Six new professors join College of Education faculty

UF’s College of Education this year welcomed six new additions to its faculty: Kristen Apraiz, Kristina DePue, Nicholas Gage, Ashley Macsuga-Gage, Diane Porter Roberts and Rachel Wolkenhauer. 

KristenApraizKristen Apraiz is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, in which she teaches elementary mathematics education courses. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education from Florida State University. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in mathematics education at the College of Education. Previously, she taught mathematics for middle and high school, as well as adult education, for eight years. Apraiz’s research is focused on education for pre-service mathematics teachers. 



Kristina DePue is an assistant professor of counselor education in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education. DePue graduated from Vanderbilt University with both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She received her doctoral degree in counselor education from the University of Central Florida. There, she led a multi-year study in the Community Counseling Clinic that focused on counselor development and supervisory relationships. Her personal and research interests include helping individuals struggling with dependence from alcohol and other drugs. 



Nicholas Gage is an assistant professor of special education in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Goddard College, and an additional master’s degree from the University of Missouri. He graduated with his Ph.D. in special education from the University of Missouri. Gage worked at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Behavioral Education and Research as an Institute of Education Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow. His research is focused on identifying policies and practices at the national, state, local and classroom level to support the academic, social and behavioral needs of students with or at-risk for emotional and/or behavioral disorders. 



Ashley Macsuga-Gage is a visiting clinical assistant professor of special education in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in special education. In addition to her doctoral studies, she also earned two additional graduate certifications in positive behavior interventions and supports and program evaluation. Macsuga-Gage’s research interests include the implementation of class-wide and school-wide positive behavior support practices. 



Diane Porter Roberts, or “DP,” is an assistant clinical professor of personnel in higher education in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies. She has served as the program coordinator and director of the student personnel in high education graduate program since 2008. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education from Appalachian State University. She received her Ph.D. in higher education administration from UF’s College of Education. Prior to joining the College of Education full time, she worked for UF’s Department of Housing and Residence Education for 18 years. Her research specialties include the competencies of professional and graduate housing staff, living learning communities, college student learning outcomes assessments, and advising student organizations, among others.   


Rachel Wolkenhauer is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, in which she teaches about culturally-responsive classroom management. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in curriculum and instruction from UF’s College of Education. She recently published the book “Inquiring into the Common Core” with College of Education professor Nancy Fichtman Dana and Jamey Bolton Burns, a program coordinator for the Lastinger Center for Learning. Her primary research interest is in practitioner inquiry for teacher professional development.  

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College honors year’s outstanding graduate students

COE associate deans Tom Dana (left) and Thomasenia Adams (right) flank the college's Outstanding Graduate Student Award recipients (from left) Rachel Wolkenhauer, Kiwanis Burr and Amber Benedict at the college's recent Recognition Dinner.

COE associate deans Tom Dana (left) and Thomasenia Adams (right) flank the college’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award recipients (from left) Rachel Wolkenhauer, Kiwanis Burr and Amber Benedict at the college’s recent Recognition Dinner.


Congratulations to Rachel Wolkenhauer, Kiwanis Burr and Amber Benedict, selected as 2013 Outstanding Graduate Students at UF’s College of Education.

The winners hail from the doctoral degree programs in curriculum and instruction, higher education administration and special education, respectively. Their mini-profiles below show why they were selected:

Outstanding Graduate Student – Research
Rachel Wolkenhauer
Rachel is a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, as well as a graduate of the College of Education’s Teacher Leadership for School Improvement master’s degree program. For the past two years, she has also served as the graduate assistant and teacher in residence at the Lastinger Center for Learning. Rachel is highly esteemed by her superiors for her leadership, talents and contributions regarding research about teacher preparation and professional development. She has had a role in numerous publications, presentations and professional development activities. Rachel has also maintained a high GPA throughout these experiences and consistently exceeds expectations in her coursework. 

Outstanding Graduate Student – Leadership
Kiwanis Burr

Kiwanis is a doctoral student in higher education administration. She is committed to promoting social justice and equity, starting on the University of Florida’s campus. Through her service and leadership, Kiwanis has made an impact on the University Minority Mentor Program, which aims to encourage its minority or first-generation college students to complete a college degree. As program coordinator of the program, Kiwanis has improved its group activities and student retention rate. Her dedication to serving underrepresented youth is also mirrored in her continued service to the College of Education diversity initiatives.

