Jack Atkins Education Scholarship

Purpose: A fund to provide scholarships to full-time Interdisciplinary Studies students who graduated from Denton ISD high schools.


  1. Meet the minimum entrance and continuing academic performance standards of the College of Education in effect at the time of any award;
  2. Maintain full-time enrollment as established by the University, unless the student in nearing completion of his or her degree program and does
    not need full-time enrollment;
  3. Enroll as a full-time student majoring in Early Childhood - 6; or Grades 4 - 8; in the event no applicant meets this criterion, then students enrolling full-time in the College of Education will be eligible for consideration;
  4. Demonstrate eligibility for need-based financial assistance as determined by completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
    (FAFSA) or its successor;
  5. Be a graduate of any Denton Independent School District high school; in the event no applicant meets this criterion, then applicants who are graduates of any other high school in Denton County will be eligible for consideration and;
  6. Preference will be given to first-generation college students, as reported on the scholarship application.

COE student advising team makes holiday donation to UNT alumna’s charity

Staff members from the UNT College of Education Student Advising Office with Sarah Nejdl (far left in purple).

Staff members in the UNT College of Education's Student Advising Office celebrated the holiday season by collecting travel products, basic clothes, travel bags, snacks, baby items and more for Families to Freedom, a nonprofit organization that provides free long-distance transportation to survivors of domestic violence.

The charity, founded by UNT alumna and pilot Sarah Nejdl, began operations in January 2015 when Nejdl noticed a gap in services for women and children leaving domestic violence situations. Families to Freedom offers clients one-way transportation by private aircraft or car to relatives or friends who are able to take them in or to a shelter that can accommodate them, putting distance between the clients and their abuser.

The SAO staff welcomed Nejdl to campus for a luncheon Dec. 17 to learn more about her charity and to hand over their sizable donation of items that Families to Freedom clients might need in an emergency situation.

Gwenn Pasco, assistant dean for educator certification and undergraduate academic services, said the SAO team traditionally brings in toys for underprivileged children every holiday season. But this year, the group decided they wanted to support two different charities. After discussing their options, they decided on Families to Freedom, only to later discover the founder's UNT connection, Pasco said.

"The staff in my department, a group of uniquely kind and dedicated individuals, and I are happy to support one of UNT's own and the incredible work her charity does," Pasco said. "As Families to Freedom is a newer non-profit, we realized that they could benefit from donations that the entire team wanted to provide. 

"UNT has always been known as a welcoming and generous place, and I think that's largely due to our caring faculty, staff, students and alumni."

Click here to learn more about Families to Freedom.

UNT counseling doctoral candidate published in national magazine

By Mary Murphy

Bryan Stare, a doctoral candidate in the College of Education counseling program, has had an article published in Counseling Today's December issue.

Counseling Today is a publication of the American Counseling Association that reaches more than 56,000 counseling professionals nationwide. The magazine published Stare's article "Business Practices for the Beginning Counselor," which focuses on establishing private counseling practices. This is a concept that Stare said isn't well-explained in classes. 

According to Stare, most practitioners who enter into private counseling practices must learn on an independent basis. There are few how-to books about private practice, and there's little literature on the topic in professional journals, he said.

In order to learn more about how to establish and maintain a private practice, Stare interviewed three graduates from the doctoral counseling program at UNT. These three graduates have been working in private practice for at least 10 years and regularly see clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Stare asked the graduates for their experience-based advice on basic business practices such as marketing, mentorship and income.

"Most counseling programs don't address the needs of the relatively small number of students who want to launch into their own practices," said Jan Holden, chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education and one of Stare's former professors. "For those new counseling professionals who do [establish private practices], they encounter unique challenges. Articles like Stare's address that otherwise somewhat neglected yet important niche."

Stare's article, "Business Practices for the Beginning Counselor," can be found in Counseling Today's online and print editions. 

Teacher exchange: UNT program helps educators learn about methods, culture across borders

Teachers in the exchange program participate in a workshop together.

By Mary Murphy

Jeanne Tunks, UNT associate professor of Teacher Education and Administration, is crossing continents to help teachers in Denton and Guatemala learn valuable new skills.

