College News

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


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 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

UNT offers local teachers summer science institute

The Univesity of North Texas recently gave three local teachers the opportunity to go back to school.

Syed Hussain Rizvi, far left, and doctoral candidate Kayode Oluwabunmi, center, both from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, give teachers participating in the Summer Science Institute ─ Mary Batalla, second from left, Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros, third from left, and Ladys Contreras, far right ─ a tour of the facilities in the College of Engineering at Discovery Park. 

The university hosted the teachers last month during the Summer Science Institute with the aim of helping them develop lesson plans in English and Spanish.

“The goal of the Summer Institute is for teachers to inspire their Hispanic students to engage more in the field of science especially given the shortage of Hispanic scientists in the U.S.,” said Ana Figueras, a graduate assistant in the Office of Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education in the UNT College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

This is the second year of the three-year interdisciplinary project funded by the National Science Foundation. In the final year next summer, the teachers who participated the first two years will be invited to spend a week on campus with some of their English learners for a summer science academy, said Rossana Boyd, a co-principal investigator of the project.

This year’s teachers, Ladys Contreras and Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros from Fort Worth ISD and Mary Batalla from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, learned about new research in the area of C-Lignin from doctoral fellows from  the BioDiscovery Institute in the College of Science and from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering in the College of Engineering.

“The Science Teachers’ Summer Institute provides the participating teachers a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about current research that is helping to shape our world,” said Richard Dixon, director of the BioDiscovery Institute and distinguished research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“This enables them to better engage with their students about how science impacts people’s lives, and to develop lesson plans that open the students’ eyes to possibilities beyond simply learning the science curriculum,” he said. “Conversely, the experience of working with top class teachers has provided my postdocs and graduate students valuable lessons in the importance of communicating their science to the next generation.”

UNT lecture to shed light on raising athletes

Parents contemplating how to take their child from Little League to the big leagues won’t want to miss the University of North Texas’s July 13 (Thursday) open house and lecture titled “How to Raise an Athlete Successfully.”

The lecture will feature Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical and Scientific Commission and scientific director of the International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS). It will be followed by a Q&A focusing on Pitsiladis’ work as director of the Sub2Hour Marathon Project.

The open house, organized by the UNT Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation, will begin at 5 p.m. at UNT New College in Frisco. Pitsiladis’ lecture will begin at 6:30.

Pitsiladis is the founding member of the Sub2 Marathon project, the first international research initiative bringing together scientists, athletes and industry partners to promote elite marathon performance. The group aims to break the two-hour marathon barrier – helping an athlete finish a marathon in less than two hours – using a dedicated scientific approach.

The open house will showcase UNT KHPR’s research and degree programs and UNT’s collaborations with professional sports organizations worldwide, including the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Griffins rugby team. The event is the culmination of a site visit from FIMS, which Pitsiladis is helping to conduct. The site visit is the final step before UNT’s Applied Physiology Lab is designated the first Collaborating Center of Sports Medicine in North America, part of FIMS’ global network.

Both the open house and lecture are free and open to the public, and no preregistration is required. For more information, call 972-668-8118 or email

COE alumna set to open Denton’s first children’s museum

Pictured: COE alumna Anyah Martinez at the Explorium Denton Children's Museum location.

Anyah Martinez (‘99 BA; ’04 M.S.) needed a project. It was 2012. With her twins about to enter kindergarten and her youngest child gaining independence, she was looking for something that would engage her mind and draw on the skills and training she learned in the UNT College of Education’s Human Development and Family Science program.

The idea came to her during a morning run: Denton needs a children’s museum. And while she doesn’t have museum or nonprofit experience, Martinez said her training in the Development and Family Studies master’s program through the UNT College of Education (she also has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UNT), combined with her experience as a very hands-on mom and her dedicated board of volunteers, have given her a leg up on making her dream a reality.

“In the beginning, I had the educational background but not a lot of experiential background, except raising my own kids in this fantastic community that had a void we didn’t realize was there,” she said. “Over the last five years I’ve visited children’s museums all across Texas and other states, building ideas of what will work here in Denton.”

