Extracurricular: The Magazine for the Cato College of Education - Summer 2019

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Summer 2019

The Lake and Edward J. Snyder Distinguished Professor in Special Education

Robert Pennington Donor Profile: Charlie Elberson Universal Pre-K Has Arrived The Value of a Master’s Degree

Contents Departments Leadership Viewpoint. . . . . . 3

Lan Kolano’s. . . . . . 4 Faculty Fellowship

Standout Student. . . . . . 6

Campus happenings. . . . . . 8 Generous Gift. . . . 28 Boosts Teacher Prep Accolades,. . . . 26 Achievements & Awards



Donor Profile: Charlie Elberson Meet the man who makes so many things happen.


Robert Pennington A distinguished scholar joins our faculty.


Universal Pre-K Has Arrived And the Cato COED is making sure teachers are ready!


Research & Grants. . . . 12

A Different Kind. . . . 22 of Public Service

New Faculty. . . . 24

Prioritizing Equity. . . . 30 and Diversity

Niner University. . . . 31


The Value of a Master’s Degree Teachers say this innovative degree program pays big dividends in the classroom.


Summer Edition Volume 1, Number 16 Editor Melba Newsome Contributing Writers Melba Newsome Wills Citty

Layout/Design SPARK Publications Info@SPARKpublications.com

Printing Contributing Photographer Graphic Impressions Sharon Evans

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EXTRACURRICULAR is published annually by the Cato College of Education, University of North Carolina at Charlotte 9201 University City Boulevard Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001 Direct all inquiries to: Ellen McIntyre Dean, College of Education (704) 687-8722 Ellen.McIntyre@uncc.edu

Send address changes to: Barbara Parrish College of Education bparris4@uncc.edu

Leadership Viewpoint

Equity and Excellence with Help from Our Friends I am proud to say that our earlier commitment to building a stronger connection with the larger Charlotte community is bearing fruit in so many ways! Thanks to our engagement and commitment to create better teachers and a stronger education framework, many in the philanthropic community have stepped forward to fund vital initiatives because they see the Cato College of Education (COED) as a wise investment for bringing about meaningful change. Meet venture philanthropist Charlie Elberson whose generosity has helped make so many things possible at the University and the College, including providing funding for our Summer Reading Camp and Opportunity Showcase. UNC Charlotte alumni Gene and Vickie Johnson have once again demonstrated their commitment to education with a sizable donation that will provide stipends to boost pay for our valuable clinical educators, building on the critically important gifts from the Belk Foundation that seeded our teacher preparation redesign efforts. “The Value of a Master’s Degree” illustrates how one gift from the Goodnight Foundation can expand into several programs designed with school districts in mind. PNC Bank stepped forward with a grant to fund at least 50 students who will pursue their birthto-pre-K teacher certification. Speaking of teacher certification, universal pre-K is here! When Mecklenburg County committed to

high-quality education for every child two years ago, the COED realized we had a vital role to play to make this a reality. Our program is designed to make it easier for working students to obtain their certifications so that these new classrooms will be filled with qualified teachers. Then there’s Niner University Elementary, a new public school developed, operated and supported by COED education experts, which will open its doors in the fall of 2020. We also welcome our new Lake and Edward J. Snyder Distinguished Professor in Special Education to the College! Rob Pennington is the kind of widely acclaimed scholar the distinguished professor chair allows us to attract to the College. Since joining us, Dr. Pennington has demonstrated many reasons why he’s such a valuable colleague. Aside from being lead singer in a punk rock band, he is overseeing the creation of a Board Certified Behavior Analysts program for the fall semester. He is deeply committed to community work and has already brought in millions of dollars in federal funds. Indeed, the College has had an exceptional year for grant procurement, with significant competitive awards from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other offices of the U.S. Department of Education (USDOED), along with awards from the UNC System and the Spencer Foundation. These awards are only one metric for why our College is rated so highly rated. Even more importantly, our College continues to demonstrate its commitment to diversity through its mission of equity through excellence and engagement. Our faculty and staff have poured time and resources into their own professional development on all aspects of diversity as it related to education. Our brand of equity comes through our excellence in the work we do through our engagement with the community. So as you tuck in to this year’s issue of Extracurricular, I hope you take time to learn more about us and the work we do. And spread the word that the Cato College of Education isn’t just one of the best colleges in the region; it’s one of the most active community partners.

Ellen McIntyre Dean The Magazine for the Cato College of Education Extracurricular 3

Lan Kolano

Q&A with Lan Quach Kolano

An Immigrant Focuses on

Immigrant Youth Since joining the Cato College of Education (COED) faculty in 2004, LAN QUACH KOLANO has received the Excellence in Teaching Award and the Excellence in Diversity Award and was a finalist for the Provost’s Faculty Award for Community Engagement. Her research focuses on the language and identity development of immigrant learners and the development of critical multicultural efficacy of teachers. When Kolano, professor of education and director of the graduate programs in teaching English as a second language (TESL), was chosen as an Engagement Faculty Fellow, it was because of her long, passionate advocacy for social-justice education, cultural and linguistic understanding of English language learners and the case she made to build upon that work. Her “Developing Teachers as Social Advocates for Immigrant Youth through Sustained Grassroots Community and School Partnerships” project explores an alternative model of field experience designed to develop the teacher as a community advocate.

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How has your personal background shaped your passion and interests, if at all? My family and I fled Vietnam as part of the third wave of refugees and spent six months in a Malaysian refugee camp before settling in Richmond, Virginia, in 1978. I became a teacher to support students from vulnerable populations who may enter school without knowing English. My research agenda emerged while teaching in a high-needs urban school in Greensboro where teachers struggled to connect with the newly arrived immigrant children. I was struck by memories of my own childhood experiences where physical attributes and language barriers separated me from my classmates. I began to ask how I could support these learners and participate in the empowerment of these communities. Over the past fifteen years, I have charted my professional path through the careful integration of teaching, research and service agendas to support and empower diverse immigrant communities both at the local and national levels.


What do you mean when you say you want to use a social-justice lens to assist the immigrant community in education? I weave threads of social justice into the curriculum to prepare our candidates to understand and become advocates for immigrant children and their families. All teachers can become allies by being committed to advocacy within their classrooms and raising consciousness at their schools. They can embrace an ethic of care and understand how power and privilege function at the school and societal level and become informed about things that affect undocumented students, such as immigration laws, policies and practices at the national and local levels.


What kind of field experience is most effective at turning teachers into community advocates? The field experiences must be meaningfully designed, sustained over time and have the power to change teacher beliefs. Allowing teacher candidates to work individually or in small groups with different communities of color is the most impactful. Schools benefit from having our students there as an extra layer of support, and our candidates learn from mentor teachers in classrooms where they are welcomed. Our candidates must understand the lives of the children they teach, especially English learners (ELs), and have the space to get to know them and their strengths. I require candidates to complete an immigrant story project. Through 15 to 20 hours of field experience, teacher candidates help their assigned ELs create digital stories using brief videos with images, text and audio to talk about a personal experience in their lives. Candidates learn how to scaffold the reading-writing process while being exposed to the power of narrative through the use of film. I then use these videos to showcase the strengths of their ELs (through stories that are told using their own voices). In this field experience, everyone involved benefits.


When educational institutions talk about cultural competence, what does that mean to you, and what should it mean? Educators must understand the ways that power and privilege have impacted their own lives and how racism is institutionalized through policies and practices. Otherwise, they cannot understand the difference between being “hurt” by microaggressions and being “oppressed” as a community. Educators must acknowledge the historical oppression of these marginalized students whose identities intersect with other forms of oppression such as race, poverty, sexual orientation and/or religion. Since there is no legal pathway to citizenship for undocumented families, what happens to students

who have been brought here “illegally”? We teach them to believe in a “myth of meritocracy”; however, without immigration reform, none of them will be able to become citizens or work legally.


What do you see as COED’s responsibility to serve the diverse community in the area? How can COED improve its engagement? First, we must become more informed on how current issues affect diverse communities and use that knowledge to better prepare our teacher candidates to support the current needs of EL students. Specifically, we must deepen our own awareness of how current sociopolitical issues and deficient (un)documented immigration discourses shape student lives, which in turn affects their performance inside the classrooms. In addition, we can integrate multicultural education in all coursework.


What impact, if any, has the current antiimmigration climate had on your work? In North Carolina, developing an understanding of immigrants has become even more critical as new demographic trends and heightened antiimmigration rhetoric has resulted in more restrictive laws, policies and practices. I use the stories children share of being terrorized by ICE in ways that make them afraid to play outside, talk to people or even go to school as a tool for understanding, to try to ensure they have teachers who create safe and inclusive classrooms where they feel comfortable to share their experiences, good or bad.


