationships has stretched across UF’s campus. He served as a graduate student senator to the Student Government and spearheaded the effort to rename the campus’ North Lawn the “Global Garden” to serve as a social space where U.S. and international students can gather and learn about each other’s cultures. The space also would display artifacts from around the world, highlighting UF’s commitment to creating a globalized community of scholars and students. The Student Government passed a resolution calling on the university to create the garden.

Miller said he first met Gaulee when he directed a task force that formulated the Learning without Borders: Internationalizing the Gator Nation initiative, a plan designed to improve student engagement in international learning experiences.

“Uttam has shown remarkable passion and leadership in creating opportunities for students to heighten their international awareness,” Miller said. “I expect he will continue to be a driving force in internationalizing student experiences at whatever institute of higher education he ends up in.”

Gaulee is on track to receive his doctorate in August and then he and his wife plan to return to Nepal. He is considering an opportunity to serve as a leader at a new university in his hometown in hopes of improving Nepalese and international higher education at large.

“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I have had to keep learning,” Gaulee said. “I want to help others to do the same, and inspire them to learn about different cultures and societies.”

Source: Uttam Gaulee, 412-805-4745
Writer: Charles Boisseau, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449

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Dissertation proposal on police in schools earns Noble UF fellowship

Kenneth Noble

Kenneth Noble

The bottom line: To move forward, we must look back.

That’s the foundation for UF College of Education doctoral candidate Kenneth Noble’s award-winning dissertation proposal. The UF Center for Humanities and Public Sphere, which promotes and funds research programs of UF humanities scholars, recently awarded Noble the Rothman Doctoral Fellowship based on his dissertation topic choice.

His proposal revolves around the idea that to address modern-day concerns with police presence in urban public schools, educators and society must first understand the history behind officers’ integration into school systems.

The $2,000 monetary award, which comes with the honor, will go toward Noble’s research expenses.

Noble, 33, who plans to graduate in the fall of 2017 with his doctorate in curriculum and instruction, said he is encouraged that other scholars in the field find his dissertation topic significant.

“Understanding how, when and why police began partnering with schools provides an historical context to what many perceive as a critical concern in public education today,” he said.

Noble will have the opportunity to present his findings to the UF Center for Humanities and Public Sphere this fall.

    SOURCEKenneth Noble, 352-392-0762
    WRITERKatelin Mariner, news and communications intern, UF College of Education
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, news and communications director, UF College of Education

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School finance leader named 2016 Distinguished Alumnus

Henry Boekhoff

Henry Boekhoff

Henry R. Boekhoff (MEd ’70, PhD ’78, ed. leadership) is widely recognized as a leader in the field of school finance and for his dedication to improve the quality of public education across Florida. Now, after four decades working behind the scenes at many Florida school districts, Boekhoff is in the spotlight.

He is the 2016 winner of the University of Florida College of Education’s Distinguished Alumni Award. UF President Kent Fuchs and education Dean Glenn Good presented the award to Boekhoff Saturday evening at UF’s commencement ceremony for undergraduate degrees at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Boekhoff, 73, said he was surprised to learn he would receive the award considering he has worked mostly out of public view during his long career.

“Most likely I am being given the award because of the sheer longevity of my career, and part of that is the opportunity I have had at a relatively early age to make a mark in the area of school finance,” he said.

Humble beginnings

The honor comes to a man who rose from humble beginnings.

Born in New York City in 1943, Boekhoff grew up in Nassau County, Florida, on a would-be chicken farm. His family was poor, especially after his father died suddenly of a heart attack when Henry was 7 years old.

His mother never remarried and the family didn’t have money for college. After graduating high school, Boekhoff found a job cleaning barnacles from vessels at a shipyard in Jacksonville. Soon enough he enlisted in the Army, where he earned college credits toward an accounting degree. After his discharge, he transferred to the University of Florida and in 1966 earned a bachelor’s in business.

Boekhoff’s career in school finance started by chance not long after he discovered he disliked working as an auditor for an accounting firm. He took a job as director of finance for the Nassau County School District in Fernandina Beach.

He quickly made a name for himself and went on to serve as deputy superintendent and chief financial officer for many of the state’s largest school districts, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Orange counties, where he displayed a passion for education and commitment to schools and communities.

More recently, Boekhoff has served as co-CFO of Florida Virtual School, the country’s first, statewide internet-based public high school and a provider of online K-12 education programs. Boekhoff still works full-time for the virtual school as a special assistant to the chief financial officer.

Life-long learner

Along the way, Boekhoff continued his own education and returned to the University of Florida to receive a master’s in education in 1970 and a doctorate in Education Leadership in 1978.

He said his career has been guided by an understanding that financial considerations are at the heart of creating a well-functioning public school system.

“It’s crass to say in a way, but if you don’t have the funds you can’t keep hold of good employees and if you don’t have good employees the children are going to suffer,” he said.

Often referred to as the “dean” of school finance officers in Florida, Boekhoff helped shape the formulas that determine how funds are distributed to public schools and advocated for fair and equitable school funding. He coined the phrase “adequacy and equity” to highlight the inequitable distribution of education funding caused by the wide disparity in property values between rich and poor counties in Florida.

Boekhoff’s leadership helped Florida craft one of the most equitable education funding formulas in the nation.

“I have always been an idealist,” Boekhoff said, citing Thomas Jefferson as an inspiration. He paraphrased the founding father: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Writer: Charles Boisseau, Office of News and Communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449
Media liasion/Director of News and Communications: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137



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UF honors ed. finance faculty scholar for doctoral mentoring

R. Craig Wood

R. Craig Wood

College of Education Professor R. Craig Wood has received many accolades during his 40-plus year career.

But his latest honor may be the one he cherishes the most: Wood is the College of Education’s latest winner of the UF Faculty Doctoral Mentoring Award.

The honor, given annually by the University of Florida Graduate School, recognizes professors who provide doctoral students with exceptional mentoring as they complete their final dissertations.

“This award is one that probably has the most lasting impact because you are helping to start careers,” Wood said. “When I’m long gone and retired, these scholars will be making names for themselves and making society better.”

More About R. Craig Wood

R. Craig Wood started his career in public schools, working as a classroom teacher, school district business manager, and assistant superintendent for finance for school districts in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Connecticut.

He received a doctorate in education from Virginia Tech and served as a professor of education finance at Purdue University before coming to UF, where he has now spent more than a quarter of century.

Among his accomplishments:

  • Authored or co-authored four definitive textbooks with titles such as Money & Schools
  • Published 250 articles in academic journals, including the Journal of Education Finance
  • Presented at numerous academic conferences
  • Served as the lead expert witness in court cases in more than a dozen states in disputes over the manner public funds are distributed to school districts
  • Co-founder and president of the year-old National Education Finance Academy. In November, he also was elected president of the Education Law Association.

