Spring 2022 Newsletter

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Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day Brings High School Students to Campus

Students at BTBT day        Three female students in front of UofM sign
Student volunteers at Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day on the main campus   Student and alumni panelists at Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day at UofM Lambuth

On October 22, 2021, the College of Education hosted its second annual Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day on the UofM campus. Over 70 high school students were invited to visit campus and learn about the educational experience they will receive in the COE, what it means to be a teacher and life as a UofM Tiger. Groups of students from Brighton High School, Munford High School and White Station High School as well as individuals from high schools across the Memphis-area were able to interact with COE faculty, staff and current students to help prepare them for careers in teaching. The event opened with remarks by Dean Kandi Hill-Clarke and other COE administrators and included informational sessions hosted by various UofM offices, including Admissions, Financial Aid and Student Life. Visiting students participated in mini class sessions facilitated by COE faculty in areas such as instructional design and technology, special education and elementary education. Additionally, a student panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Alfred Hall, Assistant Dean of Student Success focused on “What’s Your Why?”  Student panelists included Camryn Luckey (Current Pre-Residency Candidate), Brea Hinds (River City Partnership Teacher Scholar) and Sara Abdelfattah (Residency II Candidate). COE student volunteers assisted with the event and were able to share their experiences. Current freshman and River City Partnership (RCP) Teacher Scholar Vanessa Cortez said of the event, " I always wanted to know what was it like to be part of a group that was working towards the same goal as me. To be the one to show this experience to others has been amazing." Fellow freshman and RCP Teacher Scholar, Kayla Conner added “RCP has been of the best things about college. I love being able to share with everyone what it's like to be a part of this family."

Keith Hembree, COE Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, said of the event: “Become A Tiger, Become A Teacher Day provides a real hands-on experience for prospective Education Students that allows them to see what we truly offer in the College of Education at the UofM and interact with our award-winning faculty.”

More than 60 high school students and families attended the College of Education's Become a Tiger a Teacher Day held in Jackson, TN at the UofM Lambuth campus.  Student panelists Christopher Sorrell, Leanna Greene, Natalie Pleasant and Anna Pope offered their motivation for teaching and unique perspectives as COE students and alumni. Dr. Niles Reddick, Dean of UofM Lambuth said of the event, “Our first Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day was a resounding success. We were thrilled to have prospective students from as far away as Paris, Tennessee come learn about this invaluable profession which impacts every individual in a positive way.  We are excited about making Become a Tiger, Become a Teacher Day an annual event at the UofM Lambuth.” 

COE Faculty Host Equity-Focused Teaching Series

As part of the College of Education’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, this year’s equity-focused teaching series featured sessions conducted by faculty in the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership (ICL) and Department of Counseling Educational Psychology and Research (CEPR).

The fall session featured Dr. Tammy Combs, clinical instructor of Urban Education and River City Partnership Undergraduate Coordinator, and Dr. Celia Anderson, professor of Secondary Education and River City Partnership Graduate Coordinator, speaking on “Voices in Our Practice.” Dr. Combs offered reflective, theoretical and practical approaches to increasing student voice in the classroom. Dr. Anderson focused on a data demonstration assignment centered around teacher voice in the classroom.

The spring session featured CEPR faculty, Dr. Sara Bridges, associate professor of Counseling Psychology, and Dr. Patrick Murphy, assistant professor of Counseling. Dr. Bridges and Dr. Murphy discussed practical approaches and theoretical frameworks about how they infuse diversity, equity and inclusion in every class they teach. These sessions are critical as the College of Education seeks to create a culture of belonging and inclusiveness in the classroom.

In March, Dr. Erica McCray, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Community Engagement at the University of Florida engaged COE faculty in a session focusing on her work supporting students with disabilities through the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR). Dr. McCray shared approaches and extensive resources and toolkits provided by CEEDAR to help serve students with disabilities. Visit CEEDAR's website >.

Dr. Bridges and Dr. Murphy’s presentation and Dr. McCray’s presentation are available on the COE Faculty Resources page >. 

COE Partners with Memphis-Shelby County Schools to Train Special Education Teachers

In spring 2022, the College of Education began a partnership with Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) to help classroom teachers receive an endorsement to teach in Special Education classes. MSCS is offering incentives and covering the tuition for teachers willing to transition to special education classes immediately while they earn a graduate certificate in Special Education. The College of Education assisted individual teachers with the application process, established cohorts for teachers to earn either their Special Education Comprehensive or Multi-Tier Systems of Support Graduate Certificate, as well as offered support for the Special Education Praxis exam required for licensure. Dr. Alfred Hall, Assistant Dean of Student Success and Strategic Initiatives, is excited that "through this partnership, we are able to meet the needs of educators who stepped up and were willing to take on this role of serving students in Special Education classrooms in the middle of the year.”

