College News

Counselors receive research grant to study Native populations in New Mexico

By Raquel Talamantes

UNT College of Education Counseling faculty members Amanda Giordano, Elizabeth Prosek and Michael Schmit recently received a research grant from the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) to interview Native Americans and gain a better understanding of how they want their culture to be portrayed in diversity courses and how to best meet the mental health needs of this marginalized population. 

Giordano, a specialist in addictions counseling and co-facilitator of the counseling program’s Addictions Counseling Research Team (ACRT); Prosek, co-facilitator of ACRT and specialist in mental health outcomes; and Schmit, an assistant professor specializing in outcome research, aim to gather information from the Native Americans participating in the study that has not yet been presented in existing research literature..

“We hope to gain new knowledge and understanding of how Native men and women experience counseling, if at all; or how counselors could better serve them,” Prosek said.

The award will provide the opportunity to conduct a qualitative study to inform counselors on ways in which they can provide more culturally sensitive counseling services. Additionally, the interviews will highlight the participants’ opinions about how Native culture should be presented in graduate courses.  

“We will conduct a phenomenological study with Native people, both on and off reservations, in order to ascertain Native Americans’ perspectives of how counselors can best approach the mental health needs of Native clients,” said Giordano, who is leading the study. “Additionally, learning about the lived experiences of Native Americans’ access to higher education may help counselor educators recruit Native people into counselor-training programs. Specifically, we will conduct individual, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Native Americans on or near reservations in New Mexico.”

Giordano said she believes the most useful insight and direction in studies like this one comes directly from the population being studied, and she wants to give Native Americans a chance to share their voice as it relates to their own culture.

“Statistics continue to highlight mental health and substance abuse needs among this population” Giordano said. “Specifically, alcohol-related deaths are 520 percent higher among Native people than all races in the U.S., and death by suicide is 60 percent higher. Therefore, we believe it is crucial for counselor educators to gain a thorough understanding as to what Native people believe to be the proper treatment for these issues.”

Prosek adds that conducting phenomenological studies through a qualitative approach allows for the voices of the participants to be heard.

Giordano chose Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the study because of its large and diverse Native American population.

“There are 562 distinct Indian nations in the United States,” Giordano said. “It would be erroneous to group all Native people together without considering within-group differences. Therefore, our goal is to ascertain information from individuals from different tribes and Native cultural backgrounds.”

There are eight Native pueblos in northern New Mexico near Santa Fe: Nambe, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh, Tesuque, Santa Clara and Taos. The Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council Inc. (ENIPC Inc.) exists to provide tribal governors with a structure to collaborate and meet the needs of their communities, Giordano said.

“We feel that conducting interviews in northern New Mexico provides a unique opportunity to learn from individuals from many tribes,” she said.

Over the past five years, Giordano has dedicated time and effort to promote racial justice and to advocate for marginalized groups. Her initiative to combat oppression and to give voices to those in need led her to apply for the ACES grant and start this study.

“The idea of the grant project originated with Amanda,” Schmit said. “When she asked me to join the team, I felt honored and was excited to contribute my research knowledge to the magnitude of what this project represents — giving a voice to Native people.”

 

Pictured, left to right, Amanda Giordano, Elizabeth Prosek and Michael Schmit.

COE faculty member helps organize donation of infant sleepers in wake of hurricanes

Hundreds of families affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will soon be able to rest easier, thanks to a donation of 1,000 Pepi-Pod infant sleep spaces donated by New Zealand-based non-profit organization Change for Our Children and coordinated by UNT College of Education faculty member Wendy Middlemiss.  

Change for our Children Limited, a small social innovation company based in Christchurch, said the Pepi-Pods ensure a safe place to sleep for a baby whatever the disruption to family circumstances.  

“Babies are a particularly vulnerable group in times of natural disaster,” said Change for Our Children director Stephanie Cowan. “Hurricane Harvey has tipped thousands of Texan infants into increased risk of sudden infant death by disrupting living and sleeping conditions for their families. It is harder for parents to provide safe sleeping conditions for their babies when fearful, dependent and displaced.”

Middlemiss, an associate professor of Educational Psychology, has done extensive research on infant sleep safety, in the U.S and in New Zealand. She is working with Michael Garrett, CEO of Texas-based Trusted World, to organize the collection and distribution of the sleepers to families in need. They will be stored and distributed by Harvey Relief Hub, a volunteer-run initiative in Houston.

Each pod will be supplied with a mattress, two bottom sheets and a letter of goodwill from the people of New Zealand to the parents of Texas. A team at Baby First Limited in Christchurch is busy sewing for the project.

“Many people across New Zealand participated in an outpouring of support for Christchurch parents following the 2011 earthquakes, when we initiated a similar response,” said Cowan. “This is a New Zealand response. Hearts melt when it comes to babies. To survive the floods but be lost to a sleep accident is a tragedy we can help prevent in Texas.”