What has been most rewarding about your work? Intersecting my teaching, research and service in ways that have allowed me to work directly with the immigrant community and engaging both undergraduate and graduate students in field work and the research process. I have spent years volunteering and bringing graduate students to the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC), a local grassroots nonprofit organization, to serve as youth mentors, assisting ELs with their homework, senior projects, and college and scholarship applications. I have also been privileged to conduct the evaluation of ourBRIDGE for Kids, funded by Mr. Charlie Elberson (see donor profile). I have seen how their strength and resilience, coupled with some love and exposure to socialjustice programming, has taught them to become advocates for their families and communities. It is rewarding to see them develop into engaged young adults who use their experiences to explore their interests, earn college admissions and scholarships to competitive universities, or come back as mentors to new youth participants. ■ The Magazine for the Cato College of Education Extracurricular 5

Standout Student Natalia Mejia When elementary education major NATALIA MEJIA makes her second study abroad trip to South Africa, it will be with the assistance of a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, the only UNC Charlotte student chosen for this highly selective grant for the summer 2019 section. In addition to her challenging academic coursework, Mejia is active in extracurricular activities and started two nonprofits. Study abroad adviser Erik Byker, Ph.D., said her selection was well-deserved: “Natalia is one of the rare students who can juggle a robust academic load with an abundance of service leadership. Natalia is a natural and inspiring leader. I admire her curiosity for the world and her conviction that teachers are change agents who help to make the world a better place.”


What did you gain from your first study abroad experience in South Africa, and how do you believe returning as a Gilman scholar can add to that experience? The experience expanded my horizons and language proficiencies. I learned how, as a teacher, I can really perpetuate privilege and power in any community. I also learned a lot about myself. I thought I was going to serve a community, but instead they served me. When I applied for the Gilman Scholarship, I stressed that I want to be a global citizen, to teach and


Natalia Mejia

encourage global competencies. I also clarified that I will be able to further engage myself in the community and education system when I go back. I feel extremely blessed to be have been selected and believe that it will help me

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become a better teacher by asking a lot of me. You seem pretty set on working in another country after you graduate. Why is that? Do you feel the United States lacks the opportunity you need for growth?



I feel that as a global citizen, I have so much to learn about this world! I try to look at it as an adventure and opportunity to experience engagement with others from different cultures and languages. In social studies, we talked about the importance of experiencing life through many other people’s narratives so that their story isn’t incomplete. I think I can expand single-story narratives through traveling and experiencing my global citizenship through teaching and studying abroad. Was there ever a time when you thought maybe you’d chosen the wrong profession? If so, what reassured you that teaching was the career for you? I have felt like that before, even recently. It was not necessarily the profession or the act of teaching, but all the other jobs we have to juggle as teachers. Our profession is 24/7. We take our kids home with us, and the issues our kids carry really weigh heavily on me. At the same time, I realized I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I liked that I have to work hard and pour out from myself. You invest in the students, and they invest in you. I’m excited about getting to build relationships in my student teaching. I can’t wait to spend time with the children and really get to know them! Tell me about the two nonprofits you started and what you want to accomplish. After Hurricane Maria, Andrea Badillo-Perez, a Levine scholar, and I started 49ers for Puerto Rico with the support of Dr. Amy Good. The mission is to give Puerto Rico the support that it needs and deserves. We started a drive to collect school supplies for students in Puerto Rico. Dr. Byker, his son Rohan, and I started Knit Together Mission in response to a need we saw while in South Africa. We took part in a service day project with a nonprofit, 67 Blankets for Mandela, where the women knit





You mentioned that your mother’s student experience at UNC Charlotte helped you decide you wanted to teach. When my mother was looking for a university that had industrial and operations management, only UNC Charlotte had that program at the time. She received a good deal of support from two professors who really believed in her, encouraged her and helped her understand her classes in English. I have always wanted to be a teacher – one who stood out and advocated for her students. When it came down to finding a university that I had hoped would help me grow as that future teacher, I felt that UNC Charlotte really embodied that. If you had to choose a theme song for your life and passion, what would it be and why? I never really had thought of a theme song for my life, but one song I like to listen to when I am anxious about work and want to relax is “Someday We’ll All Be Free” by Donny Hathaway. It’s an older song, but I have always liked music that has a clear message. One of my favorite lines is, “Keep on walking tall, hold your head up high. Lay your dreams right up to the sky.” It reminds me that moments are brief, even hard ones, but it is an opportunity to grow even if it hurts. ■


Natalia with Dr. Erik Byker.

blankets for communities in need. Yarn is expensive in South Africa, so Knit Together Mission works to collect yarn here in the United States to send to South Africa. We hope to take part in “rewriting” the world by helping others. Given the limited time students have, why do you feel it’s important to volunteer and be engaged in the community? A: We usually think we are investing a lot of ourselves by volunteering, which is true. But oftentimes, we get more out of the experience than those we are serving. If we want to grow, it is important that we invest in others because it allows us to see different walks of life. It expands our views of the world and our roles in it.



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CAMPUS HAPPENINGS ■ The UNC Charlotte community, Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters, and family and friends of sophomore and special education major Polly Rogers are coming together to honor her memory by adding a sensory garden to the University’s Botanical Gardens. Polly tragically passed away in May 2018. Her friends and classmates described her as beautiful, caring, warm and full of life. The sensory garden will help realize Polly’s dream of creating a safe, therapeutic environment for children with autism and other special needs. ■ The Cato College of Education unveiled the first fully online master’s program in urban education, a further commitment to prepare educators and professionals to deliver high-quality, culturally relevant instruction and services for students in increasingly diverse, urban school systems and communities. The 33-hour course curriculum is designed to address concerns about educators and other professionals being underprepared to work in urban schools and communities. It includes courses such as Culturally Responsive Classroom Management; Critical Media Pedagogy and Urban Education; Globalization, Communities and Schools; and Race in Education and Schooling. The first program of any kind in North Carolina with a focus on urban education, the online urban education master’s program aligns with the University’s focus on improving urban environments through research, academic programming and community engagement. Each spring, approximately 20 of the most competitive applicants will be accepted for admission and scheduled to begin classes in the subsequent fall. ■ The Levine Jewish Community Center (JCC) awarded the 2018 Yachad Award to the Cato College of Education (CATO) for its collaborative work on a summer camp. Designed to help struggling students improve their reading while enjoying the fun and games of traditional summer camps, the camp is in its third year. Peer-reviewed faculty research found that the program helps at-risk readers avoid falling behind over the summer and gives many a significant leg up. As part of the award, the JCC presented the COED with a tzedakah box that will be placed in Dean McIntyre’s office for donations. ■ The Urban Education Collaborative hosted its first annual Urban Education Week to support and improve urban educational environments. This effort to ensure that students in urban schools remain at the forefront of collective efforts and have every available opportunity to receive a high-quality education was considered a big success. The week-long September conference brought together various stakeholders to galvanize the collective energy to improve urban schools in Charlotte and the state. ■ Professor Joan Lachance, along with Dr. Michael Guerrero of University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, authored a new publication that will provide educator-preparation programs with a set of standards to guide dual-language teacher preparation across the county. The aim is to support federal, state and local stakeholders who prepare dual-language educators for the linguistic, cultural and ideological depth of working in K-12 and potentially K-16 dual-language programs. As one of several guiding documents being developed, the National Dual Language Education Teacher Preparation Standards (NDLETPS) said the publication “should be viewed as a backbone to any effective teacher preparation program that will also need to respond to the needs of its particular student, family

