Morgridge College of Education graduate Dr. Jennie Mizrahi (EdD ’18) has been awarded the John Laska Dissertation Award in Curriculum from the American Association of Teaching and Curriculum (AATC). According to the AATC, each year it recognizes two outstanding dissertations in teaching and curriculum that best represent its mission and founder, Dr. John Laska. Laska earned his doctoral degree from Teachers College and was a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin from 1967 until his death in 1995.

Mizrahi’s award-winning dissertation, Underachievement of Creatively Gifted High School Students, tackles why under achievement is a common issue with gifted students, specifically creatively gifted students who may be at greater risk because of personality traits, lack of challenge in strength areas, a mismatch between school environment and student needs, low status associated with creative achievements and behaviors in the school system, and other factors.

“I am humbled by the honor,” Mizrahi said, “and hope that this will give me an opportunity to help raise awareness of the issues faced by creative underachievers so that we as educators may better meet their needs.”

Her research focused on “…six creatively gifted, underachieving high school students from an urban-cluster area in the western United States. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was used to gather data in the form of interviews with underachieving, creatively gifted students, their parents, and teachers; observation of classrooms; and creative artifacts to uncover the essence of the experience of underachievement for these stakeholders. These data groups were then compared to each other and existing literature to help generate recommendations for changes in school programming and practice for helping this student population.”

According to Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Denver and Mizrahi’s academic advisor, Mizrahi’s conclusions “focus and elaborate on the themes of emotionality, learning versus achievement, shaping the student self, motivation and power, and student creativity in crises.”

Mizrahi’s results saw creative high school students, their parents, and their teachers experience underachievement in many ways. According to her, several major themes emerged; the first was the interaction of creativity and underachievement, which included differences in priorities and contradictory goals for various participants in various contexts. The second was motivation. Participants tended to discount or undervalue intrinsic motivation for creative tasks and experienced lack of motivation for school tasks (often seen as “hoop jumping”) as a character flaw on the part of the student, who was often viewed as having a poor work ethic. Participants had little understanding and no tools for increasing motivation. The third theme was the student self. All three sets of participants had similar perceptions of the student self, but the conflict between student needs and student perceived self, and the values and expectations at school and at home placed students sense of self under threat. The fourth theme was power. While a sense of student autonomy is key for creativity and academic success, when students underachieved, parents and teachers tended to exert types of power which undermined student autonomy, sometimes triggering reactance (rebellion against the attempted power influence) in an attempt to protect student autonomy and sense of self.

Mizrahi recommended separate support groups be formed for parents and students, a review of grading policy and goals at the school site, and the formation of a gifted and talented program at the site to help advocate for students and train teachers in differentiated curriculum and the needs of gifted students. The gifted and talented program would also provide extension and exploration opportunities for students.

“Dr. Mizrahi was an exceptional graduate student, a leader in her cohort and a meticulous and thorough researcher,” Hafenstein added. “Simultaneously, her passion for the arts and for a special population of gifted students created the context in which this extraordinary project occurred.”

Part of her award includes a one-year membership to AATC, a conference fee waiver to the annual AATC meeting where the award will be presented, and an invitation to present the dissertation at an AATC conference session. Mizrahi will accept her award and present in person at the 25th AATC annual meeting in Dallas, Texas in October 2018.

University of Denver Morgridge College of Education curriculum and instruction alumni and adjunct professor, Dr. Floyd Cobb was the February featured author for the Office of Development and Inclusion book chat. Cobb’s recent publication, Leading While Black, is a reflection of his experiences as an educator and inspired by his relationship with his father-in-law, the late Colorado State Rep. John Buckner, who had also been principal of Overland High School. Using the era of the Obama presidency as the backdrop for this work, Cobb illuminates the challenges and complexities of advocating for marginalized children who come from a shared racial heritage in a society that far too often are reluctant to accept such efforts.