Wood, a professor of educational administration and policy, is among the nation’s leading scholars in the all-important field of education finance.

Since he joined the UF College of Education’s faculty in 1989, he has served on 51 doctoral committees and chaired to completion the dissertations of 50 doctoral students. Five of his students have won dissertations of the year awards from different academic organizations.

His mentees have gone on to become university professors, a president of a community college, the head of an overseas school and directors of national educational organizations.

“Craig Wood is still my mentor,” a former student, Carlee Escue Simon, wrote the selection committee in a nomination letter. She is now an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. “I call him for advice on teaching, research, service and navigating the academic world. My association with Craig opened doors that I never anticipated.”

Another mentee, Jeffrey Maiden, now a professor at Oklahoma University, wrote: “Simply having been his student brings automatic respect from scholars in the field.”

Wood guides doctoral students in the specialty of education finance, an area of growing importance as the public, school boards and elected officials try to balance how to best fund quality public education.

“These are not esoteric or philosophical issues. But they are real,” Wood said. “Education is one of the most costly investments a society can make.”

Wood sets high expectations for his students, and he enjoys helping polish the work of talented young scholars.

Wood said his approach is to work one-on-one with his doctoral students to provide them not only research skills but with writing and speaking opportunities to compete in the national job market.

This kind of work is not usually very visible. So the mentoring award is fresh evidence that Wood is making an impact.

“It’s nice to be recognized for doing your job,” Wood said.

A university-wide, eight-member committee of faculty members, a graduate student, department chairs, college deans, and high-level administrators selects winners for the mentorship honor.

The award provides faculty members $3,000 and an additional $1,000 in department accounts for use in supporting doctoral students.

Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4137
Media Liaison/Director of News and Communications: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137



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UF Anderson Scholars program honors 17 ProTeach students–most ever!–plus 2 faculty mentors

Seventeen COE ProTeach elementary education students have been named UF Anderson Scholars for their outstanding academic performances during their first two years at UF—the most education students to receive the award in recent memory.

Two education faculty members—Mary Ann Nelson and Caitlin Gallingane—also were recognized for the second year in a row for mentoring or inspiring several of the honored students.

Anderson Scholars awarded with highest distinction are, from left, Katelyn Mayer, Caley Rappa and Krista Steele.

Anderson Scholars awarded with highest distinction are, from left, Katelyn Mayer, Caley Rappa and Krista Steele.

The Anderson award is the highest recognition bestowed on undergraduate students for their academic excellence. Anderson Scholar certificates are given campuswide by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to students who have earned cumulative grade point averages of at least 3.90 (with distinction); 3.95 (high distinction); and 4.0 (highest distinction) during their freshman and sophomore years.

College of Education students receiving the Anderson Scholar award with highest distinction are Katelyn Mayer, Caley Rappa and Krista Steele.

Education students awarded with high distinction are Simona Blanarikova, Lindsay Burn, Lauren Cassell, Autumn Finke, Felica Hanley, Margaret Kelly, Abby Newman, Caley Rappa and Alexandra Smart.

Scholars honored with distinction are Shannan Campbell, Sicily Guarisco, Cassandra Lussier, Tori Rubloff and Sydney Vail.

“Being recognized as an Anderson Scholar is a huge honor. It also reaffirms that our school takes pride in our accomplishments and that they recognize us for doing so,” said Krista Steele of Orlando. She said she hopes to teach first or second grade after graduation “and make a difference in students’ lives and the education field.”

NELSON, Mary Ann 2014 resized

Mary Ann Nelson

Anderson Scholars faculty honoree Mary Ann Nelson is a special education lecturer; her colleague Caitlin Gallingane is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning. Each student honoree can anonymously nominate one instructor for the faculty honor. Nelson actually has been selected three times overall for the faculty award.

“You go into teaching with the hope of inspiring students. It is always an honor when a student acknowledges any contribution you might have made in that direction,” Nelson said. “I love what I teach and who I teach and it is such a privilege to be a part of their professional training.  I think of them as junior colleagues and it pleases me to be able to share my knowledge and experience with them.”

Student winner Caley Rappa, also from Orlando, described faculty honoree Gallingane as “the teacher we all want to be when we grow up, not just as a professor but especially an elementary school teacher. I believe Dr. Gallingane is the heart and soul of the College of Education.”

GALLINGANE, Caitie (2013)

Caitlin Gallingane

Gallingane said she and other COE professors work as closely as they can with undergraduate students because they identify with students’ concerns as they prepare for careers in a constantly evolving profession.

“I try to see things from their perspective and give them the support they need to be successful,” Gallingane said. “I act as an advocate because I care about their experience at UF.”

The Scholars award program is named in honor of James N. Anderson, who served as the first dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1910 until 1930. Anderson Hall bears his name.

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Anita Zucker Center co-director honored for leadership, impact on behavioral disorders

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy, co-director of the University of Florida Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, has received the 2016 Outstanding Leadership Award from the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.

CCBD, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, presents the award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of behavioral disorders in the areas of research, leadership, teacher education and policy. Conroy was recognized April 14 at the CEC’s annual conference in St. Louis.

Conroy, the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies, has advanced research and practice in the field of behavioral disorders through her work in early identification, prevention and intervention. For 35 years, she garnered more than $15 million in research and training grants, produced 90 peer-reviewed publications and trained the next generation of leaders. A member of CCBD since 1981, Conroy has served in a number of leadership roles, including co-editor of its flagship journal, Behavioral Disorders.

Brian Boyd, who received a doctoral degree at UF under Conroy’s mentorship, nominated her for the award, citing her years of research, practice and teaching.

“I can attest to the importance she feels in ensuring her students acquire the ability to conduct sound research that contributes to the field, and importantly, educators, families and children,” said Boyd, now an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Boyd, also recognized at the conference, received the CEC’s 2016 Distinguished Early Career Research Award. The honor recognizes scholars who have made outstanding scientific contributions in basic or applied research in special education within 10 years after receiving their doctoral degree.

Independent of her award selection, Conroy was invited by the Institute of Education Sciences to present her research at the conference. She and her colleague, Professor Kevin Sutherland of Virginia Commonwealth University, shared findings from their recent investigation of an early childhood classroom-based intervention. Developed to support early childhood teachers’ use of effective practices, the intervention is designed to improve the social, emotional and behavioral competence of young children at risk for behavioral disorders. Their large-scale, four-year study was funded by the institute, which is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

The CEC is an international professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities through advocacy, standards and professional development. The mission of the CCBD is to improve the educational practices and outcomes for children and youth with emotional and behavior disorders.

