COE Faculty Wins University-Wide Excellence Award

Associate Professor Lina Soares, Department of Teaching and Learning, received the University-wide award for Excellence in Contributions to Instruction for 2015-2016 during Fall Convocation earlier this month. The award is one of three annual Awards in Excellence which include Excellence in Instruction, Excellence in Research/Creative Scholarly Activity and Excellence in Service. The program was established in 1985 to “recognize and reward faculty for exceptional achievements and to provide opportunities for faculty development.”

Soares won the Jack Miller Award for Educator of the Year in 2014 which she said led to her nomination for the Award for Excellence. “I am very honored and feel proud to receive an award from my peers because it is the University Faculty Development Committee that makes the determination,” Soares said. Her work centers on critical pedagogy and critical literacy, content-area literacy, adolescent literacy, teacher education and gifted education.

The Award for Excellence in Contributions to Instruction focuses on the faculty member’s contributions to the teaching-learning process at the institutional level. The award winner must demonstrate excellence in the classroom as well as “making contributions to the discipline and to the overall institutional mission.”

“Dr. Soares is a respected and valued member of the COE faculty. As a College focused on preparing educators and educational leaders we’re honored to have one of own recognized for this special award, especially in the area of the teaching-learning process,” said COE Dean Thomas Koballa.


COE Associate Professor Lina Soares

COE Names Annual Faculty & Staff Award Winners

The 2015 Jack Miller faculty and Betty-Ware Wray staff awards were announced at the College of Education’s annual Fall Faculty and Staff Meeting on August 13, kicking off the 2015-16 academic year.

The Jack Miller Faculty Awards are given annually to recognize and reward faculty for demonstrated excellence in the areas of teaching, service and scholarship/creative activity. The awards are determined by a faculty member’s performance based on specific criteria. This year, awards were made in all areas as well as the Jack Miller Educator of the Year Award.

Jack Miller was a former dean of education at Georgia Southern and in 1994 endowed the award. He is now President of Central Connecticut State University.

Betty-Ware Wray was a beloved member of the COE faculty. Her family endowed an award to annually recognize a COE staff member who has excelled in job performance and university service.

Associate Professor Dawn Tysinger, Department of Leadership, Technology and Human Development won the Jack Miller Educator of the Year Award. Tysinger is a faculty member in the school psychology program.

Associate Professor Meca Williams-Johnson, Department of Curriculum Foundations & Reading, won the Jack Miller Award for Teaching. Williams-Johnson teaching and research interests include school reform, student motivation, teacher efficacy, African-American education, multicultural curriculum and black feminist theory.

Assistant Professor Alma Stevenson, Department of curriculum, Foundations and Reading, received the Jack Miller Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity. Stevenson’s research interests include diverse learners, sociocultural and linguistic perspectives on science education, K-6 language and literacy development, classroom discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis (CDA) and ESL/Bilingual education.

Associate Professor Jeffrey Tysinger, Department of Leadership, Technology and Human Development, received the Jack Miller Award for Service. Tysinger is a faculty member in the school psychology program.

Director of the Graduate Academic Services Center (GASC) Lydia Cross, won the 2015 Betty-Ware Wray staff award. GASC is a freestanding advising and recruitment center for COE graduate students.

L-R: Lydia Cross, Dawn Tysinger, Meca Williams-Johnson, Alma Stevenson and Jeffrey Tysinger

L-R: Lydia Cross, Dawn Tysinger, Meca Williams-Johnson, Alma Stevenson and Jeffrey Tysinger

COE Students Ready for New Certification Requirements

COE students are prepared for the new teacher performance-based assessment, called edTPA, which is now a state requirement for all new teacher certification in addition to the Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators (GACE) content exam.

“Our faculty began piloting edTPA during spring 2013 with students in our Special Education program, commented COE Dean Thomas Koballa. “We involved additional students and programs over the next few semesters while also making any needed program changes to ensure the goals of edTPA are fully embedded in all programs,” he explained.

The new assessment is a portfolio-based capstone completed during student teaching that requires a teacher candidate to demonstrate their ability to plan, teach, and assess their teaching effectiveness and ability to positively impact student learning.  The submitted portfolio includes teaching materials, video clips of their teaching, and reflections justifying their planning, teaching and assessments of student learning.

COE students generally have given edTPA positive reviews. According to recent graduate student in special education Cynthia Jersey, “edTPA influenced my actual teaching because it caused me to justify every part of my lesson plans, which ensured that the material that I was teaching to my students was appropriate based on the state standards and their strengths and needs. It also required me to make sure my instruction was supported by research.”