The four-course program allows MSCS teachers to take one course in the spring, two courses the summer and their final course in the fall. Teachers are able to begin teaching in a Special Education classroom as soon as they begin the program, helping MSCS serve students immediately. Twenty-seven teachers are in the initial cohort; the majority of whom were recently assigned to teach special education in elementary schools, as well as in middle and high schools across the district.

MSCS staff members Deborah Harris, executive director of Exceptional Children & Health Services, and Amber James, talent acquisition recruiter, have led the district's efforts in this collaboration. As stated by Dr. Hall, “they have been extremely great partners to work with and help support our staff and their teachers through the application process.” Dr. Hall hopes that the district will continue to support teachers who are interested in transitioning to Special Education classrooms in future cohorts. He says, “This cohort program is another extension of our engagement with our largest district partner and how we collaborate to meet their needs. We are encouraged by what it will mean for the participating educators as we help prepare them for continued service to the children of Memphis and Shelby County.”

CREP Collaborates with Urban Child Institute and Memphis-Shelby County Schools to Improve Literacy 

Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) has invested in K-3 literacy for several years through evidence-based instructional resources, professional development, and coaching. One example is the Literacy Laureate Program, which ensures an expert literacy instructor is in each school to serve as literacy support. In addition, the district has worked with the Urban Child Institute to expand resources and supports literacy development from birth to grade 3. 

The Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) assesses the MSCS Literacy Laureate initiative on teacher instructional practices and student achievement in literacy. The study includes teacher surveys, analysis of achievement test data, and stakeholder interviews. Dr. Carolyn Kaldon, Principal Investigator, Project Manager Charles Nastos, and CREP staff collaborate on data collection, analysis and reporting. 

COE Spotlight on Awards

Congratulations to the 2022 College of Education Faculty and Staff Award Winners

  • Keith Hembree, Dean's Office, Outstanding Contributions by a Staff Member
  • Dr. Will Hunter, ICL, Excellence in Research and Scholarship
  • Dr. Crystal L. White, CEPR, Excellence in Teaching
  • Dr. Eli Jones, Excellence in Service
  • Dr. Susan Nordstrom, Ellery Earl Crader Professor of Education Award

Dr. Leigh Harrell-Williams wins Advising Award; Dr. Edith Gnanadass receives Honorable Mention

Dr. Leigh Harrell-Williams, associate professor in CEPR and Co-coordinator of the Quantitative Methods Certificate received the Graduate Advisor award at the 2021 UofM Excellence in Academic Advising Awards Ceremony. Dr. Edith Gnanadass, assistant professor in LEAD, received an Honorable Mention. Dr. Harrell-Williams and Dr. Gnanadass were the only two faculty members who advise graduate students honored at the University-wide ceremony. 

Dr. William Hunter Receives Multi-Year Funding from Tennessee Department of Health

Dr. William Hunter, associate professor in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership, has been awarded a five-year, $3,000,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Education with Vanderbilt University serving as the Sponsor centering on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior and Academics. The Tennessee Tiered Supports Center is a project that provides technical assistance to districts in West Tennessee to develop and implements a Response to Intervention (RTI) plan within a multi-tiered system of supports designed to improve behavior and academic outcomes for K-12 students with behavior and learning needs.

Via a collaboration with faculty at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Vanderbilt University, Hunter will provide K-12 school districts in West Tennessee with technical assistance and training to build RTI implementation capacity, ensure fidelity of RTI implementation, evaluate RTI outcomes and drive continuous improvement of the RTI process. At the conclusion of this grant, Hunter and his project partners hope to have prepared leaders to be better able to support the behavior and academic outcomes of students within West Tennessee K-12 school districts.

Dr. Genia Bettencourt, LEAD, Chosen for Prestigious Early Career Mentorship Academy

Dr. Genia Bettencourt, assistant professor in Higher and Adult Education in the Department of Leadership, was named to the 2022-23 NASPA Emerging Faculty Leader Academy Cohort. She will participate in professional development and educational sessions about being a leader as a faculty member in student affairs. Dr. Bettencourt is only one of seven participants invited to join this mentoring opportunity especially designed for early career academics. It incorporates knowledge, advice and experiences from seasoned faculty/staff experts on how faculty can provide leadership within the field. National Association of Student leaders and other Personnel Administrators (NASPA) is the professional home for the field of student affairs.