Source: Maureen Conroy, 352-273-4382
Writer: Linda Homewood, 352-273-4284


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PKY instructor cited nationally as outstanding teacher-researcher

Ross Van Boven

Ross Van Boven

Practitioner Scholars

Ross Van Boven received his doctorate in curriculum and instruction, a program designed to prepare practitioner scholars.

What is a practitioner scholar? A professional who brings theoretical, pedagogical and research expertise to help identify, frame and study educational problems as a way to continually improve the learning conditions in their schools and districts.

Middle school teacher Ross Van Boven has received a prestigious national award presented by the American Education Research Association for outstanding research by examining what he does every school day.

Van Boven specializes in working with sixth and seventh graders at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School who are on the margins — whether because they are struggling or high-achieving. His study at the public school affiliated with the University of Florida’s College of Education examined his experience in teaching a gifted sixth-grade student during the 2014-2015 school year.

The Teacher as Researcher Award recognizes a pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade teacher for research conducted in their schools. Van Boven received the award at the association’s annual meeting, held this year in Washington, D.C., April 8-12. AERA says its teacher-as-researcher special interest group is the only one like it: dedicated to recognizing high quality research done in schools by preK-12 instructors on their own practice.

Van Boven is a “learning community leader” at P.K. Yonge, which is UF’s special school district created to develop innovative solutions to educational challenges.

His training and experience is notable for his teaching as well as his scholarship. He has earned three degrees from UF’s College of Education: a bachelor’s (’06) and master’s (‘07) in elementary education and, in December, a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

Van Boven’s doctorate was in a program tailor-made by faculty in the Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education program area to focus on the unique needs of practitioners who wish to become scholars of practice, leading change and improvement from within their local districts, schools and classrooms, said Nancy Fichtman Dana, a UF education professor and a leading international authority and researcher on teacher professional development and school improvement. Dana served as the chair of Van Boven’s dissertation committee.

Van Boven in his classroom.

Van Boven’s award-winning project, the capstone for his dissertation, took a close look at how best to teach gifted and talented students.


Ross Van Boven teaches his students at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Van Boven’s award-winning project, the capstone for his dissertation, took a close look at how best to teach gifted and talented students at a time P.K. Yonge is transforming its approach to a “push-in” teaching model from a “pull-out.” In the push-in approach, general education and special education teachers work within the regular classrooms to serve all learners; in the pull-out approach, teachers work with these students in separate classrooms.

“It’s a real challenge to provide the time and services to all the students in the program,” Van Boven says. With a caseload of 41 students, he bounces from classroom to classroom to help learners in subjects ranging from math to social studies. Not only does he have to know the content, he must collaborate closely with the content-area teachers, which sometimes is problematic because of contrasting styles and time schedules. He also closely consults with parents to better understand their child’s needs and to personalizes lessons.

Van Boven tracked his experience of teaching one of his students by using a variety of tools, including his cell phone’s voice-to-text feature to capture episodes in near real time and digital recording of interviews so he could transcribe them later for analysis.

He says his research helped to improve his teaching in a variety of ways, such as more closely working with content-area teachers to rework the timing of his push-in to classrooms and planning periods with other teachers. “This allowed for ongoing collaboration and hopefully continues to remove some of the pressures teachers felt for planning to meet student enrichment needs,” he wrote in a report of the study.

He has shared his P.K. Yonge findings with the school’s administration and teachers, including the school’s five other learning community leaders. The study informed their perennial challenge: How best to provide in-classroom lessons to gifted students without disrupting the heterogeneity of classrooms.

Dana says Van Boven’s research “provided a rich accounting of how one middle school child was experiencing the program, and these insights led to specific actions Ross and his colleagues took to improve this new model.”

The school has launched a pilot program to cluster some gifted-and-talented students in the same classes to help learning community leaders and core teachers improve efficiency and coordination.

Despite the challenges, Van Boven says the collaboration required in the push-in model is helping teachers – including him – grow in their own practice. The award highlights the power of practitioner research to improve education for students – and provides Van Boven an opportunity to broaden his impact by sharing his experiences with other teachers.

“I am hopeful that my advocacy for students and collaboration with content-area teachers will result in sustained opportunities to provide content enrichment for students on my caseload,” Van Boven wrote.

Source: Ross Van Boven, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School; 352-392-1554
Media Relations: Julie Henderson, P.K. Yonge DRS; 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, news and communications office

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How Outstanding Young Alum saved his teaching career

Meet Jon Mundorf

Winner of UF College of Education’s 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Jon Mundorf

By Charles Boisseau

Jon Mundorf was considering quitting the profession after three years of teaching elementary school in Naples, Florida.

He felt frustrated and ineffective despite doing his best to follow the top teaching methods, curriculum, and steps laid out in educator manuals.

“Only a small number of kids really got it when I would teach,” Mundorf says.

Some did not speak English, others had behavior problems or any number of learning disabilities. He came to realize: The standardized teaching methods he was using were ineffective because his students weren’t standardized.

In the summer of 2006, Mundorf decided to look for a better way to teach and give his career a spark.

He found it. He learned new teaching methods that are designed for educators to more effectively reach all their students, and he has gone on to become an award-winning teacher, and an internationally recognized practitioner of teaching to meet the needs of all learners.

Young Alumni Award

Jon Mundorf works with a student in his classroom.

Jon Mundorf works with a student in his classroom.

Today (April 8), Mundorf, 36, received the UF College of Education’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, one of 23 Gator alumni across campus who will be honored as leaders in their professions at a ceremony at Emerson Alumni Hall.

Mundorf’s story surely holds lessons for other teachers who are early in their careers, when research shows a high percentage leave the profession.

Mundorf, Ed.D., is a 2014 graduate of UF’s online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program, which is designed to strengthen the skills of practicing educators. His dissertation was about his experience of using universal learning methods to teach a blind student to read in his integrated classroom.

This school year, he joined UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, where he teaches seventh grade language arts.

“Dr. Mundorf brings to our classrooms extensive knowledge and many years of experience in leveraging technology and non-tech strategies for supporting the needs of each learner,” P.K. Yonge Director Lynda Hayes says. “He is a dedicated practitioner scholar committed to providing the best possible seventh grade English language arts experience for our diverse students.”

Universal Design for Learning

Mundorf credits his transformation to a decade ago when he entered Harvard Graduate School of Education’s summer institute on universal design for learning (UDL), a partnership with the nonprofit Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), which now includes Mundorf among its teaching cadre. UDL is a method of using inclusive teaching methods to meet the needs of all learners.

“Upon returning from Harvard, I reinvented myself as a teacher,” Mundorf wrote in his UF dissertation. “Instead of focusing and complaining about the disability I saw in my students, I chose to target the disability in our curriculum. The barriers within the curriculum were minimized because I had developed a student-centered stance for exploring the curriculum with my students.”