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and community demographics.” The publication has been submitted to the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation to be considered as a new specialized professional association. ■ U.S. News & World Report ranks the Cato College of Education graduate programs in the top 20 percent nationally for 2019-2020. The graduate special-education program is ranked 15th overall in its field. U.S. News & World Report compiles the rankings by taking into account assessments from education professionals, student selectivity, faculty resources and research activity. “We are proud of our College for providing access to quality programs for people from all walks of life and simultaneously producing important research that will shape the future of education. We continue to strive to do both,” said Dean Ellen McIntyre. ■ During the summer of 2018, Chuang Wang, Ph.D, and Florence Martin, Ph.D., led a group of eight graduate students and faculty members on a study abroad trip to China and India that provided insight into international teaching. The cohort spent a week in Xi’an visiting four schools and universities. In India, they toured a total of five universities in Ysore and Wayanad. In addition to the accompanying course, Educational Policies and Practices in China and India, they explored a broad range of new cultures, places and ideas and were exposed to the many variations between the U.S. and Asian educational systems. Students observed classroom lessons and interacted with Chinese and Indian school teachers, administrators and students. They also attended lectures given by Chinese and Indian professors to learn about current research and practices in China and India and had an opportunity to co-teach. “In this comparative education course, students returned home understanding the values of other countries and how educators strive to use innovative ways to prepare learners across the world,” said Martin. ■ The UNC Charlotte Urban Education Collaborative hosted NBA stars Chris Paul and KarlAnthony Towns during NBA All-Star Weekend at an event to empower Charlotte’s African-American youth. Since the 2019 NBA AllStar Weekend didn’t include an event specifically geared toward black male students, roughly 200 young males came together to hear from other black males about their journeys to success at the Open Court All-Star Male Youth Summit. Attendees watched a video that stressed education and how to avoid getting into trouble. Professionals led discussions about communication and networking skills. “For African-American males this is empowering,” said Chance Lewis, urban education chair. “Oftentimes when you see somebody who looks like you, taking time out of their schedule just to give back to you and to make a difference in your life, I think that can be the life-changing part for them.” ■

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Donor Profile:

Charlie Elberson C

harlie Elberson is a very busy advertising executive who has spent more than 25 years developing, building and stewarding brands for a range of Fortune 500 companies. Over the past decade, he’s created his own brand as a generous philanthropist for initiatives he believes can make a positive impact in the community. As the primary trustee and advisor for the venture-philanthropy firm Reemprise, Elberson carves out time virtually every morning to meet with Charlotte-area nonprofits and hear why they believe they should be the beneficiaries of his largess.

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“This work gives me a chance to get involved with all kinds of interesting things and people,” explained Elberson. Fortunately for the Cato College of Education (COED), Elberson believed the College’s commitment to literacy, community engagement and producing quality teachers was well worth the investment. In recent years, Reemprise has generally funded several of the COED’s key initiatives that seek to advance its core mission. “Charlie’s philanthropic impact at the Cato College of Education is in excess of $150,000,” said Todd Marrs, Cato COED director of development. “These gifts have allowed us to basically make so many things happen.” The Reemprise fund was started in 2005 by Elberson’s father, Robert Elberson, who was also an advertising executive most famous for his revolutionary Hanes L’Eggs campaign of the 1970s. Several years after retiring, Robert sought a way to incorporate giving into his estate plan and make an impact on the local economy and higher education.

There are few systems that affect humans – particularly those in need – where education is not a predominant part of the conversation. It is so interconnected. “Dad was quiet about his own achievements,” recalled Elberson. “He would say his greatest accomplishments were around empowering others to do amazing things. That’s the common thread that runs through his business career and his philanthropic efforts.” From the beginning, Reemprise set its sights on funding gamechanging initiatives for visionary nonprofits. “My dad was ahead of his time. He wanted to take his philanthropic interest into what became venture philanthropy. He knew most nonprofits are riskaverse by nature, so he wanted to provide them with resources to help them break through, and by not being so afraid of failure, they can create something special.” Elberson feels the need and opportunity for visionary thinking is most relevant in the education sector. “Education relates to the rising importance of economic opportunity, cultural expectations and demand around equity. There are few systems that affect humans – particularly those in need – where education is not a predominant part of the conversation. It is so interconnected.” He saw tremendous opportunity in UNC Charlotte and first got involved through the Institute for Social Capital, part of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. “They were so creative in measuring social and educational impacts, and I’d never found a partner like that before. Then I met Ellen and heard about the initiatives the College of Education was undertaking. There are all these opportunities for cross-collaboration interconnectedness, which are of strategic importance for me as a funder, and things just clicked.”

Long passionate about early literacy research and programming in the Charlotte area, Elberson says he looks for initiatives that have real goals in mind. He is inspired by educational organizations that find solutions in an environment where many focus on challenges. “It’s critical to be involved with things that are measurable and have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t in education. Applying businesslike principles to a very venturesome initiative is part of what makes it so effective. You can take a small initiative and prove that it works with numbers, authority and metrics and say this is where the change will happen.” That kind of focus and objective is what drew him to the Castles project three years ago. A $42,500 gift from Reemprise allowed Cato COED researchers to take a closer look at the strategies of an east Charlotte child care center with a history of success in early literacy and pre-K preparation. For the last 30 years, Castles Daycare Academy has provided high-quality, languagerich, print-rich child care and preschool services for children in the community ages 2 to 12. The Reemprise grant paid for a study to understand the academic outcomes of the learning strategies at the center, as well why those strategies are so effective. “By partnering with Dean McIntyre and her team at the Cato College of Education, we can learn from the center’s teachers and learners. It makes me confident the remarkable successes they have achieved can become widespread.” Elberson also helped fund the Summer Reading Camp at the Aldersgate Retirement

Community. “Some of the money Charlie has given helped pay the stipend for the teachers, so they’re not working for free,” said Marrs. “He loves the camp, and he’s so good with kids.” He sponsored the Charlotte Opportunity Showcase, which features and highlights the research projects being done at the University to address challenges like homelessness and literacy. He’s also funding a research project for ourBRIDGE and their effectiveness.” Elberson has extensive connections in the nonprofit arena and has provided transformative grants to an array of arts, education, and health and human service organizations. Reemprise is housed at the Foundation for the Carolinas and distributes money in April and October. While the venturephilanthropy firm doesn’t limit its funding to a particular sector, Elberson says the work he chooses to fund must be visionary. “It takes time to evaluate these opportunities because we’re molding these initiatives with our grantees over time. We are very methodical and put a lot of creative thinking into tasks – evaluate, react, respond and adapt – all these things where time is an important factor.” Next on the horizon for Elberson and Reemprise is a focus on working with arts and culture groups in the Charlotte area. “Art exists to move us, to transform, change and engage us – all things that are exceedingly hard to measure. We’re trying to adapt the model to address that and see what happens.” This new venture notwithstanding, Elberson remains committed to continued engagement with the Cato COED. ■

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Research, Grants & Selected Publications Fostering Relationships and Resiliency in the Classroom Second-year doctoral students Amy Grybush and Aziz Elmadani recently completed year two of a three-year project to provide child-teacher relationship training (CTRT) to teachers at Koontz Elementary School in Salisbury. Under the guidance Amy Grybush of Phyllis Post, professor in the Department of Counseling, they led the strengths-based training exercises that support teachers’ ability to use positive relationshipbuilding communications with their students. The ultimate goal was to change the teacher-student dynamic by reducing teacher stress Aziz Elmadani and increasing teachers’ awareness of issues of diversity, social justice, equity, and the impact of trauma on young children. “Amy and Aziz have long been concerned about the impact of trauma on individuals and on factors related to resiliency,” noted Post. “Through this work, they demonstrated their strong commitment to issues of social justice and advocacy among vulnerable, marginalized children and adults.” The challenges are many at Koontz Elementary, one reason the school was selected for this research project. Koontz has an “F” rating on the N.C. Report Card and a student population that is 70 percent minority and 93 percent on free and reduced lunch. Many of the children have also experienced significant traumas. Schools that are characterized by poverty and low student achievement can be stressful for the teachers, many of whom report a lack of training on effective ways to support the emotional needs of their students. “The problems the children experience can lead to negative student-teacher relationships, which puts the children at risk of being labeled as problems,” 12 Extracurricular The Magazine for the Cato College of Education

explained Post. “Such labels can follow children through elementary, middle, and high school, and negatively impact their academic trajectory. There is a need to provide a strengths-based program that can support teachers who choose to work in these challenging schools.” Over the past academic year, Grybush and Elmadani worked at Koontz two days a week implementing the CTRT program. Phase 1 started at the beginning of the school year and ran for ten weeks. Teachers received instruction on the tenets of child-centered play therapy designed specifically for the child-teacher relationship. They conducted 30-minute sessions with one student at a time to learn and practice specific ways of relating that can improve their relationships, enhance the child’s self-esteem, help them demonstrate self-control, and assume responsibility for themselves. They then practice these skills with one child in the playroom over four to six individual sessions. After receiving feedback, researchers move the instructors to Phase 2, which consists of coaching and modeling appropriate ways to help the teacher incorporate the skills learned in Phase 1 into the classroom. This may include demonstrating when to use esteem-building techniques or setting limits. As the educators become more comfortable implementing these techniques, the researchers move into a coaching role. While the data collection is not complete, Grybush noted that the teachers expressed feeling better about their relationships with the children. They also reported less disruptive behavior in many of the children and that referrals to the office were down. “It is so exciting to demonstrate that this program can be so effective,” she said. The parameters for year three are undefined since the Rowan-Salisbury school district is exploring the possibility of consolidating or closing the elementary school.