The University of North Texas' Teacher to Teacher Exchange program was created by Tunks in partnership with Collegio Boston, a Guatemalan school in Antigua, and with the Denton Independent School District to help educators learn about culture and teaching methods. A team of three Guatemalan teachers came to Denton in early November to reunite with their Texas counterparts, share their experiences and answer questions from students and professors.

The program's in-person interactions – despite great distance, language barriers and differences in teaching styles between the teachers – are part of what makes the program so beneficial, said Johnathan Raney, principal of Crownover Middle School in Denton. One of his school's teachers is participating in the program this year.

"It truly is about the relationships that you create with your colleagues, with your students; about providing them with something that is going to help them grow and really change their lives and hopefully change the world and the community we live in," Raney said. "It's a tremendous program, and the opportunities for everybody here are great."

The Beginning

Prior to creating the Teacher to Teacher Exchange program, Tunks coordinated and taught in the Denton ISD Professional Development School program, placing UNT College of Education students into Denton ISD schools from 2000-2010. While teaching in the PDS program, Tunks realized that the teachers entering into Denton schools had trouble connecting to the Latino population they were teaching. Tunks also realized that students' math scores were not very strong, despite teachers' attempts to improve them.

"I thought that maybe the issue was that our students graduating from UNT and working in Denton didn't understand the population they were teaching," Tunks said. "I thought maybe if they were a little more immersed in that population, they would begin to understand it."

Tunks immersed herself in Latin American culture in 2011 when she took a six-month professional development leave trip to Guatemala. She studied how teachers there taught math, and found that their teaching methods were vastly different from those in the U.S.

In Guatemala, everyone -- beginning with students in kindergarten -- was taught like a high school student.

Students would copy problems from the board to their notebook, and then were assigned homework; however, students rarely received homework help at home, so when they came back to class the next day, they received red X's for incorrect answers, and the teacher would move on to the next lesson.

"Teaching is different [in Guatemala]," Tunks said. "Teaching for understanding is different, teaching for comprehension is different, and teaching for commitment to learning is different. The kids never grimace when they get a red X, they just kind of expect it. Then they just think ‘I can't do math,' and that's it."

One of the schools Tunks observed on her visit was Collegio Boston, a private school in Antigua. Tunks decided to team up with a co-owner of Collegio Boston, Maria de Carmen de Batres, to create the Teacher to Teacher Exchange program in 2012.

"We thought maybe Guatemalan teachers would learn some practices they could take back," Tunks said. "And that maybe our teachers could go over there and learn more about culture so they could come back and teach in a more culturally relevant way."

About the Program

During the exchange program, each Denton teacher gets paired with a Guatemalan teacher. The program begins every other November, when the Guatemalan teachers first come to the U.S. for two weeks to spend time with their Denton counterparts. This works out well because the Guatemalan school year runs from January to October, giving the Guatemalan teachers ample time to visit the U.S. in November.

Then, in July, the Denton teachers visit Guatemala for two weeks to shadow their Guatemalan counterparts. While the teachers are in one another's countries, they do everything with their partner, such as go to school together, live in each other's houses and go sight-seeing. The pairs spend time together in order to learn as much as possible from one another, Tunks said.

Normally, the pairs of teachers don't speak each other's languages. Instead, they must figure out their own way to engage with one another linguistically. According to Tunks, several have downloaded the language-learning app Duolingo on their phone, or downloaded a Spanish-to-English translator.

"I've met a best friend, and even though I speak little to no Spanish and she speaks little to no English, it's been really fun," said Janie Peters, second-grade teacher at Rivera Elementary in Denton and member of the second group to take part in the program. "It's been amazing. I've learned to be patient, and it helps me in the classroom to be more patient with my students and give them more time to comprehend what I say and what I'm trying to ask them. "

The teachers visit each other's countries two times over the course of two years. According to Tunks, the first year of the program is about figuring out how to get along with one another, developing partnerships, friendships and trust. Then, during the second year, teachers can focus on collecting data, sharing ideas and changing their practices.

"It's important to know that this program isn't intended to go and ‘fix' things that are going on [in Guatemala]," said Tracy Wahbeh, fifth-grade math teacher at Pecan Creek in Denton and a participant in the program. "Great teaching happens in Guatemala. We're just there to enrich it. Great teaching happens here and they're here to do the same – to enrich us and learn enrichment for themselves."