Outstanding Graduate Student – Professional Practice
Amber Benedict

Amber is a doctoral student in special education. After years of experience in special education classrooms, Amber was moved to support current special education teachers through research, curriculum planning and professional development opportunities. She began her work through UF’s Literacy Learning Cohorts, a project aimed at helping special education teachers in Alachua and Clay counties better teach language alongside the core reading curriculum, as well as to increase intervention to students with disabilities. Later, Amber began a professional development project with third- and fourth-grade general and special education teachers in Clay County. Amber’s extraordinary work and leadership within these programs has made a significant impact on the practices of the teachers with whom she worked, as well as their students.


UF teacher inquiry ‘ambassadors’ create buzz in Netherlands, Belgium

The buzz created by UF education Professor Nancy Dana’s passionate advocacy and best-selling books on “practitioner inquiry”—or action research, a burgeoning strategy in teacher professional development and school reform—is crossing international borders.

Dana revs up the crowd of school leaders attending her teacher-inquiry presentation in Oostende, Belgium.

Dana and Rachel Wolkenhauer, a UF doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, recently presented three workshops on teacher inquiry for 130 students, education faculty and practicing teachers at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the southern Netherlands.  Their presentations were featured recently in the university’s primary magazine in an article titled “Inquiry Inspiration Day.”

The article mentions discussions they had with Dutch officials about forming an exchange between faculty and students at UF and the Fontys School of Teacher Training for Secondary Education.

“Our time at Fontys included an exchange between Rachel and two doctoral students at Fontys where they shared their dissertation work with one another resulting in powerful conversation about teacher education.  These are the types of interactions that we imagine will enrich and enhance students’ experiences at both institutions” Dana said.

The College of Education duo also conducted workshops in Oostende, Belgium on their trip, where Dana presented three keynote addresses about the inquiry process at a conference for over 200 school leaders.

Dana is one of America’s top scholars in the field of action research, a self-reflecting process in which teachers and principals assess their own practices and then share what they learned with their peers to improve student learning.

Dana has coached the action research of thousands of educators from school districts across the state and nation—and globe—and has published nine books and more than 50 journal articles and book chapters on teacher and principal professional development and practitioner inquiry.

Two of her books—guides to classroom research and coaching inquiry-based learning communities in schools, respectively—were best sellers. The latter guide was chosen 2008 Book of the Year by the National Staff Development Council.  She recently published an electronic version of her 2010 book, “Powerful Professional Development: Building Expertise Within the Four Walls of Your School.”

Dana has a new book, Digging Deeper Into Action Research: A Teacher Inquirer’s Field Guide, due out in February and is writing another one with Wolkenhauer and COE adjunct lecturer Jamey Burns on using teacher inquiry as a mechanism to translate the common core state standards into practice.

Dana’s publisher, Corwin Press, has an author’s website for her at:

Dana holds the prestigious designation of UF Research Foundation Professor and works with the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning, helping to redesign professional development programs for several Florida school districts with practitioner inquiry at the core.

Wolkenhauer also works with the Lastinger Center as a trained Master Teacher while pursuing her doctorate.

   SOURCE: Nancy Fichtman Dana, UF College of Education,; 352-273-4204
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137


ATE taps doctoral student for teacher-leadership scholarship

The Association of Teacher Educators has awarded UF education doctoral student Rachel Wolkenhauer its 2012 Robert Stevenson Scholarship. The yearly honor goes to a student working on an advanced degree who will use her education to enhance teacher leadership among her peers.

Wolkenhauer, in her second year of doctoral studies in curriculum and instruction, is a former Pinellas County elementary teacher and works as a trained Master Teacher with the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning while pursuing her doctorate. She provides professional development to teachers at the center’s partnering schools.

She said she hopes to fulfill the leadership requirements of the scholarship by creating and maintaining relationships between schools and universities. She said the relationship would be mutually beneficial; universities would produce more useful research, and schools would have more access to research and a liaison to education policymakers.

The ATE organization, founded in 1920, focuses on improving teacher education for school-based and post-secondary educators.