Selected Grants Paola Pilonieta, Colleen Whittingham, and Ellen McIntyre, with colleagues from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) were awarded $157, 127.00 from the UNC Educator Quality Research Initiative grant. The project is called, A Research Study on Literacy Instruction in Educator Preparation and Practice. The project will examine literacy instruction and educator preparation across the state of North Carolina.

Virginia L. Walker and colleagues at the University of Kansas received $1,395,000 from the Special Education Research Grants Competition of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The project will focus on developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a systematic process for identifying and arranging supports to promote meaningful access to the general education curriculum in inclusive classrooms for students with intellectual disability.

Valerie Mazzotti and researchers at the University of Kansas were awarded $1,400,000 starting in the fall of 2018 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The purpose of this project is to empirically develop and test an interactive web application that will increase adolescents with highincidence disabilities’ knowledge and skills to effectively set and attain academic, behavior and transition-related goals, leading to increased self-determination and goal attainment.

Erin Miller and Sam Tanner, a researcher from Penn State Altoona, received the $37,707 “Anti-racist Improvisational Pedagogy in Elementary School Settings: Challenges and Possibilities” grant. Awarded by the Spencer Small Grant Foundation, the funding is to study the implementation of multiple anti-racist improvisational theater workshops across the country with elementary aged children and elementary teachers.

Rob Pennington and the Attainment company were awarded a $200,000 SBA innovation grant by the Institute of Education Sciences to develop a software package to teach learners with severe disabilities skills in the area of written expression. Rob Pennington and researchers from the University of Louisville were awarded $1,198,471 through a joint National Science Foundation and a National Institutes for Health program for a project that will focus on the use of robotics to assess and develop social skills in children with autism. Shawnee Wakeman, Rob Pennington and Alicia Saunders received a $1,085,570 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs for a project entitled Inclusion Made Practical for Children and Teachers (IMPACT). The focus of the project is to improve outcomes for students with severe disabilities in the area of inclusion and literacy. Sejal Foxx and Chance Lewis are part of a team that just received a five-year, $999,591 grant entitled “Developing Engineering Academic Pathways for Low-Income Students” from the National Science Foundation. The grant is a collaboration between Foxx, Lewis and faculty from the College of Engineering.

Lisa Merriweather, Yvette Huet and Sanjiv Sarin were awarded a National Science Foundation grant entitled “Collaborative Research: AGEP North Carolina Alliance: An Institutional Transformation Model to Increase Minority STEM Doctoral Student and Faculty Success.” UNC Charlotte, North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T are working together to develop, implement and study the AGEP North Carolina Alliance model for creating institutional, department-level and faculty change to promote historically underrepresented minority U.S. citizens who are completing their STEM doctoral degrees and progressing into faculty positions. Jae Hoon Lim and a team of researchers have earned a $750,000 grant to help attract and support military veterans in earning graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. Awarded by the Office of Naval Research and Development, the three-year “Engaging Military Veterans to Increase Engineering Enrollment and B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees Awarded” grant’s overall goal is to educate military veterans who can go on to work in STEM areas in support of naval research. Scott Kissau received a $900,846 “Building Leadership for Change through School Immersion” grant from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to the United States. The grant brought a cohort of 24 Saudi English as a foreign language teachers to campus for a year. During this time, the teachers were immersed in K-12 classrooms and received mentoring from UNC Charlotte faculty members and K-12 second-language teachers. ■ The Magazine for the Cato College of Education Extracurricular 13

Universal Pre-K D

by Melba Newsome

Has Arrived 14 Extracurricular The Magazine for the Cato College of Education

ean Ellen McIntyre likes to point to the decades of research showing that a good educational start with pre-kindergarten makes a tremendous difference in school readiness in the short, medium and long term as children grow up, become employed and contribute to the strength of the economy. “Creating economic and

“We need strong teachers coming out of the University with birth-to-pre-K certification because it’s critical for teachers to have that background.” —TAMEIKA LESLIE, Mecklenburg County Early Childhood Education Initiatives social opportunity in Charlotte begins with having more children in our community ready for kindergarten,” said McIntyre. That research, along with a 2014 study from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley ranking Charlotte 50th out of 50 cities for social mobility, prompted Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller to propose early childhood education for every child under 4 years old in the county. “The evidence is that if you’re behind in third grade, you’re likely to stay behind for the remainder of your school years,” said Fuller. In December 2016, the board of commissioners made its support for such a program official by allocating $500,000 to determine how best to go about expanding access to prekindergarten education. The result is MECK Pre-K, a free, county-funded program for every child who qualifies. The road to countywide, universal pre-K began more than two decades ago in 1998 when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools rolled out Bright Beginnings. Funded by the county, Bright Beginnings supplemented federal Head Start by creating space for about 2,000 more 4-year-olds in classrooms throughout the county. While many private child care centers asked to be included in the funding, the district wanted to make sure

the teachers were certified. In 2001, the state introduced what later became NC Pre-K. By 2015, these three programs still covered fewer than 5,000 students, leaving thousands more on waiting lists. The county’s commitment to boost educational supply to meet the demand was laudable, but it soon became clear that an adequate workforce ready to step into the classroom was lacking. “The landscape analysis performed by the county talked about barriers to recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers,” said Tameika Leslie of Mecklenburg County Early Childhood Education Initiatives. “We need strong teachers coming out of the University with birthto-pre-K certification because it’s critical for teachers to have that background.” “We are funded to provide mentoring and professional development to teachers who have a birth-to-kindergarten license in North Carolina but do not work in public school settings,” said Rich Lambert, professor of educational leadership. “Typically, there are over a thousand teachers who fall into this category across the state. We want all licensed teachers to obtain their licensing status.” The Cato College of Education answered the call to ensure a quality workforce by preparing the teachers needed to make MECK Pre-K

The PNC Scholarship Over the next two years, at least 50 students seeking a birth-to-kindergarten license will receive the following:


$4,400 in tuition support for the early childhood residency program.


$500 in funding for books and course materials.


Funding for family care to those who need it while they work towards licensure.

In exchange, the new, licensed pre-K teachers must commit to teaching in a MECK Pre-K classroom for at least three years. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree who qualifies for admission and wants to teach in the MECK PreK program is eligible to apply.

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What the MECK Pre-K Classroom Looks Like Each MECK Pre-K class will have no more than 18 children, with an assistant and a teacher who has at least a bachelor’s degree. The lead teachers must either have a birth-to-kindergarten license or take classes toward earning one. Each school day will be filled with hands-on, projectbased lessons and activities to foster confidence, creativity and critical thinking skills, and to promote positive growth and development for all children.

a reality. “We must prepare greater numbers of highly qualified early childhood teachers, and that is what UNC Charlotte does best,” said McIntyre. “Our outstanding faculty members are ready to support these new teachers in a redesigned program intended to help students finish in a fast, efficient, user-friendly and high-quality way.” UNC Charlotte has modified its licensure program to provide more flexibility for working students. Designed by clinical professor Pamela McIntyre for early childhood teacher candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a nonteaching area, the streamlined model allows students to earn their childhood teaching license in one year, even if they are employed fulltime. Courses will be offered at partnership locations off campus and through online modules, with total costs reduced by 50 percent. The program itself focuses on relevant instruction for the 21st century classroom, including content to support children with special needs, dual-language learners and children experiencing poverty. It also addresses social emotional development and educator professionalism. The

University will also serve as an advocate for these teachers by focusing on lifestyle needs and how best to set them up for success and economic mobility. The last piece of the puzzle was funding to assist those who may struggle to meet the financial aspect of becoming licensed. In what Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio calls a pivotal moment, the PNC Foundation met that need with a $269,000 grant in scholarship money for a twoyear pilot program to help defray the cost. “Since PNC first arrived in Charlotte, we have sought out the most thoughtful and effective collaborators to help our youngest succeed,” said Regional President Weston Andress. “In UNC Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and its MECK Pre-K program, we have found organizations that share our passion for that mission, as well as a passion for excellence. We are gratified to see these influential and civic-minded leaders take an even larger role in ensuring young children get a good start in life. It takes all of us to help underserved families forward, so their children will have the same opportunities.” ■

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Areas of child development include the following:

n Social and Emotional Skills: Children will exhibit eagerness and curiosity as a learner, participate as a member of the class community, use words and adults to manage conflicts, and follow class rules and routines.

n Creative Arts: Children will become aware of art and use materials for exploration and expression, become aware of music and participate in music experiences.

n Scientific Thinking: Children will question and investigate through active exploration and seek answers or solutions through active problem-solving.

n Social Studies: Children will begin to understand the role of self and others as members of families and community, show an awareness of other cultures and show an interest in caring for the environment.

n Technology: Children will explore the computer and its components and use age-appropriate software to support learning.