“We’ve worked hard to integrate edTPA into the curriculum,” said Pat Parsons, director of field experiences and clinical practice. “Our pilot programs gave us valuable feedback from both students and faculty so we feel confident our teacher candidates are well prepared,” Parsons said.

Some students feel COE already prepares teacher candidates so well for the classroom that edTPA isn’t necessary. “My courses in COE prepared me for edTPA before edTPA was even introduced because the education program at Georgia Southern is devoted to preparing future educators through a rigorous, experience-saturated undergraduate program,” said recent graduate Stephanie Dorminey, a graduate student middle grades mathematics education and currently a 6th and 7th grade mathematics teacher at Langston Chapel Middle School in Bulloch County. “I applaud the faculty for integrating edTPA into the curriculum almost seamlessly. Faculty support was abundant throughout the edTPA process,” she added.

“We need to keep in mind that a teacher education program is only the beginning in the making of a successful teacher,” Koballa said.  Teachers are life-long learners and are continually updating and expanding their knowledge and skills. “In the business world, we don’t expect a recent graduate to perform at the same level as a 10 year veteran of a company,” he continued, “and the same is true for educators,” he added. “We’re continually looking at how we can improve student preparedness and better serve their needs once they’ve graduated,” he said.

COE credits much of its success in preparing future educators to its strong and lasting relationship with the 36 partner schools and 40 additional clinical sites hosting educator candidates. “These institutions are committed to improving their communities and elevating learning for everyone on so many different levels,” Koballa added. “It’s truly a collaboration,” he added, not just between the College of Education and community, but between the entire university and the community as well. It benefits everyone,” he added.

NYAR Center Funds First Research Grants

COE’s National Youth-At-Risk (NYAR) Center, now in its second year of operation, has awarded its first research grants to COE faculty. “One of the goals of the NYAR Center is to support COE faculty and doctoral student research projects related to serving youth placed at risk,” said Professor Dan Rea, co-director of the center. Associate professor, Eric Landers, co-director of the center, further stated, “We were pleased with the number and quality of the grant proposals submitted for our first round of awards and believe this is the start of creating a substantive body of research that will be accessible and useful for all those working with youth placed at risk.”

Two research grants were awarded. “Computer Science Education in Rural Schools” will use a qualitative research approach to gain insight into what teachers, principals, curriculum directors and parent representatives feel are barriers to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM+C) education in rural areas. Led by Associate Professor Charles Hodges and graduate student Rachel Harris, the project will focus on rural high schools under the First District Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA).

The second project awarded is “The Impact of a CrossFit Intervention for Youth At Risk at the Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County,” directed by COE Professor Michael Moore and College of Health and Human Sciences Assistant Professor Christina Gipson. The project will look at how an afterschool intervention program can impact middle school aged children who have been identified as being at risk. Using CrossFit philosophy that fitness is broad, general and inclusive, the project will look at how an exercise program impacts academics, physical, social and personal development.

Results of both research grants will be published in the NYAR Center Journal and be available online at the center’s site

COE and Nursing College Awarded $1.5 Million Educational Program Development Grant

College of Education Assistant Professor Antonio Gutierrez, working with Georgia Southern’s School of Nursing, has been awarded a 3-year, $1.5 million grant to create an Advanced Practice Nurse-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (APN-PMHNP) track to serve the psychiatric/mental health needs of south Georgia’s rural and underserved community. Gutierrez will serve as the evaluation coordinator on the project, assisting with data collection, analysis, measurement and substantive interpretation of findings for the purposes of program evaluation of the APN-PMHNP. He assisted the project team with developing the logic model and aligning all measurement to HRSA’s Rapid Cycle Quality Improvement (RCQI) metrics.

“This educational program development grant will allow Georgia Southern’s nursing faculty to develop this much needed psychiatric mental health specialization, which will aid in improving the mental health of residents in rural Georgia. Being part of this interdisciplinary team of scholar-educators will help me learn more about these topics as well as to serve by helping the team evaluate the success of the program. I am very excited to embark on this mission with them,” Gutierrez said.

The grant calls for a focused 7-course online track on PMHNP practice that will partner with clinical environments that provide team-based care, include on campus APN-PMHN simulation learning experiences and short summer intensive sessions with national content experts. Students will be eligible for national certification as Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

The grant was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



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