Wahbeh is a member of the second group to take part in the exchange program. The first group consisted of three Guatemalan teachers and three Denton teachers, as well as Tunks and her doctoral student Amy Anderson. The second rotation of the program includes Anderson, coordinator of the teachers; Tunks; Maria del Carmen de Batres; Thomas Tunks from SMU, advisor; along with four American teachers and three Guatemalan teachers.

The first group of the program was funded by UNT's Charn Uswachoke International Development Fund. Now, the Guatemalan teachers are funded by Amiga de Matematicas, a philanthropy group in Guatemala, and the Texas teachers are funded by various contributions and the International Teacher to Teacher Exchange Fund held at the Community Foundation of Texas.

Two Guatemalan teachers from this rotation, Nancy Amarillas Salizar Barillas and Ruth Gonzalez, teach at Collegio Boston in Antigua. Barillas teaches pre-k, and Gonzalez teaches second grade. The third Guatemalan teacher, Marlin Jimenez, works at a public school in Guatemala teaching second-graders.

All of the Denton teachers participating in this rotation of the program are UNT alumnae. Kaitlyn Pound, class of 2013, teaches fifth-grade math at Stephens Elementary; Blombay, class of 2006, teaches fifth-grade math at Pecan Creek Elementary; Peters, class of 2013, teaches second-grade at Rivera Elementary; and Robin Zaruba, class of 1987, teaches seventh-grade math at Crownover Middle School. All of them learned under Tunks at one point during their college career.

According to Tunks, most of the original six teachers actually changed their practices in the classroom and received positive student response to the changes and an increase in math success.

Making Waves

The Teacher to Teacher Exchange program is already making an impact in the lives of Guatemalan teachers, American teachers and their students, Jiménez said.

"I have been learning many different techniques and different strategies to teach [my students]," he said. "In Guatemala, our educational system has problems, but I've been changing that with my students. I've been working with my teammates to change the way to teach."

One of the biggest changes that Jimenez has made is incorporating manipulatives into his teaching method. Manipulatives are objects designed to help students understand mathematical concepts in a hands-on way.

Janie Peters, a 2013 College of Education graduate and second-grade teacher at Denton's Rivera Elementary, works with students during a trip to Guatemala.

After the first rotation of the exchange program, the Guatemalan teachers were sent home with boxes of manipulatives to share with their students. Now, Collegio Boston has a math lab full of manipulatives that classes come to use throughout the week. They call it the "Lab of the Future."

Other Guatemalan teachers have begun to adopt this way of teaching as well. According to Tunks, the two teachers who use the "Lab of the Future" most often weren't part of the Teacher to Teacher exchange program – they are just two teachers who adjusted their teaching style after receiving training from the UNT team on how to use manipulatives, and seeing how working with manipulatives positively influenced their students' learning.

Jiménez's second graders are also enjoying learning with manipulatives. Recently, for the first time ever, his students participated in a math competition and won.

"Marlin [Jiménez] teaches 38 second-graders, and when he holds up a bag of manipulatives the kids raise their hands and they all start screaming, ‘Matemática, matemática!', and they just want to do math," Tunks said. "There isn't a place in Guatemala where I've met a kid who wanted to do math. But his students love it."

One of this program's goals, according to Tunks, was for Denton teachers to find a way to be more inclusive of students who are otherwise marginalized, such as Latino Learners. The Denton teachers' immersion in the Guatemalan culture has helped them become more inclusive. Several of the Denton teachers from the program have already begun forming a stronger connection with their Latino students.

"[My students] can compare my stories of what I saw in Guatemala to what they have seen in their native countries, and building a relationship with them has been amazing," Wahbeh said. "Before, the Spanish-speaking students would just think I was weird when I would talk to them in Spanish, but now they come up to me and say ‘hi'; they draw pictures for me and ask me for help."

The Teacher to Teacher Exchange is also reaching out to other teachers in a way organizers didn't anticipate – mathematics workshops sharing alternative ways to teach math.

Teachers who attended these workshops are not necessarily teachers in the exchange program, or teachers who are interested in the program. Mainly, they're just teachers in the school where the workshop is being held, but they are also adjusting their way of teaching because of what they learn. The last workshop brought in 100 Guatemalan teachers, and the one before that brought in 200.