The Lake and Edward J. Snyder

Distinguished Professor in Special Education


ssociate Professor Rob Pennington joined the Cato College of Education in the fall of 2018 as the Lake and Edward J. Snyder Distinguished Professor in Special Education, an endowed chair that has helped the College be more competitive in recruiting and retaining nationally recognized special education faculty and scholars. They are charged to work collaboratively and provide leadership, experience and expertise in major programmatic and institutional initiatives. One year into his tenure, Pennington has met and exceeded those expectations. “Rob has done an outstanding job in his new role as Snyder Distinguished Professor, and his first year at UNC Charlotte has been highly productive,” noted Department of Special Education and Child Development Chair Charles Wood. “He immediately connected with local schools to provide professional development and develop partnerships for research projects. He has mentored our doctoral students during their research, coauthored peer-reviewed papers with students, supported faculty with grant implementation, and secured external funding for his scholarly work. Our department, College and University are fortunate to have him.” Pennington credits his father’s influence for pushing him toward a career as an educator but not in the way one might think. “My

Associate Professor Rob Pennington. The Magazine for the Cato College of Education Extracurricular 17

dad was an elementary school teacher but left teaching when I was in high school. He told me not to teach. I rebelled and said, ‘I’ll show you!’” In fact, the seed for teaching in general and special education in particular had been planted long before. In fourth or fifth grade, Pennington’s teacher allowed him to spend time in the classroom next door with kids who had severe disabilities, an experience he really enjoyed. He was inspired by his ability to connect, engage and assist them. The Louisville native’s passion for social justice has driven his interest in education, particularly his work to make sure people with severe disabilities are not left out of the conversation about diversity and equity. It was also a big driver behind his desire to work in underserved communities. In his first job teaching poor

children with severe disabilities in the city’s west end, he found himself faced with the kind of challenges that disillusion so many new educators. “I came to my first job thinking the parents would come to my meetings and didn’t understand why they did not show up,” recalled Pennington. “It wasn’t that they didn’t care. They were trying to survive at home, and it wasn’t an immediate priority.” That realization changed the way he approached his job going forward. He visited families at home and worked to build relationships beyond the classroom that lasted for years. He also learned to ask his students and their families what they needed instead of simply prescribing what he thought was best. While pursuing his master’s in special education with an autism

In fourth or fifth grade, Pennington’s teacher allowed him to spend time in the classroom next door with kids who had severe disabilities, an experience he really enjoyed. He was inspired by his ability to connect, engage and assist them. 18 Extracurricular The Magazine for the Cato College of Education

concentration at the University of Louisville, Pennington also worked as an autism research specialist. His work with children with severe disabilities led to a doctoral fellowship at the University of Kentucky. In 2010, he joined the University of Louisville faculty and served as assistant director of the Kentucky Autism Training Center. “I really loved the service aspect of the position but also enjoyed the research part of it, as well.” Pennington’s academic career has been marked by accolades. He is a four-time recipient of the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning Faculty Favorite award. In the year before joining the Cato College of Education faculty, he received the President’s Distinguished Faculty Award, Excellence in Education Award, KYABA Innovator in Behavior Analysis Award and the Technology in Action Article of the Year. “People are very nice,” he said jokingly. His research in the area of severe disabilities and autism has been featured in such notable scholarly publications as the Journal of Special Education Technology and Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Despite his success, he felt something was still lacking at the University of Louisville. There were few doctoral students, and Pennington was running the research almost single-handedly. When the Snyder Distinguished Professor position became available at UNC Charlotte, he saw a chance to join a highly respected special education department that could also benefit from his particular expertise. “I was really happy at the University of Louisville, but I thought it was time to challenge myself. At UNC Charlotte, there is a strong legacy of great research, and the special education program really does some innovative things. I saw the opportunity to take some of the established systems, strong

“At UNC Charlotte, there is a strong legacy of great research, and the special education program really does some innovative things.” doctoral programs and continue to exponentially move those areas forward.” As soon as he arrived, Pennington hit the ground running, teaching an online graduate-level autism intervention course as part of the graduate certificate in autism and getting involved in the community. This includes being the lead singer in a punk rock band, a passion that goes back decades. “The majority of time I spoke to Dr. Pennington, he’d either just come back from visiting schools or autism centers, or he’d be scheduled to collaborate with or provide consultation to teachers in the field,” said Ya-Yu Lo, professor of special education. “He brings energy to the department, engages others in intellectual exchanges, works well with everyone and is humorous in a pleasant way.” Pennington, Wood and Lo

are working together to add a Board Certification of Behavior Analysts (BCBA) similar to the one he created at the University of Louisville to the fall curriculum. This graduate-level course is for the professionals who provide behavior-analytic services to children with severe behavior problems. “There is great demand for this program at the state and local levels, but only one university in North Carolina offers a BCBA program,” explained Wood. “Ours will be the only online distance program in the state. Graduates will have the knowledge and skill to assess severe behavioral challenges and develop positive interventions for students with special needs.” “I have received many inquiries about the BCBA program from current and prospective students at UNC Charlotte with a desire to become a BCBA. Due to the effectiveness of behavior-analytic

practices for students with special needs, particularly those with social/behavioral challenges, service providers are looking for individuals who are BCBA to work with students with special needs,” added Lo. For Pennington, being able to get a new program up and running is another part of his good fortune. “It’s really exciting when you get an opportunity to design the courses, and I am looking forward to working with and mentoring this new population of students. This will be great for the University, and it’s a perfect addition to our excellent graduate special education program.” It’s also further confirmation that his decision to come to UNC Charlotte was the right one. He considers himself very lucky to join and contribute to what he considers one of the best special education departments in the country. ■

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Student presentation

The Value of a Master’s Degree W

hen Brittany Saunders first heard about the Cato COED’s free master’s in education program, the Rowan-Salisbury literacy coach thought there had to be a catch. Getting an advanced degree that could easily cost in excess of $10,000 for free just sounded too good to be true. Fortunately, Saunders decided to investigate rather than dismiss the prospect out-of-hand and quickly discovered that everything she’d heard was accurate. Students who already have a license in a math, science, social studies or English can pursue a master’s in middle

and secondary education tuitionfree. Saunders applied and was accepted into the fall 2016 cohort. “I’d always wanted to do this,” she recalled. “I knew a master’s would help make me a stronger educator, but because North Carolina no longer rewards teachers for getting their master’s, it just didn’t seem like a good financial decision for me. In the end, this program gave me all the benefits without any of the downsides.” Armed with a $185,000 grant from the Goodnight Foundation, Jeanneine Jones, professor of middle grades education, and Tina Heafner, professor of

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middle, secondary and K-12, launched the free master’s program in Union County in 2015. The two had become convinced that much of the master’s content fell short when it came to adequately preparing teachers for the 21st century classroom and, in many cases, was simply no longer relevant. “Adolescents are different today, and the way teachers teach is different,” Jones said. “Things shift so rapidly for students, schools have to remain flexible to respond to their changing needs.” Jones says student culture – such as what they value, how

they learn, the use of technology, options in charter and private schools, and proportions in immigrant students – changes about every three to four years. In the Goodnight Foundation funded pilot program, the Union County school district picked 12 teachers for the cohort with the graduate school having the final say on applicant selection. It was supposed to be a one-time program, but the results were so impressive the graduate school suggested duplicating it other high-needs counties. They would fund up to 30 students in each cohort, while students would be responsible for their books and other incidentals. Jones and Heafner eagerly took up the challenge. Using the Union County model as a guide, they held simultaneous sessions in Stanly and Rowan counties before expanding to Iredell County. Each cohort begins by recruiting teachers first in the district where the class will be located. If space is available, registration is opened to teachers throughout the region. “We advertise that as long as you have admissible grad school criteria, we take the first 30 who apply, followed by a wait list,” explained Jones. The program includes 33 hours, 11 courses, and a year and a half of study, including a full summer. Classes meet weekly in a combination of online and faceto-face formats. Amy Hicks was in her 30th year of teaching at Cabarrus High when she started the master’s program in the fall of 2016. “I always wanted to do it, but because of things that happened in my life such as lack of money or raising a family, it never seemed like the right time. That January, I’d just come through my third round of breast cancer, which makes you want to jump in the game and do what’s important