Dr. Bettencourt says of this honor, “I’m excited to be a part of such an amazing cohort of peers as part of the NASPA Emerging Faculty Leaders Academy (EFLA) and benefit from the opportunity to be in community about faculty life. Higher education and student affairs as a field is facing so many key issues at this moment – adapting to online and hybrid environments, addressing issues of staff burnout and attrition, navigating a constantly changing pandemic, working to promote equity and social justice – that will define our work for decades to come. I look forward to having spaces to discuss these issues and to help me think about how I can best prepare my students as educators and leaders.” 

ICL Faculty and Students in IDT Program Receive Paper of the Year Award

Dr. Andrew Tawfik, associate professor of Instruction and Design Technology (IDT) in ICL; Dr. Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, professor of IDT in ICL; and ICL doctoral students in the IDT program Jaclyn Gish-Lieberman and Teresa Theiling received the AERA SIG D&T Outstanding Design Case Paper of the Year for their paper “Designing for self-efficacy: E-mentoring training for ethnic and racial minority women in STEM.” The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Special Interest Groups (SIG) unite faculty and students with a common interest of study, teaching and research, such as Design and Technology. This award reflects research collaboration between faculty and students.

Dr. Rockinson-Szapkiw says of the award, “I am grateful that the AERA SIG D&T chose to award this significant work focused on designing learning environments to promote self-efficacy within White and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) women in STEM. This was part of a project that was funded by the National Science Foundation focused on the broadening of participation of diverse populations in STEM. It was an honor to win this award and work with my amazing Instructional Design and Technology colleague, Andrew Tawfik, and our remarkable doctoral students, Jackie and Teresa.”

COE Student Spotlights

CEPR Students Receive Grants from American Psychology-Law Society

Three doctoral students in the Counseling Psychology program in CEPR received grants in aid from Division 41 of the American Psychology-Law Society to support their empirical graduate research that addresses psycholegal issues. These grants are highly competitive awards, and to have all 3 funded for the full amount requested is incredibly rare. Madison Lord received a grant for her project “Social Media as Collateral: The Impact of Evidence Source and Defendant Race in Determinations of Threat.” Sarah Pringer received a grant for “Combatting the Impact of Trauma and Occupational Burnout among Correctional Officers: The Role of Coping Mechanisms and Psychopathic Traits.” Meera Patel received a grant for “Who’s at the Bottom of the Hiring List? Exploring the Compounding Effects of Applicant Race and Offense History on Hireability.” 

Dr. Batastini (assistant professor in CEPR) who serves as advisor to Lord, Pringer and Patel, said of these awards, “I am so incredibly proud of Sarah, Madison and Meera for receiving these highly competitive graduate research grants. It is difficult for any one student to win, let alone all three! Clearly, their work is impactful and will make a significant contribution to the field of psychology-law.”

Brea Hinds, Undergrad COE Student, Named Education Trust in Tennessee Thrive Fellow

Brea Hinds at UofM eventBrea Hinds was chosen to join the Education Trust in Tennessee’s first cohort of Thrive Fellows. Brea is a Junior Teaching All Learners Major and a Teacher Scholar in the River City Partnership program. The Thrive Fellowship, a 12-month program that runs from January- December 2022, is sponsored by the Education Trust in Tennessee. Brea says of the fellowship, "Becoming a Thrive Fellow is a fantastic opportunity to grow my skills as an educator and social justice advocate for my future students. I am thankful to be a part of a network that aligns with the River City Partnership and my personal goals to become an educator who is action-oriented."

Thrive Fellows will connect their experiences preparing for and entering college to current systems and practices, understand K-12 and higher education systems, their design, their intended and actual impact, and the levers and opportunities for reform, resulting in more culturally responsive and effective practices at the institutional, and district and school levels. Thrive Fellows will build community with peers across the state, engage on topics related to leadership development and develop research skills to complete a Youth Participatory Action Research Project by the completion of the program.

Meet our Student Ambassadors

In Fall 2021, the inaugural group of COE Student Ambassadors were selected. These dynamic, outstanding students will represent the College of Education and provide student voices at COE and UofM events. They are assisting with recruitment events and have reached out to future COE students with a Recruitment Call Night. Interviews for 2022-2023 COE Student Ambassadors are currently ongoing and all 2021-2022 Student Ambassadors who have not graduated will return to serve in the fall.


Jenna Crist

Major: Teaching All Learners, Minor in Child Development
Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2023
Hometown: Germantown, TN

What is your favorite part of being in the College of Education at the UofM?
All of the professors I have had so far have given me really helpful insight and feedback on my teaching practices, as well as a lot of helpful tips and strategies that I intend to use in the future.

