Carolina Education — Fall 2020

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Gracie Grant (’20 M.A.T.) — this year’s UNC School of Education Student Teacher of the Year — was a finalist for the North Carolina Association for Colleges of Teacher Educators’ statewide Student Teacher of the Year award. She now teaches high school English in Durham Public Schools.



FALL 2020

Friends and Fellow Tar Heels, Since you heard from us via Carolina Education back in the spring, much has happened — at Carolina and in our world. Late spring and early summer saw the violent and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery — the latest in a long history of racism, injustice, atrocities, discrimination, and disparities suffered by Black people and people of color in our country. There hardly is a facet of life, including education, where these systemic inequities and disparities are not manifested in the daily struggles of people of color. As a School, we are committed to bringing our collective expertise in research and teaching, as well as our programming, to prepare educators and researchers who work proactively to address systemic inequities and white supremacy in education and in our society. We have no doubt that you all share these commitments and work hard every day to make them a reality. To ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion infuse all of our work at the School, we created a new leadership position — the Dean’s Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In the pages within, you will briefly meet our inaugural Dean’s Fellow, Dana Griffin. This semester, fall 2020, again looks unlike any semester we have ever seen. After beginning the semester with very limited in-person courses, we are delivering our courses via remote instruction. Our Master of Arts in Teaching students began their student teaching internships remotely. On their first day of class — a momentous day for every student, teacher, or student teacher — they greeted their new students via online video instead of at the classroom door. Our faculty members continue to teach and conduct research in service to North Carolina. Read on to meet two of our newer colleagues, Elaine Townsend Utin and Ricky Hurtado. Together, they co-direct LatinxEd, an organization dedicated to helping Latinx students find their ways to higher education and to fostering the next generation of leaders in our state. Though we continue to face new challenges in our world, I remain confident that the UNC School of Education will graduate highly effective, resilient, and adaptive educators in spite of and because of those challenges. Our students will have knowledge, tools, and new perspectives on leadership as they work to ensure that every student reaches their full potential. All my best,

Fouad Abd-El-Khalick Dean and Professor


School welcomes its largest cohort of Teaching Fellows This fall, the UNC School of Education welcomed 17 North Carolina Teaching Fellows — pre-service STEM and special education teachers who, once graduated, will become some of North Carolina’s most effective educators. This cohort represents the School’s largest group of Teaching Fellows since the program relaunched in 2017. The cohort also includes current teachers completing licensure in Pathway to Practice NC, an online program between NC State and Carolina designed to help teachers on a residency/temporary license in North Carolina earn teaching certification. Applications for the next cohort of North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program are open until Jan. 11, 2021. Learn more at

New undergraduate degree program to offer multidisciplinary approach to leadership The UNC School of Education has received approval from the UNC Board of Governors to launch a new bachelor of arts degree program for undergraduate students in Human Organizational Leadership and Development (HOLD). “HOLD will be a most welcome and substantial addition to our undergraduate programs and provide an academic pathway for students interested in pursuing leadership positions in learning-focused organizations,” said Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick. “HOLD will be among only a handful of similar cuttingedge programs around the nation.” HOLD is designed to offer a program of study that combines and builds upon courses in education, social science, policy, analytics, and leadership

education, said faculty member Thurston “Thad” Domina, who led the effort to develop the program. “HOLD will offer a unique opportunity for students, as it is unlike any other program in the UNC System,” Domina said. “It will also have a strong experiential learning component, providing students with structured internship and community work opportunities that will prepare them for leadership within a range of organizations.” The School plans to welcome the first HOLD cohort in fall 2021.

$3.3 million grant to study interventions for high schoolers with autism A team of researchers from the UNC School of Education and the University of Kansas won a $3.3 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to study a learning intervention for North Carolina and Kansas high school students with autism. Faculty member Kara Hume, pictured below, is part of that team and will measure the effectiveness of the intervention, which combines two previously studied approaches — the “Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction” and peer supports. Hume is a leading researcher focused on increasing access for individuals with developmental disabilities to highquality community-based interventions.

New possibilities for a career in education When Sarah Lasseter (’11 UNC-BEST, ’20 MEITE) was applying for high school science teaching jobs in 2013, one interview also came with a request for her to create a video for the biology class she would be teaching. Flipped classrooms — which use instructional materials such as videos outside of class so time inside the classroom can focus on incorporating the ideas learned in those materials — were at the core of instruction at the charter school where Lasseter had applied and has been teaching ever since. But in 2013, she had never created a video. “I was terrified,” said Lasseter, a 2020 graduate of the School’s Master of Arts in Educational Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (MEITE) program. At the time, she had spent the past two years in the Peace Corps, teaching in a remote area of Africa. Technology was nonexistent. She taught lecturestyle with a chalkboard. An internet connection — therefore, applying for the job — meant riding in a crowded taxi that only left twice a week to the regional capital in Guinea two hours away. “That video — it’s funny and still up on YouTube — is me in my house in Africa,” she said. “There are chickens in the background, and I’m talking about fermentation. It’s very ridiculous, but it got me the job. And that’s when I really started to fall in love with making videos to incorporate into my teaching.” Today, Lasseter frequently uses videos to convey complex science ideas to her students. She has even presented at conferences on the subject. As a part-time MEITE student working as a full-time teacher, Lasseter created a platform she hopes can help fellow high school science teachers searching

the internet for high-quality videos. This summer, at the conclusion of her time in the program, Lasseter pitched STEM Video Cafe as part of the annual MEITE Pitch Day. STEM Video Cafe, an idea developed out of Lasseter’s own experiences and based on user interviews, aggregates the best science videos from across the internet. Teachers will no longer have to scour the internet for videos they can incorporate into their classes. STEM Video Cafe puts them in a single place — and also offers digital professional development tools. “I did not start the program thinking that I wanted to start a business or create a startup,” she said. “That was not my goal, but there’s been a lot of change in my attitude toward that as I’ve spent more time in the program, which has been fun.” As Lasseter is still not ready to leave teaching, she does know she can make a positive impact within classrooms from the outside. The MEITE program has helped her to see new possibilities for her career in education.