For more information, contact Middlemiss at 724-977-3067 or wendy.middlemiss@unt.edu.

 

Above, a baby sleeps in a Pepi-Pod.

North Texas teachers, students spend summer honing skills

While students were enjoying their break, more than 3,000 teachers used the summer months to improve their craft. Through the National Writing Project (NWP), teachers across the country, including hundreds in North Texas, worked face-to-face and in online communities to share and learn new ways to teach writing, engage colleagues and enhance their leadership.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the North Star of Texas Writing Project, led by UNT College of Education faculty member Carol Wickstrom, provided professional development for more than 200 teachers and writing camps for more than 500 students. In June, students attended weeklong writing camps to strengthen their writing performance on the state-mandated STAAR test. Using the project’s Finding True North Lesson Frameworks, campers were able to bolster their writing confidence.  

Throughout the summer, teachers attended a variety of events including Invitational Writing Institutes held in Denton, Gainesville, Keller and Waxahachie. Using a writing workshop approach, these teachers received 40 hours of professional development and a set of professional books. Other teachers attended workshops including a Human Rights Institute, Implementing Writing in the Secondary Classroom Workshop, an Advanced Writing Instruction Institute, and an Expository Writing Institute (sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) in Mesquite.

“Participating in these writing institutes and workshops supports teachers as they improve their classroom practices to meet their students’ needs,” Wickstrom said. “Their participation in this work helps them grow as educators and learners and provides a gateway into the larger network of teachers, administrators and leaders in NWP. The NWP network is one that continues to support the growth of its members.”

NWP programs serving all 50 states provided classroom teachers deep and broad content and innovative approaches, anchored in improving instruction for today's young people. From collaborative work on argument writing in the NWP College, Career and Community Writers Program (C3WP) to youth programs aimed at sparking student interest and authentic learning experiences, these experiences aimed to get teachers excited to return to classrooms and share what they learned.  

Teachers who attended these NWP programs joined a nationwide professional network of educators (young children through higher education) focused on high-quality, effective and sustained professional development to improve the teaching of writing and learning in classrooms across the country, said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP executive director.

"NWP teacher leaders work using our evidence-based programs to help their students become better writers and learners," she said. "They also develop their own skills and capacities to work with colleagues to improve education and the profession more broadly.”  

Advancing the national scale-up of NWP’s College, Career and Community Writers Program, 80 local Writing Project sites held Advanced Institutes to provide professional development in middle and high schools serving urban, rural and other high-need communities across the country. The goal of the program is to assure more teachers can support students’ growth in reading and writing skills, with a specific emphasis on writing arguments based on nonfiction texts. In one of the largest and most rigorous studies of teacher professional development, SRI International found that this work has a positive, statistically significant impact on student writing.

Beyond this initiative, the NWP network of local sites, teacher leaders and programs encompass multiple disciplines — English, math, science, art, civics, history — and spaces beyond the classroom: online communities, after-school programs, museums and libraries. Through these partnerships, Writing Project sites extend the reach of their work to dedicated educators developing next-generation curriculum and learning opportunities that support all young people as writers and creators.

"We know through research that programs designed and delivered by NWP sites have a positive effect on the writing achievement of students across grade levels, schools and contexts,” Eidman-Aadahl said. “Now is the time to continue to support this ongoing, high-quality professional development for teachers, principals and school leaders."

Helping Babies Rest Safely After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Thousands of families affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma will soon move into shelters, many with nothing but the few possessions they could salvage. Those with babies face an additional struggle: With no crib, where can parents put their babies to sleep safely?

Wendy Middlemiss, associate professor in the UNT College of Education’s Educational Psychology department, is collecting bassinettes to help these babies and their parents.

Your donation of less than $40 can provide a safe sleeping bassinette for an infant whose family was evacuated from an area impacted by the hurricanes.

“These bassinettes are the perfect size for little babies, and they are safe for co-sleeping if you want to keep your baby close,” says Middlemiss, who has done extensive research on infant sleep safety. “They’re also portable, so parents can move their babies as they sleep.”

Middlemiss hopes to collect 100 bassinettes, which will be delivered to the Dallas Area Shelter Warehouse and distributed to families in need. Your donation will help offset the cost of the sleepers and shipping, and help infants and families in crisis find some peace of mind.

Middlemiss has also helped to coordinate the delivery of 1,000 bassinettes donated from a company in New Zealand to help these babies – and their parents – get a good night’s rest. These Pepi-Pod sleepers were sewn by a team in New Zealand and are due to be delivered to Houston in late September.

Read more about Middlemiss’s infant sleep safety research.

COE faculty receive $313,000 grant to help improve academic performance in local ISDs

Three University of North Texas College of Education faculty members have received a $313,000 grant to help local school children improve academically and achieve mental wellness.

The grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health will support the work of Dee RayNatalya Lindo and Peggy Ceballos, all from UNT’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education. They received the grant to support their project, "Play for the Future: Linking Mental Health to Academic Achievement for Young Children." The three professors will be offering play therapy, parent and teacher education, consultation, and additional initiatives to five schools across Denton and Little Elm during the three years of the grant. 

“We are excited and eager to serve the children and families of Denton County through our partnership with local schools,” said Ray. “Our delivery of play therapy services to children, parents, and teachers in local public schools will be directed toward improving emotional wellness and academic achievement. And we are incredibly grateful to the Hogg Foundation who are committed to the mental health and progress of children.

The Play for the Future project is an initiative of the Center for Play Therapy at UNT, which uses play therapy services as the cornerstone for improving academic and emotional wellness of young children. Play therapy and its adult-related programs have recently been recognized as evidence-based interventions for general functioning, disruptive and internalizing disorders, anxiety, and family cohesion, Ray said. Play for the Future will target schools within the Denton and Little Elm Independent School districts classified by the state of Texas with 64-85 percent economically disadvantaged students and 55-72 percent of the school population as at-risk academically.

 

Pictured, Dee Ray.

UNT education honor society wins national awards

The University of North Texas chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), an international honor society in education, won three national awards for the 2016-17 school year. The chapter, co-counseled by College of Education faculty members Ricardo González and Jeanne Tunks, earned the 2016-2017 Gold Literacy Alive! award for the chapter’s project Variety is the Spice of Life; the 2016-2017 Achieving Chapter Excellence Award; and the 2016-2017 Distinguished Chapter Officer Award for the chapter’s president, Cynthia Molina.

The awards will be presented at the 51st Biennial Convocation in Pittsburgh Oct. 26-28. Additionally, several members of the Alpha Iota chapter will present their accepted sessions at the conference.

“We are very proud of the outstanding work of our officers and members as they strive to achieve KDP’s mission of advancing quality education by inspiring teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges,” González said.

Gonzalez said UNT’s KDP chapter has always been very involved with students and professionals in education. Last year, the chapter organized two regional workshops for pre- and in-service teachers, one focusing on leadership in the schools and the other on culturally relevant teaching and leading. The chapter also organized a literacy night at one of Denton’s elementary schools. The Literacy Alive! event targeted bilingual students through a series of fun activities and the donation of hundreds of books in English and Spanish, Gonzalez said. 

“The chapter is led by a group of very dedicated students who, in every occasion, show a passion for education. KDP is helping these future teachers not only become excellent educators, but also to be the caring leaders of our future schools,” he said. “KDP, through its awards, recognizes the desire to shine and become the type of educators that our diverse student body population needs.”

Stephanie Camacho, UNT KDP vice president, said the College of Education paved the way for the group’s members to succeed.

“UNT serves its students with quality education, and the college gives us a foundation in which we can grow both as individuals and as professionals,” she said. “These awards are a mere representation of hard work, quality and passion, all of which the COE has taught us to embody.”  

Current officers include Molina, Camacho, Azurell Thomas (secretary), Maria Beaudoin (historian), Lucas Horton (treasurer), Alexandra Schrunk (membership), Tressa Roberts (foundations) and Andreia Jackson (graduate student liaison).

KDP is open to undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty by invitation only. The UNT chapter won the bi-annual ACE award in 2015, 2013, 2011 and 2009. In 2016, the chapter earned an outstanding officer award, program award and silver for Literacy Alive!. The chapter also earned outstanding officer awards in 2014 and ’15 and earned the Program of the Year Award in spring 2017 for facilitating the regional workshop titled Culturally Relevant Teaching and Leading.

For more information, visit www.coe.unt.edu/kappa-delta-pi.

 

Above, KDP officers with advisors Ricardo González and Jeanne Tunks.

Project NEXUS offers professional development for current and future teachers

This fall, the UNT College of Education will offer pre-service teachers a workshop and review sessions that will help them better connect with English learners in Texas schools. The professional development opportunities are part of the Department of Teacher Education and Administration’s Project NEXUS, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education for the past five and a half years. 

Project NEXUS is a unique collaborative partnership between UNT, five schools from Denton ISD, five schools from Lewisville ISD, and the Texas Education Agency’s Region 10 Education Service Center.  Through this partnership, the project has been able to provide high-quality professional development for 200 in-service teachers, 15 UNT teacher education faculty members and 150 UNT pre-service teachers, said Rossana Boyd, director of the project and COE principal lecturer. 

The professional development has focused on how teachers can enhance their knowledge and skills to teach mathematics and science to English learners (ELs) in grades four through 12. English learners have difficulty accessing subject area content because they are learning English as their second language (ESL) at the same time, Boyd said.