The project first started to take shape with hands-on projects for children at the Denton Community Market and programming in Denton schools, preschools and daycares, which Martinez managed with the help of volunteers. Now, after years of fundraising and building support for the project, the Explorium Denton Children’s Museum has secured a physical location – in Stonehill Center off I-35 in north Denton – that Martinez hopes will be open in late 2017 or early 2018.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community so far. Denton is growing at a phenomenal rate, and the number of families coming in is staggering,” she said. “We want to create a welcoming atmosphere not only for those young families, but also for older kids, grandparents and visitors to our community.”

Since signing the lease on the Explorium’s space, Martinez has hit the ground running, hiring the design firm Roto, which specializes in children’s museums, to advise her on best use of the space, exhibit ideas and more. Martinez plans to then hand those ideas over to a local architect to bring them to life.

“We want the museum to be experiential – a really wonderful place for children and families to learn and play together,” she said.

Before the museum opens, Martinez hopes to gain support from fellow COE graduates and Denton residents who want to volunteer their time and expertise.

“Right now we have a small volunteer board, but we’re looking for new people who can offer input and feedback and who have a vested interest in family engagement, parent involvement and education,” she said. “Volunteering with the museum board would be perfect for young alums who need experience working with a nonprofit or a family interested in getting involved with a community project.”

Donate at ExploriumDenton.orgMartinez said parent and grandparent engagement with children’s learning is something she especially values, after learning about its benefits during her graduate studies. Professors like Arminta Lee Jacobson, Rebecca Glover, Barb O’Donnell and more taught her the fundamentals of parent education – lessons she has used in raising her own family and will now put into practice at the museum.

“I want this to be a place where any parent can either be hands off or really engage,” she said. “I say, Let kids explore on their own if that’s the way they learn. But if you are a parent who wants to get involved and work with their kids, we welcome that too!”



Counseling doctoral student named Tillman Scholar

Elizabeth BurginElizabeth Burgin, a doctoral student in the UNT College of Education's counseling program, has been named a 2017 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation.

In recognition of their service, leadership and potential, the newly selected class of scholars will receive more than $1.1 million in scholarships to pursue their higher education goals.

Burgin said she is inspired by the Army communities she and her husband, Army Capt. Russ Burgin, have called home. She is committed to honoring the service and sacrifice of those in uniform and their families. After several deployments in Afghanistan, Capt. Burgin is now an ROTC instructor at UNT.

“I want to be an advocate for wellness and mental health for service members and their families,” said Burgin.

As a doctoral student, Burgin is focusing her writing and research efforts to develop counselor-specific competencies for military health care and military-focused adaptations to evidence-based treatments, with a focus on play therapy.

“As the next generation of private and public sector leaders, the Tillman Scholars are tackling challenges across national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights and education,” said Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“They believe their best years of service to our country are still ahead of them, and they are committed to making a direct impact to strengthen communities at home and around the world,” she said. “We are proud to support this newest class of Tillman Scholars in their drive to serve and empower others as our country’s next leaders.”


About the Pat Tillman Foundation
In 2002, Pat Tillman proudly put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country. Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Pat’s death in April 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Created to honor Pat’s legacy of leadership and service, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships–building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation and the impact of the Tillman Scholars, visit


COE teaching fellow receives award from State Bar of Texas

FeltsMark Felts, a graduate assistant and teaching fellow in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, will receive the Honorary Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence from the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department.

Felts is in the last year of his doctoral studies and will graduate in spring 2018. He is a Teacher Education and Administration student majoring in curriculum and instruction. The award from the State Bar of Texas was made in recognition of Felts’ passion for becoming a future educator in law-related concepts and civic responsibility.

In 2016, Felts was chosen as a 2016-17 recipient for The Doris and Forrest Herold Scholarship, The College of Education Scholarship and The Furr Endowed Scholarship. Felts is a member of the Doctoral Student Association within the College of Education as well as a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education.