On Aug. 1, Dana Griffin, an associate professor in school counseling, began a three-year appointment as the School’s inaugural Dean’s Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this role, she will advise and work with leadership, faculty, staff, and students to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, and sustain a welcoming community that upholds the highest standards of excellence. Dana Griffin wants to hear from you — alumni who work to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in their classrooms, schools, districts, and workplaces — with hopes of creating ongoing resources for our community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Tell us how you Propel the World:

Learning, Latinidad, and Leadership In North Carolina — which has the sixth-fastest growing Latinx population in the U.S. — Latinx students make up a growing part of the state’s student population, accounting for almost 100 percent of its public school enrollment growth since 2000. Despite that growth, less than 4% of public university students in North Carolina identify as Latinx. By extension, the greater Latinx population isn’t represented across the state — teachers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, civic leaders. And that’s what Ricky Hurtado (’11 B.S.B.A.) and Elaine Townsend Utin (’12 B.A.Ed.) are working to change.

Guided by their own journeys as students from rural North Carolina — Sanford and Waxhaw, respectively — they hope to realize that change through LatinxEd, a nonprofit they co-direct and started in 2018 to foster a new generation of change-makers in North Carolina — starting in schools. LatinxEd partnered with the UNC School of Education in 2019 and is housed in Peabody Hall, home to the School. “Achieving equity in educational access and outcomes, and preparing the leaders of tomorrow are two of the major pillars of our School,” said Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick. “So, this partnership is both natural and critical, especially when you consider the rapidly growing Latinx student population in our state and

the staggering underrepresentation of Latinx North Carolinians in higher education and highly coveted professional careers, among other domains.” “Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick saw opportunities for partnership and synergy,” Hurtado said. “And we saw a shared vision for this to become a statewide initiative acting as a thought leader and advocate for Latino students and families as we think about what it means to grow an education system in North Carolina that truly serves everyone in North Carolina.” In its short existence, LatinxEd has already launched a handful of distinct, targeted initiatives guided by three Ls, components they see as critical to their success: Learning, Latinidad, and Leadership. One of these initiatives is Somos Carolina, which supports Latinx students as rising eighth graders through their time in college, helping them become innovative problem-solvers and thrive as conscious civic leaders, while also helping them to embrace their cultural identity or Latinidad. Those students are introduced to Somos Carolina during a threeweek summer enrichment experience before their eighth-grade year. Instructors are Latinx-identifying and pursuing careers in education. In summer 2019, Hurtado and Utin hosted their first summer program for 50 middle schoolers from Lee County. “That was an incredible experience. It was the first time we were able to have in-depth conversations about what it means to be Latino in the [U.S.] South,” Utin said. “And it was powerful to have an audience that was so captivated and ready to think critically about their relationship to school, how they wanted to impact their community, and how

their cultural identity could really enhance how they played those roles.” Somos Carolina continues to expand as high school chapters have been formed in Orange and Lee counties — establishing opportunities for Latinx students to connect to their cultural backgrounds while evolving in their roles as learners and leaders. To date, the partnership between the School and LatinxEd has primarily manifested through connections. Connections with faculty members and students who are aspiring educators. Hurtado and Utin have partnered with School of Education faculty members to assess and quantify the work of LatinxEd so best practices can be shared and scaled across North Carolina and beyond. And they both teach courses, providing students with perspectives and best practices that will help serve all of their future students, especially Latinx students. “More and more students are coming to Ricky’s and my classes,” Utin said. “They fall in love with the School and the field of education. Several have switched their major to education, or end up minoring in education. “What’s remarkable about my course this fall, I have a majority Latinx-identifying class. That’s the first time that has happened in any college classroom for me. “That is so special and powerful. I am humbled and honored to be in the teacher role as this is a big responsibility and opportunity.” For Utin and Hurtado, that’s one dream realized. But there are many more ahead to be realized through LatinxEd.

A New Home for Research in Peabody Hall The UNC School of Education has a new, 21st-century agile work space designed to meet our growing needs for research infrastructure. The Research Commons features reconfigurable furniture, ideation tools, and state-of-the-art technology to facilitate collaborations among and between teams of graduate students and School faculty members, as well as with campus, national, and global partners. This investment by the School represents a naming opportunity for potential investors. For more information, contact Leslie Deslis, assistant dean for development, at

CONSIDER A YEAR-END GIFT During this calendar year, gifts to the School of Education Greatest Need Fund and the Dean’s Priorities Fund had an impact far beyond Peabody Hall and the low stone walls of our campus. One faculty member created an online toolkit for families and caregivers to help support students with autism during these uncertain times; that toolkit was downloaded more than 200,000 times. Another faculty member created coronavirus-related lesson plans for high school science teachers. Our dean was able to provide emergency funding for our students financially impacted by the pandemic and to create a new leadership position dedicated to enhancing our work around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For 2020 only, the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows taxpayers who do not itemize deductions a one-time, above-the-line deduction on their federal taxes of up to $300 for cash gifts, i.e. gifts made via check or credit card. Generally, people taking the standard deduction do not receive any tax benefit for their charitable contributions. Because this is an “above-the-line” deduction, a gift to the UNC School of Education can help reduce your total federal taxable income by up to $300. The CARES Act also allows itemizers to deduct cash contributions of up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2020 for federal tax purposes. To make a gift, visit


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Campus Box 3500, Peabody Hall Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3500



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