What are your career goals after education?
After graduation, I want to continue my education and get a masters in education, and begin teaching in an elementary school! I also have plans on getting my masters in administration and going on to become a principal or other administrator. 

What are you involved in on campus?
In addition to being an ambassador for the College of Education, I am also an ambassador for the Honors College. I am also the Vice President of Operations for Alpha Delta Pi and Secretary for Order of Omega.

What advice would you give to someone just starting in the COE? 
My one piece of advice for someone coming into the College of Education is to keep all of your notes and assignments! A lot of things that you do will be helpful for you to look back on later, and maybe even give you some ideas on what to do in your classroom!

What is a fun fact about you?
I performed at mass in St. Peter's Basilica in high school!

Kelci Griffin

Kelci Griffin

Major: Integrative Youth Services
Anticipated Graduation Date: May 7, 2022
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

What is your favorite part of being in the College of Education at the UofM?
It is very diverse so we get to connect with many people and touch bases on everyone’s background because we are all a part of the education field.

What are your career goals after graduation?
My goals after I graduate is to continue my masters program at Freed Hardeman University. I plan on teaching K-2.

What advice would you give to someone just starting in the COE? 
Remain focused. Always ask for help if you need it, but remember to also have fun because you are in college.

What is a fun fact about you?
I am a huge fan of the Jurassic Park Universe. Also, I enjoy shopping and riding motorcycles.


Bralyn Horton

Major: Teaching All Learners
Anticipated graduation date: 2023
Hometown: Memphis

What’s your favorite part of being in the College of Education at the UofM?
My favorite part overall is the close-knit community that we have. We have support and guidance, and we push each other to stay on track and finish strong. I never feel alone and I appreciate every experience that I am a part of.

What are your career goals after graduation? 
After graduation, I want to become an elementary or secondary SPED teacher. My favorite subject is math, but I want to be prepared to teach all subjects and be a versatile educator

What are you involved in on campus?
River City Partnership > and the I AM A MAN . . . I Teach program >

What advice would you give to someone just starting in the COE? 
Use your resources. The faculty and staff in the COE have helped me and allowed me to gain many opportunities and build upon some meaningful experiences. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions and create a bond with your peers.

What is a fun fact about you? 
My hobbies include cooking/culinary and tie-dying.


Allison Smith

Major: Teaching All Learners major with a minor in Applied Behavior Analysis
Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2023
Hometown: Memphis

What’s your favorite part of being in the College of Education at the UofM?
The support I receive from my professors and the administration. I am truly having the best experience and am thankful for great professors/administration! I am also thankful for the friends I am making along the way. It is great to have a group of people experiencing the TALN program with you, we support each other!

What are your career goals after graduation? 
I am aspiring to become an Elementary School Teacher. I also plan on going back to Graduate school to obtain my Masters!

What are you involved in on campus?
Adult Student Association (ASA), University of Memphis Student Chapter of Council for Exceptional Children, University of Memphis Student Chapter of the Literacy Association of Tennessee and Alpha Gamma Delta Alumni (Lambuth University PC 2004)

What advice would you give to someone just starting in the COE College of Education? 
Be cognizant of the support that is offered within the COE. There are so many people willing to help you succeed, you just have to ask! Focus and study hard! Find people you can rely on that are in your program with you, it helps to have people to support you and vice versa!

What is a fun fact about you?
I am a Star Wars nerd and love everything Baby Yoda! I also love to karaoke!


Jaelyn Walker

Major: Integrative Studies with a Secondary Math Concentration
Anticipated Graduation Year: 2025
Hometown: Brighton, Tennessee

What's your favorite part of being in the College of Education at the UofM?
Being able to contact others that have the same interest as me, and getting opportunities that will help me, like being an ambassador.

What are your career goals after graduation?
I plan to work at a school as close to my hometown and family as possible.
What advice would you give to someone just starting in the COE?
Get as involved as possible. I am currently a freshman, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to get involved with things that will help you along the way.

What is a fun fact about you?
I enjoy math so much because there is always a right answer and a specific way to get that answer. Also, I am double jointed in all of my fingers.


COE Spotlight on Alumni

Dr. Ted Horrell, LEAD, Named TN Superintendent of the Year

Ted HorrellDr. Ted Horrell was named 2022 Tennessee Superintendent of the year. Dr. Horrell received his Master of Science in 2005 and his Doctorate of Education in 2009 both in Leadership and Policy Studies from the Department of Leadership. Dr. Horrell serves as the first superintendent of the Lakeland School System (LSS). Since he began his tenure in 2013, LSS has been recognized as an Exemplary School District by the Tennessee Department of Education three of the four years it has been eligible, and Lakeland Preparatory School was named the Tennessee School Boards Association “School of the Year” in 2017. Dr. Horrell is currently supervising the construction of a high school wing at Lakeland Preparatory for grades 9-12.