Initially, Tunks taught the first few workshops with Anderson, her doctoral student. Now, however, the Guatemalan and American teachers from the exchange program have learned how to work together to present the workshops to other teachers.

"These workshops aren't where we intended to be, but it's a nice outgrowth in that I and Amy Anderson are no longer the center of them," Tunks said. "Now it's a colleague-to-colleague thing. It empowers them to believe in themselves as true math teachers, as people who know the content well enough to present it to others."

This is the current group's second year in the program. They recently created a Facebook page to share more information about what they're doing and post photos and videos of their workshops, teaching sessions and outings. To learn more about the program and the group's progress, visit the Facebook page. To contribute to the ITTTE project, visit the ITTTE Fund website.

Annual conference focuses on more effective teaching methods

North Texas principals, teachers, superintendents and school board members gathered at UNT Nov. 11 for the annual Education Leadership Conference hosted by the College of Education.

At this year's conference, educators learned how they can adjust their teaching methods to better benefit students. The conference featured speakers, research presentations, breakout groups and keynote speaker Yong Zhao, presidential chair and director of the Institute for Global and Online Education at the University of Oregon.

Several presenters touched on the need to improve student achievement through the development of educators, especially through the implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), groups of educators who regularly meet to share their knowledge and who work together to improve their teaching methods so they can help their students succeed.

Zhao suggested another way to improve student achievement: embracing and encouraging students' individuality and diversity.

Zhao said that although every person is born with unique, individual talents, not all talents are equally valued in society. Society values verbal, logic and some number skills, because those are the skills that are necessary for the traditional jobs in society, he said. According to Zhao, this is why education has been about instilling these standards in students – to prepare them to succeed in the work force.

However, Zhao said, due to advancements in technology and globalization, many of these "traditional jobs" students have been preparing for are now either outsourced or done by machines. Zhao said this change is not a disadvantage, but an opportunity to improve the way students are taught, allowing educators to tailor a new form of education to this era of innovation.

"We have come to a time where the traditional paradigm has stopped working," Zhao said. "(It is) a new time when all talents are valuable, but we are still working by old standards, 'fixing' students (to achieve the standard), depriving them of opportunities by making them do things they are not good at or passionate about."

Instead of following the traditional schooling that caters to the curriculum, Zhao said this new form of education should cater to students, allowing them to explore their passions and succeed in their own individual way. Zhao said not only will this help students become more engaged with their schooling, but it will also teach them how to develop their passions into something they can use in the work force.

"I think when I look at kids and I see what they can become, I'm seeing what they could make rather than the roles that they could fit in," said Mark Felts, a graduate student at UNT studying curriculum and instruction. "I think that applies directly to today's conference. I look at these students as defining their own success and path rather than 'which path do they fit in in traditional paradigms of education?'."

Zhao said implementing a broad and flexible curriculum allows students to have a voice to construct instead of merely comply so that they can discover and develop their passions. Zhao also encourages the new idea of "project-oriented learning," in which students learn about subjects by creating something useful or meaningful. He also advocates a disciplined process of creating drafts and reviewing them with students in order to improve their work instead of immediately telling them their work is wrong.

"Our children are the creators of future jobs," Zhao said in his keynote speech. "Your job as educators is to ensure that we capture students' interests and passions, and cultivate them so students can find value in themselves -- so they can create a future."

Conference attendee and educator Gypsy Mishoe, an instructional coach of advanced academics and gifted and talented students from Grapevine Colleyville ISD, said Zhao's message of embracing diversity in students is critical in today's modern classrooms.

"Diversity is something that should be celebrated," Mishoe said. "It is our key to providing opportunities for our kids. Focusing on remediation only can often rob students of those opportunities."

Alumnus named superintendent of Sherman ISD

The Sherman Independent School District Board of Trustees named David Hicks, area superintendent for Denton ISD, as its lone finalist for superintendent at its meeting called on Nov. 18. Hicks earned a master's degree in Educational Administration and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from UNT. He will replace Al Hambrick, who retired in August 2015.

By law, the Board must now wait 21 days before voting to hire Hicks. The Board is scheduled to offer Hicks a contract on December 10, 2015.

Hicks currently oversees the academic programs and the instructional and administrative leadership initiatives for 14 schools and 13,000 students in Denton ISD.