Graduation Day

or you’ve been putting off.” Jones and Heafner sought ways to make the middle and secondary programs more contemporary and better tailored for individual school districts and worked to determine what could be done to strengthen the focus on district leadership and research. Some of the issues they discovered that needed to be addressed included homework policies, failure to address the plight of students in poverty and inadequate mentoring for new teachers. By having a deeper knowledge and understanding of their students, teachers should be better equipped to identify what was and was not working in the classroom. They could then modify their classrooms to accommodate impoverished children who may be hungry, homeless or have transportation issues for after-school programs. While there is no additional pay for a master’s degree, many school educators and districts understand and appreciate the value of a master’s degree and the things that come with one, like communication skills,

leadership, research skills, and how to nurture community and school partnerships. Participating teachers were catapulted into an area of personal growth, which led to professional growth and impacted the classroom. “It really gave me an opportunity to do some serious reflection about teaching and put me into a research-oriented mindset where I was looking for research-driven successful strategies to use within my classroom and to grow as an educator. I feel like I’m better at doing what I’m doing than I’ve been in a long time,” said Hicks. Saunders reported a similar experience: “I felt challenged to grow as an educator. Dr. Jones and Dr. Heafner brought in curriculum, content and books that were applicable to what we’re doing every day. My research came directly back to what I was doing as an instructional coach.” Jones and Heafner want all students to take away from the program a simple message: All of the positive change that can happen in education starts with the educator in the room. ■

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A Different Kind of Public Service Susan Harden

Susan Harden (center) on Red for Ed NC Day.


s program director for the civic minor in urban youth and communities, Susan Harden, assistant professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary and K-12 Education (MDSK), has urged her students to be change leaders in their communities. Since 2008, she has taught more than 800 freshmen about social challenges in areas like education, health and the justice system, and helped them develop innovative community service projects for Crossroads Charlotte as part of a citywide effort to increase access, equity, inclusion and social trust. Encouraged by their example, Harden decided it was

her time to walk the walk and run for office in 2018. “It was an authenticity moment for me,” she said. “If I really believed this stuff, I should have the courage to do it myself.” Harden had a very specific issue in mind when she entered the race for Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. “I was very concerned about the teacher shortage. In my eight years at UNC Charlotte, I’ve seen a dramatic decline in the number of undergraduate students who want to be teachers because they have school loans, pay more for tuition and see teachers working two and three jobs. As a county commissioner I could help do

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something about that with our teacher supplement.” The 2017 recipient of Leadership Charlotte’s Unsung Hero award for her commitment to civic engagement and social justice, Harden grew up in a family where community service and public engagement were like permanent second jobs. “My mom was a teacher, and Dad was a salesman, but they also would serve on the board at church or run the PTA or do Habitat for Humanity. They are 80 years old, and every day they run the soup kitchen at their church.” Still, seeking elected office wasn’t a natural turn for her, and the discouragement she received from her parents didn’t help. “They have very low opinions of politicians, so I had to tell them, I want to be a different type of politician.” Harden committed to running an aspirational race focused on issues, not personalities. Her campaign knocked on 6,000 doors and met people anywhere she could. It paid off, and Harden won by an 1,104-vote margin. “I was as surprised as anybody,” she said with a laugh. “But I think it’s critical for educators to be in political positions.” She sees a parallel between running a good campaign and being a good teacher. Both require believing you can do it,

preparation and organization, and a lot of hard work. “Educators are used to doing hard things that really matter. Running for office is the same. I would encourage teachers to do it because teachers have to be at the table. It’s like Shirley Chilsom said: “If they don’t make a seat for you, bring

your own chair.” So far, she absolutely loves the job. “It’s the same feeling I get when I’m in the classroom helping a student realize their potential. If I’m able to help them or make government work better, I feel like I hit a homerun.” She’s already seeing her

key campaign issue come to fruition. Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has proposed a teacher supplement that will make Meckenburg County the top paying district in the state. “I can’t wait to vote for something I campaigned on!”

Jim Watson

Jim Watson (center) with campaign supporters.


rom the moment Jim Watson, clinical professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, moved to Lincolnton to become the assistant superintendent of schools more than 20 years ago, the community drafted him into service. He later became superintendent, chaired the Lincoln County Economic Development Association, and served on the Gaston College Board of Trustees and as a member of the Kiwanis Club. “I’ve always tried to give back to the community that’s been very good to me. Seems like I always end up in a leadership position,” he explained. When he retired from the school district in 2007, he was immediately asked to run for office, a plea he repeatedly declined until 2018. “I guess I had a weak

moment,” he joked. “I have always worked in some area of public service and had to be political in my job because I worked with the constituents. City council appealed to me because we’re directly concerned with providing services to our citizens. Lincolnton is a great town and has a lot of good things going, and I wanted to be a part of that.” Watson ultimately decided to run for city council in his town of Lincolnton, not because he wanted to make any specific change. Both the Lincoln County and the town of 11,000 are experiencing tremendous growth, and he liked the direction things were going and wanted to make sure the town continued down that path. He filed to run on the very first day. Because he didn’t have an opponent in the primary, things

remained low key until September when the general election started in earnest. That’s when he found himself pitted against his nextdoor neighbor. “We had a very, clean positive campaign,” Watson said. “There were no derogatory remarks or ads against the candidate. When I had a forum, I said, ‘The person I’m running against is my friend.’” Because the legislature moved the election from odd years to even years for a cost-savings measure, the municipal elections were held in conjunction with the state and national elections, making it difficult to get attention. “Oftentimes, we’d go the forums, and we were almost an afterthought.” Watson’s campaign focused on making Lincolnton a livable city by expanding recreation and creating opportunities to enjoy the town. “I am a proactive business person, and I ran on trying to continue the city’s momentum, being user friendly to entrepreneurs, and eliminating bureaucracy and regulations. It was almost a chamber of commerce type of campaign.” It proved to be a winning strategy, and Watson eked out a win by 35 votes. “I’m glad I was elected and look forward to serving the folks of Lincolnton. I wish more people would consider running for public office.” Just as Watson settles in to being a city councilman, he has to contemplate another campaign. His two-year term will be up in 2020. ■

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New Faculty

Hello & Goodbye

Tisha Greene, assistant dean for school and community partnerships, received both a bachelor’s and master’s in English and English education from UNC Charlotte. She previously served as a high school English teacher, district office administrator, and spent nine years as an elementary school principal. In 2017, she was named the Outstanding Administrator in STEM by the North Carolina Science Mathematics and Technology Education Center. Greene is also a North Carolina Teaching Fellows alumna. Prior to entering higher education, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Walter Hart spent three decades as a teacher, principal, associate superintendent and superintendent in the greater Charlotte metro area and was an assistant professor at Winthrop University before becoming a member of the Cato College of Education faculty. Hart is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award and was among 100 superintendents chosen to discuss school technology innovations with President Obama and former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Stella Kim is an assistant professor of educational research, measurement and evaluation in the Deparment of Educational Leadership. Her research focuses on test equating, classification consistency and accuracy, generalizability theory and multidimensional item response theory. Before joining UNC Charlotte in 2018, Kim earned her doctorate in educational measurement from the University of Iowa where she worked as a graduate research assistant in the Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment (CASMA). Department of Special Education and Child Development Associate Professor Valerie L. Mazzotti’s research interests include self-determination, secondary transition evidence-based practices and predictors of post-school success, and interagency collaboration for students at risk for high-incidence disabilities. Mazzotti serves as associate editor for the Transition in Practice section of the peerreviewed journal Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. Beginning this fall, Mazzotti will become the coeditor of the publication. Assistant Professor Taryne Mingo came to the Department of Counseling from Missouri State University. She received her doctorate from the University of Georgia and has a background in elementary school counseling, racial identity development and advocating for social justice across P-16 settings. Her research supports inclusive classrooms and schools, specifically for elementary-aged students of color, and promotes an intersectional approach to address the academic, social and emotional needs of diverse children. After seven years as the lead instructional designer for the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government, Robert L. Moore joined the College as a postdoctoral fellow in educational research. Moore earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from North Carolina State, a master’s in project management from Western Carolina University, a master’s in instructional technology from East Carolina University, and a bachelor’s in political science from UNC Chapel Hill. His research focuses on the role learning analytics can play in understanding learner behavior and informing instructional practices in higher education. 24 Extracurricular The Magazine for the Cato College of Education

Xiaoxia Newton received her doctorate in social research methodology from UCLA. Prior to joining the Department of Educational Leadership, she taught at the University of Massachusetts and University of California at Berkeley and was a senior research analyst for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her scholarship is centrally concerned with using methodological tools to tackle educational problems pertinent in urban communities, with an emphasis on mathematics education and STEM participation. Before becoming the the Lake and Edward J. Snyder Jr. Distinguished Scholar in Special Education, Robert Pennington was most recently at the University of Kentucky. He contributes regularly to the research and practitioner literature on the application of behavior-analytic principles and procedures to the development of written communication repertoires and on the improvement of educational programming for students with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. With a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in community counseling, Research Assistant Professor Sandy Rogelberg spent years as a therapist and director of student disability services at Queens University. Her passion for research prompted her to pursue a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of South Carolina. Rogelberg’s dissertation was on the academic motivation profiles of 10th grade students. Department of Special Education and Child Development Assistant Professor Virginia L. Walker began her career as a special education teacher in Atlanta. While at the University of Virginia, she worked on several federally funded grants involving research on positive behavioral interventions and support and teacher preparation in low-incidence disabilities. Walker serves as an editorial review board member of two publications: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities.