Mundorf’s ability to engage an audience with his love of teaching is striking, and he can turn a brief interview into a lively hour-and-half discussion of his teaching philosophy, education research findings and lessons he has learned along the way.

A native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Mundorf often wears a jacket bearing the logo for Bowling Green State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He also has a master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and joined the small ranks of teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit that aims to advance accomplished teaching for all students.

In an example of his inclusive teaching methods, Mundorf says he provides choices in how a student engages with reading materials, providing audio-visual, text-to-speech, captioning, and, if necessary, Braille formats. His students also have choice in how they express their grasp of the subject, such as writing an essay, making a speech or giving a visual presentation.

This way, students with high-incidence disabilities, such as dyslexia – by some estimates up to 20 percent of students – as well as less common disabilities like blindness are given a better opportunity to succeed.

“We allow students multiple ways to learn, engage, and demonstrate mastery,” Mundorf says. “If I only give them one way, it leaves some out.”

Mundorf is in demand to teach not only students but other educators. He has consulted with schools and organizations on inclusive teaching practices, accessibility, technology integration and other ways to improve teaching and learning. In the fall of 2015, he traveled to Fukuoka, Japan, to provide the keynote speech and lead a workshop on inclusive classroom instruction at the National Conference of the Japanese Academy of Learning Disabilities.

Mundorf says students will succeed in the 21st Century not by memorizing all the prepositions in the English language. They will succeed by becoming expert learners. And the same goes for teachers.

“Teaching can be extremely challenging and there is no one right way to do it,” he says. “You have to constantly work at it to reach all the learners. When you feel like you have figured it all out, the next day things change. Teachers have to be the lead learners in this effort.”

Source: Jon Mundorf, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School; 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, news and communications office


UF recognizes COE’s Kumar for superior mentoring


Swapna Kumar

Twenty-five. That’s how many times Associate Professor Swapna Kumar returned the proposals and drafts Michael Kung had written for his dissertation.

All of the careful editing and feedback illustrate how Kumar drives her students to achieve academic excellence.

Kung said he nominated Kumar for UF’s Superior Accomplishment Award because of her dedication to mentoring and pushing him and other doctoral candidates to do their very best work. Kung graduated last year with a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction and now directs of Global Education at UF’s College of Design.

Kumar, a clinical associate professor in Educational Technology, was recently named among the University of Florida’s 29 division winners for the award.

Kumar’s student mentoring goes “the extra mile and beyond normal assigned duties,”said Jonathan Peine, chair of the award selection committee.

While she is thankful for the recognition from the university, Kumar said she is most gratified because it comes from her students.

“My role at UF is essentially about teaching, advising and mentoring, so I am honored and humbled to have been nominated by students,” Kumar said.

Kumar, a COE faculty member since 2009, will receive the award on Wednesday, March 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Emerson Alumni Hall on West University Avenue. A $200 check, certificate and coffee mug will accompany the accolade.

This award qualifies her to become a finalist for a universitywide Superior Accomplishment Award. The final award winners, chosen in April, will receive a gift of at least $1,000.

    SOURCE: Swapna Kumar, 352-273-4175
    WRITER: Katelin Mariner, UF College of Education, 352-373-4449
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education






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Early learning ‘action network’ taps Lastinger Center specialist for national fellowship

Valerie Mendez-Farinas

Valerie Mendez-Fariñas

Valerie Mendez-Fariñas of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning didn’t have to think twice about joining a vibrant national movement over the next three years to improve early learning opportunities and resources for our youngest children.

Mendez-Fariñas, a professional development specialist, is one of 38 American leaders in the early-childhood arena recently selected to fellowship posts with the newly formed Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN). The network brings together state, county and national experts who seek to reduce racial disparities in early learning systems.

The ELAN group evolved from a program called BUILD, created over a decade ago by the national Early Childhood Funders Collaborative. The BUILD program’s purpose: to support states’ efforts to build high-quality early-childhood systems that ensure all children have an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential without discrimination or bias.

Mendez-Fariñas will work with other ELAN fellows to help states identify and eliminate inequities based on race, ethnicity, language and culture in our early childhood state systems. They also will help build support and influence states’ policies in the areas of health, early learning and family support.

“I’ve always believed in the power of collaboration, and now I have 37 new critical-thinking friends in the network who will help strengthen my work, fuel my passion and push my thinking,” Mendez-Fariñas said.

She has worked for more than 23 years in education, including positions as a special education teacher, adjunct professor and quality improvement specialist.

Part of her work as an ELAN fellow will involve studying data from the UF Lastinger Center’s groundbreaking Early Learning Florida program, which blends online and face-to-face professional development for thousands of early childhood practitioners who work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Florida centers, schools and family child care homes.

Her main focus, though, will be on training certified early learning coaches in Florida’s 30 early learning coalition districts, working through Early Learning Florida. The eight-month, job-embedded process equips the coaches-in-training with new skills for helping fellow practitioners learn and implement new, equitable teaching methods.

“Coaching creates opportunities for reflective discourse that may include conversations about key issues, practices and policies that create disparities between groups of children,” Mendez-Fariñas said.

Since 2014, the Lastinger Center, the R&D innovation hub for the College of Education, has built a statewide network of over 200 certified Early Childhood Coaches and 280 Community of Practice facilitators who are improving the quality of early learning programs throughout Florida.

SOURCE: Valerie Mendez-Fariñas, (c) 305-490-7825
WRITER: Katelin Mariner, communications intern, 352-273-4449
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education,   352-273-4137

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Ed. tech’s Ritzhaupt named distinguished alumnus by alma mater

Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

Award-winning UF education technology researcher Albert Ritzhaupt received the Valencia College Distinguished Alumni Award for his contributions to the ed. tech field.

Ritzhaupt, who received his associate’s degree from Valencia in 2001, is an associate professor and coordinator of the College of Education’s ed. tech program.

He said the award motivates him to continually set high goals.

“Both hard work and persistence can payoff,” said Ritzhaupt, a COE faculty member since 2010. “I hope to expand on certain avenues of research and continue to contribute to my field.”

Ritzhaupt has his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in instructional technology, and an MBA degree focusing on computer and information sciences.

He was nominated for the award by his former professor and mentor Colin Archibald, who teaches computer science at Valencia. He said Ritzhaupt’s unusual combination of graduate degrees gives him an advantage in his field.

“I don’t know of anyone else who studied computing only to later study education,” Archibald said. “This makes his work very important and his perspective very rare.”

A large portion of Ritzhaupt’s research encompasses the design and development of technology-enhanced learning environments. His research has reported in more than 80 publications and conference proceedings. He is the editor of the Florida Journal of Educational Research and associate editor of the Journal of Educational Computing Research.