"I am excited at the opportunity to lead a district with as proud a tradition of excellence as Sherman ISD. I know there are no limits to what our teachers and students in Sherman can accomplish, and I'm appreciative to the Board for giving me the opportunity to serve as superintendent," he said. "I value the importance of building relationships within the community and I look forward to working with our administrators, teachers, students and parents to make Sherman ISD the best school district in Texas."

Hicks has more than 27 years of experience in public education and has demonstrated leadership in three nationally recognized school districts, most recently in Denton ISD – the second-fastest growing school district in North Texas. Prior to Denton ISD, he served as a principal and assistant principal in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. He began his career as a teacher and teacher trainer in CFB ISD.

Story courtesy of Sherman ISD website

A Whole New World View: Summer spent speaking and presenting on global topics gives COE faculty member new perspective

International travel and research is nothing new to Dina Castro, the Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair on Early Childhood Education at UNT. A native of Peru, Castro has made cultural and linguistic diversity in early education the focus of her work. But this summer, a conference with scholars and policymakers from the U.S. and the European Union, as well as several collaborative visits to her homeland, helped her gain a new global perspective on the characteristics and needs of young children from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Now, back at UNT, she's weaving what she learned into her research and teaching, and looking into opportunities for students to travel with her back to Peru.

From the Amazon to the European Union

Dr. Dina Castro at podium

Dina Castro speaks at the International Congress on Early Childhood Education in Lima, Peru

In June, Castro was invited by colleagues at the Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) to participate in a professional development opportunity for teachers from the Awajun and Wampis indigenous communities in the Amazon region of Peru. The event, organized by a Peruvian congressman, drew more than 270 teachers as well as experts from the Peruvian government and UNICEF. After traveling by military plane and by boat on the Marañon River, she arrived to find teachers who were eager to expand their knowledge.

"I was making connections, talking about my area of interest, and finding out how we could collaborate and what issues they were facing in multilingualism and interculturalism," she said.

Castro, whose research focus is quality and equity in the early care and education of bilingual and culturally diverse children, went from that meeting in the Amazon to the Transatlantic Forum on Inclusive Early Years in Washington, D.C., where she was a featured speaker. The forum focused on meeting the needs of multilingual children living in diverse communities and providing these children equal opportunities from the earliest stages of learning.

"To go from the Amazon to sitting with education professionals and policymakers from the European Union – that made me think about how global this phenomenon is," Castro said. "It was not only inspirational, but the information I received got me thinking about expanding the way I was conceptualizing my work, and now I'm seeing it more from this global perspective."

Castro said her European counterparts at the forum were facing the challenges posed by migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Drawing on her experience researching similar immigration challenges in the United States, Castro presented on the importance of strength-based interventions in early childhood education.

"It's about moving away from a deficit view, in which you see children coming from multilingual or immigrant status as 'lacking,' focusing only on what they do not have," she said. "For example, a large family may mean a child is living in a crowded household, and that is seen as a bad thing. But you also can look at it as a positive thing – these children are exposed to a lot of language, people talking to them, and social support."

Back to Peru

From Washington, D.C., in July, Castro went back to Peru in August, to participate in various events as part of the efforts to establish a collaborative agreement between the PUCP and UNT.  First she presented about her findings on intercultural and bilingual perspectives in early childhood education at the II International Congress on Early Childhood Education organized by the PUCP in Lima.

"At that congress I also shared what I had learned during my first trip to Peru and my experience meeting educators from the EU. My thinking was changing," she said.

Castro said her experiences have helped shape her viewpoints on teaching diversity in early childhood learning environments.

"Having books in different languages in the classroom is great, but we need to go deeper. We need to look at what happens in the classroom – we need to go on a larger scale with our conversation about diversity as a society. As educators in the classroom, we tell children we're all friends here, we respect each other, we celebrate diversity. But then children go back home to see racial profiling and violence. Our society is sending the wrong messages to children."

Castro said discussing diversity with children is not always easy, but it is critical. Helping teachers and parents reflect on their own diversity and backgrounds in relation to today's children may make those conversations easier.

"Diversity is a fact of life, not just a moment," she said.

Following that congress, Castro spoke at two additional meetings organized by the PUCP in Lima. At the Symposium on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education in Latin America, she chaired a panel on early education for indigenous and immigrant children and was joined by fellow UNT College of Education faculty member Rossana Boyd.