In Memorium Theresa Perez, professor emerita in the Department of Middle, Secondary and K-12 Education passed away in January at her home in Fresno, California, after a battle with ALS. During her 14 years at UNC Charlotte, Perez was a tireless advocate for educational equity who made significant contributions to the College and the University, including establishing the teaching English as a second language program. Born in San Jose to a migrant farm worker mother and a naval seaman, Perez spent her earliest years in migrant farm-worker camps before her family settled in Fresno. The laborcamp experience instilled in her a passion for

social justice, inclusion and service. She was a 43-year-old mother of seven when she enrolled in Stanford University to obtain her doctorate in curriculum and teacher education. In 1980, she became a professor at Cal State University Fullerton. She remained there until she joined the UNC Charlotte faculty in 1998 where she continued her focus on issues of gender and equity for 14 years. Regarded as protective, formidable and someone who loved deeply, Perez was an uncompromising advocate for both people and ideals, as well as a mentor to countless students, teachers and professionals. She will be remembered most for her fierce determination to make the educational system more equal and for opening the door to education for future generations. ■

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Accolades, Achievements Alumni Awards & Honors ■ West Charlotte High School principal Timisha BarnesJones was named CharlotteMecklenburg Schools’ 2018 Principal of the Year. She became West Charlotte’s coprincipal in 2013 when the school had two campuses and took the helm the next year. Since then, Barnes-Jones has been credited for a rise in the graduation rate and the steady climb in student performance on state tests. In 2017, West Charlotte was removed from the recurring low-performance school list and designated a North Carolina school of high growth. BarnesJones received her master’s in education from the Cato College of Education. ■ The North Carolina Association for Colleges and Teacher Educators (NCACTE), the lead advocacy group for policy issues regarding teacher preparation in North Carolina, named Makayla Church the 2018 Student Teacher of the Year. Church graduated with a bachelor’s in dance, concentrating in K-12 dance education and student teaching in the dance department at Northwest School of the Arts.

■ Corey Cochran, principal of Mount Pleasant Elementary School since 2002, was selected as the 2018-2019 Cabarrus County Schools Principal of the Year. Cochran received his master’s in school administration from UNC Charlotte. As a regional Wells Fargo Principal of the Year, Cochran receives a $1,000 cash award for his or her school and a $1,000 cash award for personal use. ■ Jessica Fowler received a 2018-2019 Excellence in Teaching Award from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. The award recognizes superior faculty who go above and beyond the expected levels of delivering instruction and improving educational excellence as demonstrated by student outcomes. “I became a math teacher to show others how fun and exciting math can be,” said Fowler. “I strive to create a positive learning experience where students feel comfortable asking questions and collaborating with their peers.” ■ Kate Culbreth, fifth-grade English language arts teacher at Wolf Meadow Elementary School, was named Cabarrus County Schools (CCS) Teacher

of the Year. Culbreth began her teaching career with CCS in 2010 as a teacher and moved to a leadteacher role in 2014. Culbreth, who earned a master’s degree in reading from the Cato College of Education, decided she missed being with her students daily and moved back into the classroom full time. ■ Sherry Thomas has been named director of the North Carolina Division of Exceptional Children, which works to ensure that students with disabilities develop intellectually, physically, emotionally and vocationally. Thomas also won the 2018 Felix S. Barker Award from the Council for Exceptional Children for outstanding leadership in the field of special education. ■ Tiffany Hollis, assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University (CCU), was recently named that institution’s 2019 Professor of the Year. The annual award is given to one outstanding faculty member who excels in teaching and positively influences the lives and careers of CCU students. Hollis earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a focus on urban education from the Cato College of Education.

Regional & National Faculty Recognitions ■ Richard Lambert, professor of educational leadership, is the 2019 recipient of the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award for his commitment to students, research and scholarly inquiry. Lambert served as principal investigator for a four-year, $1.2 million preschool curriculum

evaluation research grant from the U.S. Department of Education, in which he evaluated the use of creative curriculum in Head Start centers in Georgia and North Carolina. He has provided training to child care programs throughout the state since 2007.

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■ Drew Polly, professor of reading and elementary education, was a 2018 finalist for the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence. First presented in 1968, the award recognizes outstanding faculty members and is one of the University’s most prestigious

& Awards honors. Polly said his teaching philosophy is guided by a learner-centered curriculum and pedagogy, a rigorous curriculum, and experiences directly informed by and connected to the work being conducted in public schools. ■ Heather Coffey is the 2018 recipient of the Bonnie E. Cone Early-Career Professorship of Teaching, a three-year appointment that recognizes a recently tenured professor who provides undergraduate and graduate students with enriching, high-quality educational experiences. Coffey also leads the College’s work on the

Prospect for Success curriculum, coordinates the Charlotte Community Scholars summer research program and directs the newly re-established Teaching Fellows Program. ■ David Test received the 2019 J.E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. Established in 1963 to recognize an individual who has made continued and sustained contributions to the education of children and youth with exceptionalities, the annual honor is given to a specialeducation professional who has

made significant national or international contributions to the field of special education. ■ Phyllis Post received the inaugural Don C. Locke Multicultural & Social Justice award from the North Carolina Counseling Association. Don C. Locke, who passed away in 2016, was a longtime professor of counselor education at North Carolina State University and director of diversity and multiculturalism at UNC Asheville. He dedicated his professional life to the advancement of counseling and social justice.

2018 and 2019 Cato College of Education Awards The Staff Employee of the Year Award is given for devotion to duty, innovation, human relations, community/public service or safety/heroism in fulfilling work requirements on behalf of the College of Education. ■ 2018 Recipient: Karen Haar ■ 2019 Recipients: Lonnie Bateman (EHRA) and Brandi Lewis (SHRA) The Diversity Award goes to the faculty member who displays a deep commitment to diversity, demonstrating creativity and innovation in a variety of domains and sustaining a positive impact on the University and community constituents. ■ 2018 Recipient: Gloria Campbell-Whatley ■ 2019 Recipient: Lisa Merriweather

The Excellence in Teaching award was established to encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support outstanding professors who exhibited sustained excellence in teaching. ■ 2018 Recipient: Mark D’Amico ■ 2019 Recipient: Spencer Salas The Award for Sustained Service to Public Schools is given to someone making a sustained positive impact on student achievement and who demonstrates a deep commitment on behalf of children and their educators, as well as innovation and creativity to support students. ■ 2018 Recipient: Heather Coffey ■ 2019 Recipient: Joan Lachance

The Faculty members who produce significant research in their field are honored with the Research Award. ■ 2018 Recipients: Chuang Wang, Ayesha Sadaf and Florence Martin ■ 2019 recipient: Anne Cash

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Generous Gift Boosts Teacher Prep


unding from the Belk Foundation allowed the Cato College of Education (COED) to fund the Teacher Education Institute (TEI), a summer workshop designed to eliminate silos between universitybased teacher educators and our school partners, with specific attention to instructional practice. Thanks to an extraordinarily generous contribution from UNC Charlotte alumni and benefactors Gene and Vickie Johnson, the institute’s goal of developing

and implementing a common understanding of quality teaching and techniques has taken a giant step forward. Last spring, the couple donated $540,000 to the College to provide substantial stipends to the clinical educators who mentor and coach student teachers in return for collaborative work with the UNC Charlotte faculty. This contribution will make a significant impact on teacher preparation. “We are big supporters of education at all