In addition to teaching at Morgridge, Cobb is the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Unit for the Colorado Department of Education. His background as an educator gives him a solid foundation to support current leaders in education.

On Tuesday, November 7, Morgridge College of Education alumna Dr. Carrie Olson (PhD, ’16) was elected to represent district 3 on the school board for Denver Public Schools. Olson beat out incumbent Mike Johnson 52% to 48%. Olson graduated from Morgridge in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

There has been a substantial increase in the discussion of rural education in America. This conversation is particularly critical in states, like Colorado, where 80% of the state’s school districts are classified as rural. Add to that the diverse gifted student population, including those eligible for free and reduced lunches in these in these remote areas, and it’s easy to see why a major federal grant was awarded to identify and serve this underrepresented group.

R4R Researchers

University of Denver MCE researchers and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) are moving into the third year of a $1.4 million Jacob K. Javits federally funded research project. Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair for Gifted Education, is a co-principal investigator along with Jacquelin Medina, Gifted Director of the Colorado Department of Education. Dr. Kristina Hesbol, assistant professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS), serves as Leadership Director. Year three research support of $80,000 is examining influences in identification of underserved gifted populations.

The project is called Right 4 Rural (R4R) and has been examining the diversity of rural contexts that encompass the vast disparities of economy between thriving ranches and desolate range, or rich productive farms and barren lands. Rural areas in the state of Colorado, in particular, have a significant percentage of students who are English language learners, Hispanic, Native American, and/or live in a climate of poverty situations.

The data collection process has included in-person and online surveys, face-to-face workshops and online webinar sessions with key participants from rural school districts across the state. Although the data collection and analysis is still ongoing, persistent problems of practice are emerging. They include the 1) Ability to identify GT students accurately and consistently, 2) Ability to increase school-wide awareness and knowledge of GT programs/process, and 3) Ability to provide consistent supports, follow-up services, and communication.

Researchers anticipate that results of the R4R project will yield increased rigor in the classroom, increase student achievement as it relates to higher level thinking, and increased identification of gifted potential in these underrepresented populations.

MCE doctoral students participating in this research project include Justine Lopez, Curriculum and Instruction, Rachel Taylor, Research Methods and Statistics, and Fayaz Amiri, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

The Right4Rural project reflects the University of Denver’s and Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) long history of commitment to gifted education through service to gifted children, training of teachers to serve children’s needs, and support of doctoral research around giftedness.

The Right4Rural research team will be presenting at the Wallace Symposium of the Belin and Blank Center at Johns Hopkins in April 2018.

Curriculum and Instruction program alumna Dr. Barri Tinkler (PhD ‘04) has been awarded the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Child and Youth Mental Health.  Tinkler will be at the University of Calgary (UCalgary) in Spring 2018 conducting research with the Werklund School of Education, examining the community engaged work they do to support refugee integration. Tinkler’s research on the work of the Werklund faculty will provide a model to inform the field of teacher education for all countries that undertake refugee resettlement.

While at Morgridge, Tinkler worked to merge her interests in community-based work with a meaningful research agenda. Dr. Tinkler is especially interested in social justice issues, something that attracted her to apply for a Fulbright especially at UCalgary. “I am excited to be able to learn from the faculty at UCalgary, especially Dr. Darren Lund,” said Tinkler. “Dr. Lund has made it a common goal across campus to focus on supportive integration, and the entire university’s strong commitment to social justice frames its choices.”

Dr. Tinkler is currently an Associate Professor in Secondary Education and Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity at the University of Vermont (UVM). She serves as faculty in the Secondary Education program and the Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity minor. Her previous research focused on the impact of service-learning experiences on preservice teachers when working with marginalized populations of learners.

More recently, her research focuses on the impact of service-learning experiences with refugees with an eye toward fostering cultural humility. In 2015, Tinkler instituted a “Citizenship and Education in the United States” class to help adult refugees from Russia, Bhutan, Uganda, Nepal, South Sudan, Vietnam, and other countries prepare for the U.S. citizenship test. Part of the class is a service-learning component, which Tinkler added to her curriculum as a way of giving life to the course content.