In addition to giving current teachers and professors critical professional development, Project NEXUS workshops also help UNT students who are planning to become educators prepare for the Texas educator certification testing (TExES).

“Dozens of pre-service teachers have benefitted from attendance to TExES ESL and Bilingual Supplemental Test review sessions offered by the project in partnership with Region 10 ESC consultants Cynthia Jaird and Enrique Jolay,” said Daniela Balderas, Project NEXUS coordinator.

Project NEXUS has awarded $111,579.65 in scholarships for tuition and fees for courses related to teaching English learners to 55 mathematics, science or English as a Second Language pre-service teachers. This fall, 14 additional teachers will receive a scholarship award for $2,092 each, Boyd said.

Also, four in-service teachers from Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD have received scholarships through the project to pursue the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree with a focus on ESL education at UNT. Three of these teachers will graduate in December.

Professional development sessions for pre-service teachers are set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, in UNT’s Wooten Hall. To register, students may contact Daniela Balderas at Daniela.Balderas@unt.edu or 940-565-2933.

 

Above, UNT mathematics and science pre-service teachers participated in a professional development workshop on educating English learners sponsored by Project NEXUS in August 2017.

KHPR grad student earns national scholarship

James Boyett, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation's Applied Physiology Lab, has been named a recipient of the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Challenge Scholarship for 2017. Boyett was selected by the NSCA Foundation Scholarship Committee after a thorough evaluation process of all applicants. This program awards $1,500 to NSCA members seeking either an undergraduate or graduate degree in a strength and conditioning-related field.

Boyett is currently working on his doctorate under the mentorship of KHPR Associate Professor and lab director Jakob Vingren. His research interested include the hormonal response to resistance exercise and subsequent hormonal regulation of skeletal muscle adaptations, as well as gender differences within these responses.

"Congratulations to James for this well-deserved honor," said Brian Schilling, NSCA Foundation Board president. "He is an outstanding student with an extremely bright future. We are proud to support James in his studies to be a future leader of the strength and conditioning industry.”

 

The National Strength and Conditioning Association Foundation (NSCAF) was founded in 2007 with the aim of supporting the advancement of strength and conditioning practical applications. The NSCA Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to providing funding to NSCA members taking part in educational and research endeavors.

Since its establishment, the NSCA Foundation has awarded 120 grants and 440 scholarships, totaling over $2 million to outstanding individuals within the strength and conditioning community. The NSCA Foundation is one of the few foundations that fund work at the master’s level and across all levels up to senior investigators, as well as one of the few sources that funds work in the strength and conditioning fields. A major goal of the foundation is to continue to maximize assets in order to increase grants and scholarships for NSCA members.

 

UNT bilingual education scholarship program helps reduce shortage of bilingual teachers

According to the Texas Education Agency, the state continues to face a critical shortage of bilingual education teachers, and the enrollment of English learners in Texas public schools continues to increase each year. The UNT College of Education’s Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Programs are working to fill the state’s needs, with some help from Texas Rep. Roberto Rivera Alonzo.

Alonzo, who represents Dallas District 104, continued his advocacy efforts for bilingual education and teachers this legislative session. Thanks to his efforts, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board awarded UNT $107,142 this academic year to distribute among eligible students seeking certification in bilingual education. 

Most students will receive awards of $5,400 each.

To qualify, applicants have to be admitted to the teacher preparation program, meet a minimum 3.0 grade point average, have financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have passing scores of the practice or actual Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test.

“Providing financial assistance to 23 eligible bilingual teachers this year will help ensure that they complete the program, be prepared to serve English learners and their families and help narrow the supply/demand gap in our North Texas region,” said Rossana Boyd, director and principal lecturer of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Programs at UNT.

Grant to help UNT provide support for families dealing with autism

Thanks to a $489,000 grant, the University of North TexasKristin Farmer Autism Center (KFAC) will continue to provide support to families across the state who have a child with autism spectrum disorder.

The grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Autism Grant Program will enable the center and the Texas Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters to continue its partnership for the next two years.

“The new grant will allow UNT’s KFAC and the Texas HIPPY collaborative program to reach even more families around the State of Texas, especially in areas where autism support services are challenging to find,” said Kevin Callahan, executive director at KFAC. “The A+HIPPY curriculum will ensure that all the children enrolled in the program are better prepared to maximize their success in public schools.”

The collaboration, which is currently serving 82 families around the state, is aimed at children 3 to 5 years old and their parents and can serve up to 100 families. The Kristin Farmer Autism Center is providing training to Texas HIPPY staff, who then conduct weekly home visiting services.

The program aims to improve the family’s knowledge of autism spectrum disorder, teach basic skills associated with evidence-based autism interventions, increase key developmental and school readiness skills and reduce parental stress.

To find out where the programs are available, visit http://locations.texashippy.org/.

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