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levels and want to contribute to a broad range of things,” explained Gene. “There is a huge need for scholarships and improving teachers’ education. I was meeting with Dean McIntyre about the Exponential Campaign, and she suggested this as a great way to support education.” Too many student teachers complete their programs armed with new practices and strategies, only to discard them when they begin student teaching because they don’t mesh with the

classroom practice. This can be akin to learning a new language or practices from the beginning. The Cato COED is one of many university-based teacher education programs across the country working to bridge the disconnect between what is taught on campus and the instruction that happens in schools. The College hopes to leverage the University’s talent to better prepare teachers and promote strong partnerships with schools, evidence-based practices and extensive clinical practice. “Our belief is that if campus instructors and school partners learn together and from one another about quality teaching, we can better prepare the next generation of teachers,” explained Dean McIntyre. “Candidates get to practice the same strategies in schools with kids that they learn and practice on campus. Because this collaborative work will continue after the summer institute into the next academic year, we can now double down on the content, skills and practices we teach. “ Due to limited funding, pay for clinical educators who mentored student teachers maxed out at $200. The gift from the Johnsons will provide substantial stipends to clinical educators and, depending on their roles and training with campus partners, boost their pay to between $600 and $1,600. The hope is that the increased earnings and training will make it easier to keep good teachers and reduce the need for educators to take second jobs. Clinical educators will also be credentialed as teacher coaches and have the opportunity to partner with faculty members to teach courses in the schools where our student teachers will practice. Finally, the Johnsons’ contribution will provide resources to place site coordinators in our partner schools to coach and monitor

teacher candidates and assist with class scheduling and mentoring sessions. The connection between UNC Charlotte and the Johnsons dates back more than half a century to their days as students on the nascent campus. Vickie graduated in 1971 with a degree in psychology. Two years later, Gene earned an accounting degree. In 2014, Gene became the first alumni to receive an honorary degree from UNC Charlotte. “The University has been a great foundation for both of us. It had a huge impact on our lives

marching band programs. The new 6,700-square-foot Vickie and Gene Johnson Marching Band Center is home to the “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band and is critical to building the program at UNC Charlotte. The Johnsons’ gift also helped establish a scholarship fund for future band members. The couple has been extremely liberal with their time as well. Both have served in leadership roles with the athletic foundation, alumni association and the Exponential Campaign. Gene has served on the Board of Trustees.

and has been important to our success,” said Gene, who retired after achieving great success in the communications field. These days, he and Vickie spend much of their time traveling and engaging in other philanthropic ventures. This is not the first time the couple has made a significant financial contribution to address a need they saw at the University. As regular attendees at home games, they thought the canned music simply didn’t measure up to the big brass band sounds that dominated other university football stadiums. In 2014, the couple made a $2 million donation that funds

“We find that work rewarding and fulfilling,” he said. “It’s been such an honor to be involved out here and to see the progress that the University has made through the years and how it’s grown,” added Vickie. “The future well-being of our region is largely dependent on education, and anything we can do to enhance the work of UNC Charlotte is an investment in our future. Ultimately, success lies in the robust health of our educational systems,” said Gene. “Vickie and I love UNC Charlotte, and it’s a privilege to be able to invest in its young people.” ■

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Making Equity and Diversity a Priority


hen Dean McIntyre took the helm of the Cato College of Education in 2013, she set out her plan to ensure that the college was a leader in equity through excellence and engagement. Because prioritizing diversity was key, she established a standing Diversity Committee and set aside annual funds for the professional development of faculty and staff. “Attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to productivity and harmony in any organization,” she said. “It is also the morally right thing to focus on in an era of confusion about all sorts of topics related to diversity.” The College has sponsored a number of events to keep issues of equity front and center. Each year, the faculty bring to campus inspiring speakers who support their work with students. To date, topics have focused on racism, poverty, LGBTQIA, immigration and language. For example, Kathy Obear, social justice activist and founder of the Center for Transformational Change, presented ideas for infusing diversity throughout the curriculum. The College screened Talking Black in America, a film about language as legacy, identity and triumph over adversity, and hosted a discussion with producer and internationally known linguist Walt Wolfram. The faculty also hosts an annual book talk for those interested. The 2019 featured selection was The Hate U Give, a novel about race and the justice system. The biggest commitment to date was the recent creation of a director of diversity position for the college and hiring Tehia Starker-Glass, associate professor of educational psychology and elementary education, for that role. “This is my interest, passion and the work I’ve been doing my whole career,” said Starker-Glass. “I am an educational psychologist by training, but I am always focused on diversity or equity in terms of what teachers know, their sense of efficacy in their culturally responsive teaching, and how comfortable they are discussing race with children in the classroom.” While Starker-Glass will continue in her faculty role with a two-class course reduction, the diversity chair role will be 30 percent of her position. “Our

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Tehia Starker-Glass

faculty is so qualified and awesome, but I think we can get better,” she said. “Not all faculty are comfortable with conversations about equity and diversity because they may lack that experience.” She plans to engage with a core group of faculty to explore issues of racial identity, anti-racism and what that looks like in the pedagogy. “One of my favorite quotes is ‘we can’t fix what we can’t name.’ We must have these conversations in order to move forward. We need to better understand our history and have more historical accuracy in what we’re learning.” One of the key ways Dean McIntyre plans to measure progress is by ensuring that the review committees understand how bias manifests and its impact on their decisions. “If we are preparing teachers, school leaders, counselors, and researchers to work with diverse populations and have a positive impact on our community, we must first begin with our own biases, assumptions and emerging understandings,” said McIntyre. “Learning about diversity, equity and inclusion takes a lifetime, and the work has to be continuous.” Starker-Glass said her overarching drive is to ensure that every child gets the good and successful school experience he or she deserves. “What I can’t influence in their homes I can try to influence in our schools, to move the needle forward by helping teachers, administrators and school counselors understand what diversity and equity really mean.” ■

Get Ready for Niner University Elementary


iner University Elementary (NUE), a new public school that will be developed, supported and operated by education experts at UNC Charlotte, is just around the corner! When it opens in the fall of 2020, this innovative learning institution will redefine and strengthen UNC Charlotte’s partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), improve student outcomes, and provide high quality teacher and principal training. NUE is the result of a law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016. The UNC Lab School initiative directed the UNC Board of Governors to establish nine such schools aimed at improving student achievement in districts where at least 25 percent of schools have been classified as low performing. Like all schools in the district, transportation, breakfast and lunch will be provided by CMS. But in order to attend this free public school, students Pamela Broome must either be enrolled in a low-performing school or have failed to meet state proficiencies on end-of-grade tests. “We fully anticipate a very diverse population with a full spectrum of services, including additional support and learning opportunities that public schools are challenged with,” said principal Pamela Broome. Having spent nearly three decades in P-12 education as a teacher, building administrator and district-level support person, Broome is confident that NUE will deliver on the high expectations to prepare students for college and life; ensure students learn to read and communicate effectively; address the academic, social and emotional needs of all students; and harness the benefits of partnerships to strengthen learning, teaching and school leadership. During its first academic year, NUE will have 150 K-2 students and grow to include 300 K-5 students by its fourth year in operation. The vision for NUE includes educating students in innovative ways while also building capacity for great teaching and research-backed development in educational practice and training. In addition, it will help train and support the growth of teachers, counselors and school leaders and build a community that

is culturally responsive and promotes the idea of restorative justice. “The curriculum will promote evidence-based teaching and school leadership while offering realworld experience to the next generation of teachers and principals,” Broome explained. “It is designed around creative engagement, including question- and project-based instruction, and allowing students to work together to explore complex, real-world tasks.” Literacy will be incorporated across all subject areas, and early curriculum will include a focus on helping students read proficiently by third grade, a crucial benchmark for future academic success. Arts will also be integrated into the curriculum. Broome hopes to develop partnerships that engage nursing and social work students with NUE, as well. UNC Charlotte’s lab school hopes to create lifelong learners and responsible, caring citizens by focusing on the whole child through engagement beyond the classroom. A faculty committee led by Kristie Opiola, assistant professor of counseling, devised a curriculum that focuses on creating a supportive community and skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making. “We plan to help NUE staff know what they should expect in student behaviors, how to support families, and interventions that help create a nurturing environment for students so that they can learn to their greatest potential,” said Opiola. “Niner University Elementary aligns squarely with UNC Charlotte’s strategic mission and the goals of our civic action plan,” UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said. “By supporting PK-12 school systems and providing high-quality training for future teachers, the University strives to contribute to the long-term vitality of the region.” ■ The Magazine for the Cato College of Education Extracurricular 31

University of North Carolina at Charlotte College of Education 9201 University City Blvd. Charlotte, NC 28223-0001