Ritzhaupt has won best research paper awards from several national and international professional organizations.

Funding sources for his studies include the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Florida Department of Education.

Ritzhaupt has also played an important role in advancing the COE’s online master’s degree program in education technology.

Last year, the program went from being unranked to ninth in the nation by TheBestSchools.org, a higher education website for college information seekers.

The excellence of the ed. tech online program played a role in advancing the COE’s overall online master’s degree program to the No. 1 spot in the 2016 rankings of America’s Best Online Programs in Graduate Education by U.S. News and World Report magazine this year.

    SOURCEAlbert Ritzhaupt, UF College of Education; 352-273-4180
    WRITERKatelin Mariner, UF College of Education; 352-273-4449
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137

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Special ed. alumni cited for early research success

Brian Boyd

Brian Boyd

A pair of College of Education alumni have been selected for prestigious national honors from the Council for Exceptional Children for their outstanding research.

Brian Boyd won the 2016 Distinguished Early Career Research Award and recent graduate Elizabeth Bettini won for the best student-initiated research study.

The Arlington, Virginia-based Council for Exceptional Children is the world’s largest organization of special education professionals and educators. CEC will present the awards in April in St. Louis at the group’s annual convention.

Elizabeth Bettini

Elizabeth Bettini

Boyd’s honor recognizes scholars who have made outstanding scientific contributions in basic or applied research in special education within 10 years after receiving their doctoral degree.

Boyd now is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received a doctorate in special education in 2005 from UF under mentorship of Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., who now serves as co-director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.

UF Special Education Professor Mary Brownell said: “The Early Career Award is one of the most significant awards recognizing the promise of young scholars in special education.”

The official language from the award said: “Dr. Boyd is considered one of the most promising scholars in early childhood and autism. He has published 46 papers in top-tier journals, such as the Journal of Child Psychology and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, and his work is cited frequently.”

Bettini won for quantitative design for her research paper titled: Novice Special Educators’ Perceptions of Workload Manageability: Do They Matter and Are They Influenced by Novices’ Perceptions of Their Social Context?

Selected through a confidential review process, the award recognizes high-quality scholarship across multiple research methodologies conducted by students in the course of their undergraduate or graduate special education training program.

Bettini earned a doctorate in special education from the College of Education in 2015 and now is an assistant professor of special education at Boston University.

“Elizabeth was an outstanding student who continues to be devoted to conducting research on working conditions for special education teachers,” Brownell said. “She won the Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award for our College of Education in 2015.”

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UF doctoral student leads Florida elementary school with nation’s top-rated STEM program

Kristy Moody, principal of Jamerson Elementary

Kristy Moody

A UF College of Education Ph.D. candidate is in the national education spotlight for leading a Pinellas County elementary school honored for having the nation’s top U.S. STEM program.

Kristy Moody, principal of Jamerson Elementary in Pinellas County, accepted the STEM Elementary School of the Year for 2016 award on behalf the school. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The award was presented last week in Orlando at the Future of Education Technology Conference, an annual gathering of education leaders and technology experts from across country.

Moody is a graduate student in the University of Florida’s College of Education Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate (LEAD) program, which caterers to working professionals seeking to earn a doctorate in four years of part-time study. The cohort program offers classes online, with periodic weekends at UF and other locations across the state.

Conference organizers said STEM awards are given to the nation’s top elementary, middle and high schools based on an evaluation of the use of interdisciplinary curriculum, collaboration, design, problem solving and the STEM experiences offered.

For more see:

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Associate Dean Adams honored for outstanding mentoring of minority PhD students

Dr. Thomasenia Adams, Associate Dean

Thomasenia Adams

Thomasenia Adams, science education professor and associate dean for research at UF’s College of Education, has received a statewide honor for outstanding mentoring of minority doctoral students.The award comes from the Florida Education Fund (FEF), a nonprofit organization that develops programs to enhance education for students at all levels across the state.

Adams received the FEF’s 2015 William R. Jones Outstanding Mentor Award, which honors exceptional faculty mentors from Florida colleges and universities who have empowered students to complete Ph.D. degrees and prepare for successful careers in academia. These students participate in FEF’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program.

The award comes with a $500 stipend.

As a previous McKnight fellow who was financially supported by the program, Adams said she mentors McKnight fellows to give back for the support she received.

“I have a commitment that every student that I mentor must be better than me when they graduate,” Adams said. “If I don’t make them better, then I haven’t done a good enough job.”

Adams is a professor of mathematics education and a senior author of the popular “Go Math” national elementary textbook series. She earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in curriculum and instruction at UF. As associate dean, she oversees the college’s thriving education research enterprise.

She joined the UF education faculty in 1990 as the college’s first African-American woman tenured full professor.

She said the mentor-mentee relationship relies heavily on mutual trust.

“Nothing else works if they don’t trust my insight and experience,” said Adams, who previously was honored by the Florida Association of Teacher Educators with its Mary L. Collins Teacher Educator of the Year Award.

Several of Adams’ mentees nominated Adams for the award, including UF education doctoral candidate Natalie King.

“She encourages me to excel by setting high expectations for me to accomplish,” King said. “I am truly humbled to know her and to have the opportunity to receive her guidance.”

Adams doesn’t limit her mentoring to UF students. University of South Florida doctoral student Lakesia Dupree paired up with Adams through the McKnight fellowship program, which works to increase the pool of minority Ph.D. candidates to teach at the college and university levels.

“Dr. Adams has played a pivotal role in my success as a graduate student and has inspired me to become more than I ever imagined,” said Dupree, who also nominated Adams for the award.

Adams said every student deserves the opportunity to have a mentor no matter their background. She said she hopes her mentees surpass her accomplishments and skills in the years ahead.

“Mentoring can make the difference between success and failure,” she said. “In the end, I want to look up to my mentees.”

    SOURCE: Thomasenia Adams, UF College of Education; 352-273-4116; tla@coe.ufl.edu
    WRITER: Katelin Mariner, UF College of Education; 352-373-4449; marinerk@ufl.edu 
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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FSU honors UF’s inquiry scholar Nancy Dana with distinguished alumni award

Nancy Dana

Nancy Dana

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Education Professor Nancy Dana has been honored with a 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Florida State University College of Education, where she received her doctorate in childhood education in 1991.

The award honors FSU education graduates who have distinguished themselves through scholarly, creative and humanitarian achievement, and service to their profession.

Dana is a leading international authority on teacher inquiry – a powerful form of professional development whereby teachers and school leaders engage in action research on their own practice in the classroom, wrapping their professional learning around the learning of students, and sharing their findings with colleagues.

Dana has worked with numerous schools and districts across Florida, the United States and abroad to help them craft professional development programs of inquiry for their teachers, principals and district administrators.

