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College of Education 2022 Jack Miller Award winners announced

The Jack Miller Faculty Awards are given annually to recognize Georgia Southern University College of Education (COE) faculty for demonstrated excellence in the areas of teaching, service and/or scholarship. Awards can be given in each area along with an additional Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes scholarship in all three of the considered areas.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, four COE faculty members received Jack Miller Awards including Shelli Casler-Failing, Ph.D., Kristen Dickens, Ph.D., Mete Akcaoglu, Ph.D., and Taylor Norman, Ph.D.

The Jack Miller Educator of the Year was presented to Shelli Casler-Failing, Ph.D., associate professor of middle grades and secondary mathematics education. The Educator of the Year is an accolade that is presented to the COE faculty member who demonstrates excellence in all three of the areas of the Jack Miller awards including teaching, scholarship and creative activity as well as service. Casler-Failing joined the COE in 2017 where she serves as the program director of both the M.Ed. in Middle Grades Education and M.Ed. in Secondary Education. The recipient of the Faculty Service Award, Faculty Development Award, and the University Faculty Research Seed Grant, Casler-Failing is active in researching and investigating mathematics education through the use of LEGO robotics, STEM education, and the  preparation of student teachers for mathematics education. Active in the regional schools, Casler-Failing has provided numerous robotics sessions to teachers and participates in College and University events to promote the use of robotics and technology in mathematics education. 

Recent publications authored by Casler-Failing include a robotics article in The International Journal for Technology in Mathematics Education, a co-authored article on a STEM afterschool program in Current Issues in Middle Level Education, and a co-authored article on social justice curriculum in STEM education in the Journal of Educational Research and Practice.

Associate Professor of Counselor Education Kristen Dickens, Ph.D., was awarded the 2022 Jack Miller Award for Teaching. Dickens joined the College in 2015, and teaches master’s level courses in clinical mental health counseling. A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Georgia, Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS), and National Board Certified Counselor (NCC), she also serves as the faculty advisor for the University’s Gamma Sigma chapter of Chi Sigma Iota International Professional Academic Honor Society (CSI) for counseling. While at Georgia Southern, Dickens has pursued several service opportunities aligned with her commitment increasing awareness and action related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in counseling and the university community. She has served the public school community as well as the City of Statesboro as a diversity trainer and consultant and is an active leader in the International Association for Counseling. Her pedagogy is centered on promoting counselor development and understanding of best multicultural and ethical clinical practices to aid clients in their mental health journeys. 

The recipient of the 2022 Jack Miller Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity is Mete Akcaoglu, Ph.D., professor of instructional technology. An eight-year veteran in the College, Akcaoglu is completing a two year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant entitled “Project GAME: Developing and Piloting a Game Design-Based Computer Science Curriculum.” The $299,895 grant provided Akcaoglu the opportunity to implement game design curriculum into middle school classrooms at DeRenne, Metter, and Screven Middle Schools as well as the STEAM Academy in Bulloch County. Through the efforts of Project GAME, Akcaoglu and grant team members have reached over 300 rural middle school students. Akcaoglu is also a grant team member for the $500,000 funded GEER II Grant for addressing literacy learning loss in K-5 students through tutoring from regional college students.

Recent publications by Akcaoglu include an article on computer programming in middle schools in the journal Computers in the Schools as well as children’s problem-solving strategies in solving game-based logic problems in The International Journal of Technology in Education and Science. His research focuses on the design and evaluation of technology-rich and innovative learning environments for developing critical thinking skills in K-12 children, particularly in using game-design activities as a means of scaffolding students’ problem solving skills and STEM interests.

Taylor Norman, Ph.D., associate professor of middle grades and secondary English education, received the 2022 Jack Miller Award for Service. Co-chair of the National Youth Resilience and Advocacy (NYAR) Conference since 2019, Norman assisted the University’s longest running and largest conference through a name change and virtual offerings through the pandemic. Since joining the College in 2018, she has also assisted in hosting and planning several events with Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools (SCCPSS) and the Chatham County community  including “L.O.V.E. is the Answer Workshop” for SCCPSS school resource officers, police and probation officers focusing on implicit bias, race and policing, as well as “Bridging the Gap,” a SCCPS Campus Policy outreach to students and families support effort. 

Recent publications by Norman include “Critical Friendship as Vital to the Development of RPCK,” published in Social Studies Research and Practice as well as “Methods of a Narrative Inquirist: Storying the Endured Teacher Identity,” published in The Qualitative Report.

About Jack Miller

Jack Miller was the former Dean of the College of Education at Georgia Southern. He endowed the Jack Miller Faculty Awards in 1994 after leaving to accept the position of Dean of the College of Education at Florida State University. Miller retired in 2016 from his position as the President of Central Connecticut State University. Miller passed away in April 2018, leaving behind a legacy as a passionate and dedicated leader in higher education across the nation.
For more information about the Jack Miller Awards or to view past recipients, visit


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