“It’s a way of connecting the policy to the person and put a face on the individuals that it affects,” said Tinkler. “I also want students to understand how resilient the refugee population is by hearing about it first-hand.”

The Fulbright award will allow Tinkler to collaborate with UCalgary, a public research university, and create curriculum to further support her passion of refugee integration, something she has incorporated into her entire career.

Tinkler has teaching experience at the K-12 level as a Peace Corps volunteer in Papua New Guinea and as a social studies teacher at Stillwater Junior High School. Her recent Fulbright is one more step on her life-long commitment to social justice and cross-cultural understanding.

Curriculum and Instruction students, Elizabeth Carey and Desiree Seide, were selected for the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s (CDHE) inaugural Aspiring Educator Honor Roll and were acknowledged at the state capitol on Monday, May 8.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation week, the ceremony recognized two outstanding students from Colorado’s 22 educator preparation programs. CDHE Executive Director Dr. Kim Hunter Reed gave remarks in the West Lobby of the capitol.

“This ceremony recognizes the tremendous impact our future educators will have on their students and the state of Colorado broadly,” said Dr. Reed. “Educators are training the next generation of artists, engineers, scientists and health professionals that will power our economy and enliven our communities. They truly make all other professions possible. We want all teachers and administrators—and especially our young educators—to know Coloradans support and appreciate their invaluable work.”

Elizabeth Carey

Elizabeth Carey, Curriculum and Instruction graduate student, was born and raised in Chicago, IL and received her undergraduate degree in psychology from University of Denver in 2016. Carey has excelled academically in the Teacher Education Program, where she worked to build professional and caring relationships with both her mentor teacher and her students at Cory Elementary. As an apprentice teacher in Denver Public Schools, Carey has demonstrated commitment to honoring her students’ diversity and unique needs. She maintains a high degree of professionalism and strives to craft differentiated lessons for her students that meet and exceed the Colorado Academic Standards.

Desiree Seidel

Desiree Seidel, Curriculum and Instruction/Teacher Education Program graduate student, is a passionate and gifted educator who knows how to create a classroom that is engaging, challenging, and responsive to the individual learning needs of her students. She combines her beliefs on teaching, pedagogical techniques, rapport with students, content knowledge expertise, and professionalism into a highly effective classroom teaching style. Her teaching is guided by the belief that all students can learn and it is her responsibility to find the right balance between teacher learning-objectives and student learning-abilities. Seidel graduated Cum Laude from the University of Denver with a bachelor of arts degree in English with a concentration in education and minors in Spanish and psychology.

First-year Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology MA students, Helen Chao and Courtney Hadjeasgari, were selected as 2017-2018 STAY Fellows, and will receive up to $6000 each to support their training as mental health professionals and practitioners. The fellowship also provides a one-year membership to APA and the opportunity to participate in specialized training at next year’s Psychology Summer Institute in Washington D.C. in July 2018.

The APA STAY (Services for Transition Age Youth) Fellowship is an award program funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and offered through the Minority Fellowship Program to only the most deserving students in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age (16-25) youth.

Courtney Hadjeasgari

Courtney Hadjeasgari

Chao and Hadjeasgari are recognized as exceptional students who have strong interests in social justice and helping others through direct service.

At a young age, Chao witnessed firsthand how mental illness affected people’s lives, and decided that she needed to equip herself with skills and knowledge to help those around her who were suffering. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 2015, which furthered her interest in the field.

Hadjeasgari found her passion for counseling psychology during her two years of service as a Teach for America corps member. Teaching third grade in rural North Carolina, Hadjeasgari was able to understand the systemic problems that needed solving in the education system, while making a profound and immediate impact on the lives of students, families, and communities. “I witnessed the high need for clinicians in behavioral health and discovered my true passion for working with the ethnic minority youth population here. I knew that going into counseling psychology is where I needed to be,”  Hadjeasgari said.