Dana, a professor of curriculum, teaching and teacher education, has studied and written about practitioner inquiry for over 20 years, publishing 10 books on the topic, including three best sellers. Her latest book was just released in November with Corwin Press on Professional Learning Communities titled, simply, “The PLC Book.”

Dana has made numerous keynote presentations and led workshops in several countries for educators hungry for professional learning models that focus on examining evidence from practice. Her recent work has taken her to China, South Korea, the Netherlands and Belgium. Last January she led a weeklong course on inquiry in Lisbon, Portugal, for education leaders from nine countries in the European Union. Next October she heads to Estonia.

Dana previously served on the Penn State University education faculty for 11 years. She joined the UF education faculty in 2003 and has conducted extensive research on practitioner inquiry and educator professional development. In 2010, Dana and co-researchers Cynthia Griffin (UF special education) and Stephen Pape (Johns Hopkins mathematics education) secured a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences to develop and study an extensive online professional development program for third-through-fifth-grade general and special education teachers focused on the teaching of struggling math learners.

She is deeply involved in the college’s new, professional practice doctoral program in curriculum, teaching and teacher education. The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program is an online, on-the-job degree program designed specifically for practicing K-12 educators who aspire to lead change, school improvement and education reform efforts in their schools and districts.

Dana’s past honors include the Association of Teacher Educators’ Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award and the National Staff Development Council Book of the Year Award.

“It is a great honor to receive this alumni award and to have connections to two wonderful universities in our state,” Dana said, adding with a sly smile, “but I’ll always bleed orange and blue. Go Gators!”

SOURCE: Nancy Dana, 352-273-4204; ndana@coe.ufl.edu
: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;


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Leite and Collier win best paper award

Walter Leite

Walter Leite

Zachary Collier

Zachary Collier

A research paper by Associate Professor Walter Leite and doctoral candidate Zachary Collier won the most distinguished award in the Florida Educational Research Association’s annual advanced educational research paper competition.

The College of Education scholars won for a methodological paper based on Collier’s master’s thesis, which concluded that “higher levels of Algebra Nation usage corresponds to higher passing rates in the Algebra I end-of-course exam.”

Leite and Collier measured school passing rates on the exam and the number of teacher and student Algebra Nation logins, videos watched and other variables to reach their conclusions.

High school students in Florida are required to pass the Algebra 1 exam to graduate. Algebra Nation is a free online study resource developed by UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning that provides a free, 24-hour Internet-based learning environment. It is now used by thousands of teachers and students in all of the state’s 67 Florida school districts.

“Collier and Leite’s paper was the clear first” among three the three finalists in the “highly competitive” contest, said Donna Buckner, president-elect of FERA and the founder and president of the Lakeland Institute for Learning.

Reviewers from the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Miami ranked the papers with no author information provided. The technical title of the paper was “Testing the Effectiveness of Three-Step Approaches for Auxiliary Variables in Latent Class and Latent Profile Analysis.”

More specifically the paper “demonstrates the use of state of the art statistical methods to estimate the effects of Algebra Nation usage on Algebra end-of-course passing rates,” Leite said.

They focused on methods to group schools according to “the degree their students and teachers used Algebra Nation, and then evaluate whether differences in passing rates across these groups was statistically significant.”

Leite is an associate professor in the college’s UF’s Research and Evaluation Methods program. His specialty is working with massive amounts of information to analyze the effectiveness of teaching tools and educational programs. Collier won a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship in May based on his academic achievements and promising future.

The Lastinger Center, UF’s educational innovation incubator, created Algebra Nation in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Study Edge, a Gainesville-based company that helps high school and college students improve their learning through technology.

Florida Educational Research Association named the scholars the winners on Nov. 20 at the group’s annual conference in Altamonte Springs.

Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Source: Walter Leite, (352) 273-4302


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Doctoral candidate awarded KDPi scholarship for second straight year

Natalie Ridgewell

Natalie Ridgewell

Natalie Ridgewell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida College of Education, was recently awarded the prestigious international C. Glen Hass Laureate Scholarship for Instructional Leadership for the second straight year.

Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education awards the annual $2,000 scholarship to doctoral education students who impact the practical and theoretic development of instructional leadership and the scholarly extension of curriculum.

Ridgewell, who is working toward a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, said she was shocked the first time she received the award, and even more humbled when her name was called a second time.

“When they recognized me the second time it was not just about the potential they first saw in me, but that I was continuing (to develop) those (skills),” said Ridgewell, a KDPi member since 2013.

To qualify for the honor, Ridgewell’s application packet included a required essay she wrote emphasizing her passion for teaching, instructional leadership skills, commitment to the success of her students, and her positive influence in the community.

Letters of recommendation written by UF education faculty cited Ridgewell’s scholarship, leadership, service and her passion for teaching.

Suzanne Colvin, associate director of the School of Teaching and Learning, coordinator of Unified Elementary Proteach and the former adviser for the KDPi UF Chapter, recommended Ridgewell for the 2014 award. Alyson Adams, clinical associate professor in STL and the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning, is Ridgewell’s dissertation committee chair and recommended her the past two years.

Ridgewell has served as secretary of the Student Alliance of Graduate Educators (SAGE), and volunteers for a summer education and enrichment program for underserved youth in east Gainesville called FOCUS, a program developed by Natalie King, a UF doctoral colleague of Ridgewell’s. She also has volunteered at the local Boys and Girls Club, served as a Pen Pal for a third grader, and volunteered for an event sharing information about the Education Common Core Standards.

Since receiving her bachelor’s in English literature from Georgia College & State University, Ridgewell has earned master’s degrees in library and information science from the University of South Carolina, and in English literature from the University of Georgia.

Ridgewell said she continually stresses her teaching mantra, “How you teach is just as important as what you teach, and you can’t effectively teach students you don’t know.”

Ridgewell is due to graduate with her doctorate in August of 2016.

    SOURCE: Natalie Ridgewell, UF College of Education; 478-319-5512; nkr@ufl.edu
    WRITER: Katelin Mariner, UF College of Education; marinerk@ufl.edu 
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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National group honors UF education leader for helping low-income students get to college and succeed

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

University of Florida education innovator Don Pemberton received the prestigious Bob Craves Champion of College Access Award this week for his leadership in providing the means for low-income students to attend and succeed in college.

The award was presented on Monday in Orlando at the annual meeting of the National College Access Network (NCAN), one of the premier nonprofit organizations created to improve college access to low-income and other underserved populations.

Pemberton, 63, is director of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s research-and-development incubator for advancing teacher and student achievement.

The award salutes Pemberton’s life mission to give opportunities to young people who lack the hope, much less the money and support, to attend and succeed in college.

“It’s an honor in terms of affirmation of this work,” Pemberton said. “It’s about collective effort and by honoring me they honor the organizations and individuals that have supported the work.”

UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good said Pemberton is more than worthy of the award.

“Don is an innovative, passionate and tireless advocate for the children and students of Florida,” Good said. Pemberton’s work has influenced school administrators, educators and students not only across the state “but it is having a national and international impact.”

Pemberton is the first and only director of the Lastinger Center, which works with schools and communities to improve student performance, teacher practice, school achievement, principal leadership and parental engagement.

A quarter of a century ago, before he joined UF in 2002, Pemberton was a teacher and guidance counselor in Pinellas County where he was troubled by an alarming number of Tampa Bay area students who dropped out of school.

In 1995, he founded a nonprofit organization, Take Stock in Children, to address the high dropout rate. With the backing of concerned community leaders and businesses, the organization has grown to become Florida’s largest college access and mentoring program to help students escape poverty through education.

It serves all 67 Florida’s counties by providing scholarships, advocates and mentors to middle-school students who need help to graduate from high school and attend college.

“More than 25,000 kids have been through the program,” said Pemberton, who continues to serve as a board member of the organization. “Today there are military officers, doctors, lawyers, accountants and pharmacists who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to college without the mentoring and promise of a college scholarship that Take Stock in Children provided.”

Among the biggest backers of Take Stock in Children was Allen Lastinger, who at the time was president of Barnett Bank, since purchased by what is now Bank of America. A $2 million gift to UF’s College of Education from Lastinger and his wife Delores also led to the creation of the Lastinger Center for Learning.

Pemberton received the award named for Bob Craves, co-founder of the College Success Foundation and a founding officer of Costco. Craves died in 2014 after many years advocating for students who have been historically underserved by higher education. Past award winners include the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

    SOURCE: Don Pemberton, UF Lastinger; 352-273-4108; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu;
    WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

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UF Research Foundation recognizes education scholar with elite professorship

LEITE, Walter

Scholar Walter Leite is the College of Education’s newest winner of a UF Research Foundation Professorship.

One way Walter Leite explains the complex statistical methods he uses to measure the effectiveness of educational programs is with the old analogy of comparing apples to apples.

The associate professor in UF’s Research and Evaluation Methods program works with massive amounts of information (so-called “big data”) to analyze the effectiveness of teaching tools and educational programs, using measures such as standardized scores, end-of-courses assessments, surveys and observation protocols.

“I try to get around the selection-bias problem, the fact that there are apples and oranges,” when analyzing datasets with upwards of 1 million or more variables, he said while explaining one of the sophisticated tools he uses – “propensity score analysis” – to analyze massive amounts of data.

“My niche is extremely large data sets with lots of variables and I try to find the evidence for program effectiveness based on that data,” the Brazilian-born scholar said.

Leite sat down for an interview recently after being awarded a prestigious University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship, which provides three-year awards to tenured faculty for outstanding research and to provide incentives for continued excellence.

The award recognizes the growing importance of Leite’s work at a time of increasing government mandates related to school accountability, such as the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

Leite’s research has been in collaboration with the UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, where his work has helped evaluate large projects such as Algebra Nation and the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) program.

Last year, Leite and a research assistant received the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award for evaluating the TLSI degree program by using statistical models to follow 78 third- through fifth-grade teachers over a decade. Their study showed that students exposed to these teachers had improved their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) math and reading scores, and reduced their school absences.

More recently, Leite and his team received a $1.6 million grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to evaluate the effectiveness of a statewide pilot project to provide pre-K teachers special training and coaching as a way to improve the learning of children getting ready to enter kindergarten.

David Miller, former coordinator of REM and now director of the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, said Leite’s UFRF professorship is well deserved — and increasingly important because of government requirements, such as tying school funding to student assessment scores. These mandates are proving controversial public policy, and a lot is riding on whether these accountability standards are really improving schools, teaching and learning.

“We need folks like Walter working on that,” Miller said. “It’s very complex, but the implications are very important to measure the effectiveness of social science and educational programs.”

Leite’s work is supported by a half-dozen grants, enough work to keep him so busy as to not allow time to teach. But Leite is an enthusiastic teacher. His structural equation modeling course this semester has attracted two dozen grad students from across the university, from the fields of criminology, forestry, psychology, immunology and more, who need to learn how to analyze big data.


    Source: Walter Leite, College of Education, walter.leite@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4302
    Writer: Charles Boisseau, College of Education Office of News and Communications; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449

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Paul Sindelar joins select group as UF Distinguished Professor

Special education Professor Paul Sindelar has been named a University of Florida Distinguished Professor, making him just the sixth College of Education faculty member to be awarded the coveted title.

Paul Sindelar8

UF Distinguished Professor Paul Sindelar

Sindelar’s new title “acknowledges an exceptional record of achievement in the areas of teaching, research and publication and professional and public service that is recognized both nationally and internationally,” according to Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Sindelar said there have been times when he wasn’t sure his credentials would measure up to the lofty standards set by his predecessors.

“I knew that Cecil Mercer and Paul George were both Distinguished Professors,” Sindelar said. “We were contemporaries before they retired, and I had a great deal of respect for their work.

“In fact, I was on a bird watching trip in the Yucatan when a guy we ran into asked where I was from and what I did,” he added. “After I told him I worked at the University of Florida, he asked me if I knew Paul George. I mean, what are the odds of that happening?

“Paul was one of the founding fathers of middle school education, and his work reached a lot of people,” Sindelar said. “I don’t suppose I’ve had that kind of impact, but then, not many people have.”

The same could be said of the late Cecil Mercer, a giant in his field during his 31-year tenure on the COE special education faculty. Three other former faculty members – all deceased — were granted distinguished professorships during their tenures. Joe Wittmer came to UF in 1968 and chaired the Counselor Education department for 18 of his 37 years with the COE; James Wattenbarger was known widely as the “father of Florida’s community college system” after his dissertation was used as a system blueprint in the late 1950s; and Mary Budd Rowe, a science education professor who spent 24 years on the COE faculty, was a former UF Teacher of the Year.

Sindelar said he learned about his new title while attending a conference in Arlington, Va., when COE Dean Glenn Good sent him an email message containing a letter from UF President Kent Fuchs.

“I was a bit surprised, but thrilled to death,” Sindelar said. “It’s an honor, of course, and utterly humbling.”

Sindelar, who is co-director of UF’s federally funded CEEDAR Center, has been conducting research focusing on change in the special education teacher labor market and its implications for policy makers and teacher educators. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

He and his colleagues have established that fewer education teachers are employed in U.S. public schools today than were on the job 10 years ago. The reasons for the decline are unclear, although reductions in the number of students identified with learning disabilities, changes in service delivery, and the economic impact of the Great Recession all appear to play roles, their research indicates.