In his spare time, Dr. Horrell is a Memphis Grizzlies fan, and also enjoys playing music and writing songs. Dr. Horrell represented the state of Tennessee at the 2022 AASA National Conference on Education, which was held in Nashville this February.

Makenzie Perkins, CEPR, Serves as District Counseling Specialist for Collierville Schools

Makenzie PerkinsMakenzie Perkins, MS NCC, is a CEPR alumnae who earned her Master of Science (School Counseling) in 2017 and Graduate Certificate in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2020. She has been serving as the District Counseling Specialist for Collierville Schools since July 2021. She supervises 28 school counselors and is responsible for overseeing all mental health initiatives and crisis counseling responses district wide. She explains, “This is a position I didn't believe I'd reach in my twenties.” Additionally, she is the district Threat Assessment Coordinator. She says, “I use the counseling and leadership skills I have acquired from both of my counseling degrees to consult, collaborate and train counselors and staff to help ensure Collierville Schools provide the best possible school counseling programs for students.” She also engages in private practice counseling during the summer, and researches and presents on counseling topics. In 2019, she presented at the School Counselor and Administrator Leadership Institute on "Making Minutes for Mental Health" for high school leaders across the state.

After completing her MS in School Counseling in 2017, Makenzie returned to the COE for a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Mental Health Counseling because she, “decided to broaden [her] counseling scope beyond school counseling after 2 years in the school counseling field.” Makenzie said that her time in the COE “gave me countless opportunities to network with leaders in the field. These connections have provided me the chance to grow personally and professionally. Additionally, I left the program with an incredibly strong foundation of counseling skills thanks to the fantastic professors I encountered in my graduate courses. I was able to jump right into the counseling field confident in my skill set, which I largely attribute to my time in the program.” Her current passion for helping people in crisis was jumpstarted in her Crisis Counseling Course. She says, “The class helped me realize I had an innate skill set in working through crisis situations and lead me to pursue additional training in crisis response and threat assessment. I don't think I would have pursued my current career path without taking that course and getting pushed out of my comfort zone.”

Makenzie’s motivation for her career in counseling is her passion for mental health advocacy and change, especially for children. She states, “As someone who started my career in the school counseling field, I recognize not every child in need has access to outside mental health care and resources. I have sat in the trenches and have seen firsthand that mental wellness is often not prioritized in the US, especially school systems. This doesn't sit lightly with me and encourages me to stay on the forefront of research and legislation so that I can confidently lead our district school counselors to best serve every child they encounter. I will continue to use my voice, knowledge and leadership position to advocate for mental health awareness in schools and equitable access to quality, data-driven counseling.” We are so proud of Makenzie’s career accomplishments and her commitment to by Driven by Equity as she advocates to improve the mental health of all students.

COE Spotlight on Staff

Willie Clark

Willie Clark, Dean's Office

  • Current Position: Director of Development

  • Previous Position: UofM Alumni Association Manager of Alumni Career Services

  • Fun Fact: He enjoys watching old movies and listening to ‘80s music.

McCullough photo

Rachel McCollough, Dean's Office

  • Current position: Recruitment Coordinator

  • Previous Position: Admissions Counselor at University of Tennessee at Martin

  • What you're most excited about for your new role: "I am most excited to recruit and serve students in the college that I graduated from only a few years ago."

  • Fun Fact: Rachel's favorite pastime is cheering on the Tiger football team and basketball team. Go Tigers go!
Charles Nastos

Charles Nastos, CREP

  • Current Position: Research Associate I

  • Previous Position: Previously worked for a psychometric evaluation company.

  • Research Area: Charles's research interests pertain to behavioral economics, decision-making, and learning theory. He is excited to work with other academics interested in education, and to conduct crucial research to help Shelby County Schools make important changes in bolstering education.

  • Fun Fact: Charles speaks both Greek and French fluently.
TaJuanna Smith

Ta'Juanna Smith, Office of Teacher Education and Clinical Practice

  • Current Position: Academic Advisor

  • Previous Position: Professional Academic Advisor and Academic Success Instructor, Southwest TN Community College

  • What you're most excited about for your new role: "I received my Undergrad degree through the UofM College of Education. So it's very exciting to return here, but to be seated on the other side of the desk.

  • Fun Fact: Ta'Juanna loves music but says she can’t sing or play an instrument.