Going Up

As her second trip to Peru drew to a close, Castro met with officials from Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo (UNASAM), a public university in Huaraz, Peru, to discuss establishing an academic collaboration with UNT. The group traveled to a remote community in the Andes at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet (for reference, Denton's altitude is 642 feet) to interact with children in an indigenous Quechua-speaking school.

"Some of the children traveled a very long way to get there. The teacher walked one hour each way every day to get to the school," she said. "The teacher didn't have enough materials beyond a few books. That's something that we could maybe help with."

Castro thinks a partnership with UNASAM could lead to a study abroad opportunity for UNT students. She hopes to bring a group to the village 

"We need to approach them with the perspective of, 'What are the good things happening here?'," she said. "We have a tendency to look at what they're lacking, which comes from our own framework. But maybe that's not what these children need. I saw happy children – running around, breathing pure air and feeling safe with people who love them."

Next Steps

Castro said her experiences this summer helped her gain new viewpoints, particularly on how government policymakers and community members affect children's development. Castro said she wants to be a voice for culturally diverse children, especially as standardization becomes the norm worldwide.

"Contrasting my experience in Washington, D.C., with the ones I had in Peru with indigenous teachers and policymakers really made me see the whole issue of diversity in early education on a more global scale," she said. "Decisions governments make will put these children in a track for life – either to succeed or fail."

In addition to working toward bringing student researchers to Peru, in the coming year Castro plans to present at the National Association for Bilingual Education conference in March and put together an international panel at a world summit on early childhood education.

"I've done a lot of work in the U.S. and understand where we stand here. I want to continue trying to contribute to communities here addressing issues we have related to diverse populations, but I would like to also contribute to the global discussion on these issues," she said. "I want to continue generating knowledge that will inform policymaking so we can do the right thing for young children based on what we know about their characteristics and needs, away from the development of one size fits all educational interventions."

COE alumna named Kilgore College's first female president

Brenda Kays, a 2001 alumna of the UNT College of Education's Higher Education doctoral program, was unanimously selected Kilgore College's ninth president by the college's Board of Trustees Nov. 23. Kays, who has served as president of Stanly Community College in North Carolina since 2011, is Kilgore's first female president.

Kays is a former vice president of Student Learning and Success at Guilford Technical Community College (N.C.) and former Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Instructional Services at Vernon College (Texas).

She earned a Master of Education in counseling from Midwestern State University and a Doctor of Education from UNT.

Kilgore is a publicly supported, two-year comprehensive community college in Kilgore, Texas, about 25 miles east of Tyler. It serves more than 11,000 students each year.

Kays will begin work at Kilgore the first part of January.

Scholarship recipients show gratitude to COE donors at annual banquet

Jack Atkins, Derrick Edwards, Ruth Dennis, Cathy BryceJack Atkins and Cathy Bryce with their scholarship recipients, Derrick Edwards and Ruth Dennis.

Apogee Stadium's Club Level was alive with conversation, laughter and gratitude as the College of Education's scholarship donors and recipients came together for the annual STAR Celebration on Nov. 12.

The STAR (Special Thanks and Recognition) Celebration honors the college's donors and allows them to meet the student recipients of their scholarships in person. This year, nearly $200,000 was awarded to 170 plus students.

"Your donations have supported so many opportunities," said Kaitlin Cruise, and Interdisciplinary Studies/Special Education senior who received the Bessie P. Cowan and College of Education scholarship and spoke at the even on behalf of this year's recipients. "Because of your support I can have passion, and I can pursue my passions."

Among the 155 STAR Celebration attendees were Jerry Thomas, dean of the College of Education; Finley Graves, UNT provost and vice president for academic affairs; and Eileen Moran, UNT associate vice president for development.

College of Education alumna Cathy Bryce also spoke at the event. She and her husband, Jack Atkins, established the Eva Marie Howard Atkins and Opal Watson Bryce Collier Education, which was awarded for the first time this year.

"When I got up today, I felt like a teacher on the first day of the first year that I ever taught," Bryce said. "We've been talking about this day for months – that we were going to meet our scholarship recipients tonight. I've been excited about it all day long."