Mary Brownell, Sindelar’s co-director at the CEEDAR Center, says she knows her colleague will make the most of whatever opportunities his new title may bring.

“Paul has been my mentor and a close friend for 25 years,” Brownell said. “He hired me, and we’ve had a tremendous journey together as teacher education scholars. We’ve directed three centers together, four doctoral leadership grants and one research grant from the U. S. Department of Education. We’ve co-authored countless papers, presentations, and book chapters. I can’t imagine my career being what it has been without my trusted friend and wise colleague.

“He’s one of the finest teacher education researchers in our field, and he’s respected by all of his colleagues at UF and across the nation,” she added. “No one could be more deserving of the title Distinguished Professor.”

Honors and recognition aren’t new for Sindelar, He won the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, TED Publication Award in 1997 and 2009, as well as the University of Illinois College of Education Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007 and the UF Faculty Achievement Recognition Award in 2007.

Most notably, though, Sindelar and Brownell won the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s prestigious David G. Imig Award in 2015 for making significant, lasting contributions to educator development and teacher education policy and research.

Sindelar received an undergraduate degree in history at Dartmouth before earning a master’s in special education at the University of Illinois in 1974 and his Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota three years later. He entered the UF College of Education in 1988 as department chair and special education professor. He remained chair until 1996, when he became director of the UF Center for School Improvement and went on to serve as director of the UF Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education (2000-2005) and associate dean for research in the Office of Educational Research (2005-2008).

    Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.


Robin Rossie receives second Adviser of the Year award

After giving advice and occasional pep talks to thousands of students during her 20 years in the UF College of Education’s Office of Student Services, Robin Rossie has learned that one good question deserves another.

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UF President Kent Fuchs presents longtime COE staff member Robin Rossie with her second Adviser of the Year award.

“A student might come in and say, ‘I’ve got a quick question,’ but there’s rarely a quick answer,” said Rossie, the COE’s 2015 Adviser of the Year. “Being a good adviser is all about asking questions behind the questions.”

Being a great listener also has worked well for the woman who walked away from a factory job to take a clerk typist position with student services. Six months later, she found herself acting in an advisory capacity for undergraduate students, and she’s been doing it ever since.

“I’ve stayed here because I love what I do and I care about our students,” said Rossie, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at UF. “I help them plan and map out their goals. Who wouldn’t love a job like that?”

And who wouldn’t love her doing a job like that? Among the countless alumni who have appreciated her efforts over the years are former UF ProTeach students Alicia Gardiner and Carolyn Smith.

“When I first met Robin, she was very warm and welcoming and wanted to personally get to know her students,” Gardiner wrote in a letter of support for Rossie, who won the same award in 2009. “This proved to me that I wasn’t [just] a number, but I actually had value. She wanted me to not only excel in my courses, but to enjoy them as well.

“She would tell me exactly what I needed and how I could go about getting it done,” Gardiner continued. “There was never a time when I left her office confused because she would thoroughly explain everything and was always open and willing to answer any questions I had.”

Smith, who worked in a summer job with Rossie, said her former mentor is the “oil for the wheels” that make the Office of Student Services run smoothly.

“Though her title is academic advisor, her role and impact within the College of Education exceeds her job description,” Smith wrote in another letter of support. “She not only is an expert advisor in matters of coursework and certification, but she offers her time as a mentor and a listening ear for those who need to process, ask questions and explore all avenues in the field of education.

“You will be well informed and equipped when you leave her office to pursue your goals,” Smith added. “Robin gives every individual her full attention and offers careful guidance in making big decisions.”

To Rossie, it’s all in a day’s work.

“Even though we’ve got computer systems with dashboards that place today’s students in more of a self-service mode, I still have face time with a lot of them,” she said. “I try to offer them insights that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.

“They know I’m there for them, and they seem grateful – even relieved – to get some guidance and direction. But what they don’t always know is that I’ll also be here for them when they change their minds.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Collier receives McKnight Doctoral Fellowship

The Florida Education Foundation has awarded COE doctoral candidate Zachary Collier a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship based on his academic achievements and promising future.


COE doctoral candidate Zachary Collier

Collier is a member of the UF Algebra Nation team at the COE’s Lastinger Center for Learning, where he collaborates with Study Edge, an entrepreneurial technology firm, to provide online support for Florida students enrolled in Algebra I.

The McKnight fellowship addresses the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty at Florida colleges and universities by increasing the pool of minority Ph.D. candidates to teach at the college and university levels. Up to 50 fellowships are awarded statewide each year.

Collier said the fellowship validates his belief that hard work pays off, especially when you have passion for your chosen field.

“I leaped out of my chair when I read the news,” said Collier, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in research evaluation and methodology. “After I collected myself, I called my mother; we cried, we prayed.”

He said the fellowship – which carries monetary awards of up to $5,000 per year toward tuition (with the balance being waived) and an annual stipend of $12,000 – virtually guarantees that he will be able to complete his doctoral work sometime in 2017.

“It’s a blessing to me and my family,” Collier said. “And – lest we forget – I’ll be free of student loans.”

Sylvia Boynton, the Lastinger center’s innovation manager, says Collier has a “brilliant future” ahead of him.

“Zach has been helping our team understand the impact that Algebra Nation’s components have on teacher practice and student achievement,” Boynton said. “He’s dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of the most vulnerable students in Florida schools.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.


Florida chapter named ‘Outstanding Unit’ by Association of Teacher Educators

The Florida Association of Teacher Educators (FATE) has been named the Association of Teacher Educators’ 2014 Outstanding Unit, marking the first time the Florida chapter has brought home the national organization’s second highest honor.

Crystal Timmons

FATE president-elect Crystal Timmons

The award, which is based on the unit’s accomplishments in programs and services, membership and management, and articulation with the national office, was presented at this year’s national conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

FATE president-elect Crystal Timmons, a UF professor-in-residence with the College of Education’s Teacher Leadership for School Improvement program in Duval County, said all 200 members of her unit can be proud of what they’ve accomplished during the past year.

“We were the first unit to recognize all of our state’s district teachers of the year by inviting them to this year’s conference,” she said.

“FATE was well represented,” Timmons added. “We had five Florida school district members who served on the featured panel, and there were three University of Florida faculty members who facilitated a special professional development session for teachers of the year.”

She said the award comes with $500, which will be used to further FATE’s goals and objectives. Some of the money will help fund annual stipends of $500 each that FATE awards to four undergraduate teacher education students in Florida. The cash awards are part of FATE’s annual Fanchon F. Funk Scholars Award program.

“We were confident that our Outstanding Unit application clearly outlined FATE’s commitment to higher education and Florida’s public school system,” Timmons said. “We were hopeful that the committee could see the careful design and implementation of our various programs and activities.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.