The scholarship donors weren't the only ones eager to meet their counterparts. Brett Bell, Sports Management senior and second-year recipient of the Rita Pilkey Scholarship, was excited to see his scholarship donation representatives for a second time. The memorial scholarship was represented by Jack Watson, a friend of the Pilkey family, and Sue O'Neil, sister of the first Pilkey scholarship recipient, who annually attend the STAR celebration on Pilkey's behalf.

"It doesn't seem like it's been a year since I met the representatives for my scholarship, but I was already looking forward to seeing them again," Bell said. "I've been looking forward to this for a while – just catching up. It's awesome."

Bryce urged everyone to continue to find ways to support students in need. Ken Bahnsen, who created the Kenneth Bahnsen Scholarship and is former UNT student and professor, did just that.

"I went to school [at UNT] and I taught here for 48 years, but I kept teaching defensive driving for scholarship money," said Bahnsen. "That's how we got money built up for a scholarship so I could donate to help the student - to help girls like Omalola Adegoke, my scholarship recipient."

Speaking to the students who received scholarships, Bryce encouraged them to remember the generosity of their donors, and to supporting scholarships themselves one day.

"My hope is that at some point in your life you will pay this forward for others," she said. "That is, after all, the way we achieve the greatest hope for the future of this country and world – by providing a pathway to the highest education that any student wants to attain."

To make a gift to the College of Education, please visit www.unt.edu/givenow or contact Keturi Beatty at 940-891-6860 or Keturi.Beatty@unt.edu to learn more about giving opportunities.

COE faculty member part of multidisciplinary National Science Foundation grant

Information boxRossana Boyd, the principal lecturer and director of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Certification Programs in the College of Education, is one of five UNT faculty members who recently received grant funding to participate in an innovative project that will bring together the university's experts in biology, engineering and education.

The $833,722 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund research related to the "biosynthesis, regulation and engineering of C-lignin," a linear polymer found in plants that can be converted into a new carbon fiber.

The two UNT professors who discovered C-lignin in 2012, Richard Dixon and Fand Chen of the Department of Biological Sciences, received the three-year grant to work in collaboration with Boyd as well as Nandika D'Souza from the College of Engineering and Rajeev Azad from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

Boyd's role in the project is to integrate the concepts of this research with education, specifically the education of middle school English Language Learners (ELLs). In order to bring modern biology-related science to ELL classrooms, Boyd will implement a teacher summer internship program at UNT.

"This type of project is not happening anywhere in Texas," Boyd said. "There are a lot of research grants out there, but they are not necessarily turning research results into classroom practice. Research results are published, but not necessarily converted into lesson plans."

Three science teachers from North Texas school districts will take part in this internship program each summer. They will learn about new laboratory techniques, research results, meet researchers, and develop lesson plans in Spanish and in English for ELL students for later implementation in their classrooms.

Then, during the third summer, nine ELL students will be chosen to participate in a five-day summer camp at UNT during which they will learn about science as a career, laboratory basics, and plant sciences from the scientists working on the research project.

Boyd is seeking three motivated, bilingual, Hispanic middle school science teachers to participate in the internship project. They will each be paid $4,000 for attending the half-day sessions at UNT from June 7-30, 2016, and will receive $200 worth of laboratory materials for their classrooms.

In addition to participating in the multidisciplinary National Science Foundation research grant,  Boyd and fellow College of Education faculty member Karthigeyan Subramaniam recently received $206,000 for this year's implementation of Project NEXUS, a Title III National Professional Development five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Boyd and Subramaniam are co-principal investigators of this project.

Project NEXUS focuses on providing professional development for mathematics and science in-service teachers from Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD and pre-service teachers from UNT.  Its goal is to help reduce the achievement gap between secondary school English language learners and other students in the subjects of mathematics and science. Teachers learn about the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Model, English Language Proficiency Standards, and how to adapt content to match ELL students' varying levels of language proficiency.

"English Language Learners are struggling because of their lack of English language proficiency," Boyd said. "Without English language knowledge it is difficult for them to access the content knowledge. Therefore, teachers have to know how to provide a linguistic bridge to the content."

Project NEXUS' total funding is $985,000 for five years. The $206,000 is the fourth-year installment. Funds are being used to provide scholarships for students, books, stipends for pre-service teachers, substitute pay for in-service teachers, contract pay for consultants and more.