Chao was first attracted to the University of Denver and MCE when she moved to Denver to provide direct service as a Young
Adult Volunteer
where she worked with a refugee resettlement agency, and at a day shelter for seniors without homes. That

Helen Chao

Helen Chao

experience solidified her commitment to social justice, and she found that MCE and DU provided her the best opportunity to continue to work toward social justice, and that the university’s creed of Inclusive Excellence rang true. During her initial admission interview Hadjeasgari appreciated how welcomed she felt by the Counseling Psychology faculty, and her research interests strongly aligned with many of those faculty members.

Both students have already contributed greatly to the program and department. Chao has been integral in the creation of the Counseling Psychology Social Justice Committee (more information on their contributions here), and co-leads Campus Conversations, which provides students and community members across disciplines a chance to interact and discuss issues of social justice and inequity. Hadjeasgari has been an active member of Dr. Pat Garriott’s research team, and has made many valuable contributions to the team’s research.

When asked if they have any advice for prospective students seeking a graduate program in Counseling Psychology, Chao says that it’s important to find a program that “walks the walk” when it comes to social justice and diversity.

“It’s important to find a program that nurtures and welcomes students and encourages student engagement,” Hadjeasgari. “Prospective students should go with a program that they feel a strong connection to, and that feels right. Speaking in-depth with as many professors as you can is important, since these are the educators you’re going to be learning from, and they will be leading you through your graduate work . . . The people you meet in graduate school are the ones who help you achieve your goals, present you with opportunity, and guide you along the way.”

The Counseling Psychology program, Morgridge College of Education, and the University of Denver congratulates Chao and Hadjeasgari for their dedication to social justice and mental health as recognized by this prestigious award.

Kate Newburgh, a Ph.D. student in the Morgridge College of Education Curriculum and Instruction Program, is working with Eagle Valley Schools to design and implement curricula that reflect the skills needed in today’s world. Newburgh, who joined Eagle Valley Schools earlier this year, supports the district’s middle and high school English and Language Arts departments. Her curriculum development incorporates “performance tasks” supplementing traditional content to develop “global-ready skills,” a concept created by Harvard University professor Tony Wagner.

The performance tasks prompt students to create projects that have a real-life impact in their communities; elementary-school students are working to research and install “buddy benches” on their playground to address bullying. Additionally, a ninth-grade class creates podcasts to tell the story of a local hero. Projects still in the works include one seventh-grade class working on a lesson in identifying and examining stereotypes by studying slam poetry and writing their own, with the intent of sharing their work with the community.

Eagle Valley Schools will measure student engagement in the performance-oriented curriculum to continually assess how to improve and expand upon a system designed to prepare students for a modern, global, and connected society. Her work in the district is particularly important in regards to people development because of the need to support the region’s growing immigrant and refugee population in an area that is isolated from the rest of the state.

Curriculum and Instruction alumna Juli Kramer, Ph.D. (‘10), has begun working with the Multicultural Division of the Soong Ching Ling School (SLCS) in Shanghai, China, where she will serve as the Director of Curriculum for grades 6-8 and develop curricula for the new high school, which will open in 2017. Her role supports the middle school as it strives for higher levels of academic excellence and care, and works to facilitate consistency in teacher flow. Furthermore, the high school will allow students to continue their education in the multicultural environment.

SCLS opened in 2008, and devotes its mission to “providing children the opportunity to explore and gain valuable opportunities and experiences in education and life.” The school incorporates Western educational principles into the curriculum, and has an International Division for students from outside of China and a Multicultural Division for Shanghai residents. The school utilizes care theory, or creating a learning environment that adapts to needs and interests. Working at SCLS appealed to Dr. Kramer because she identifies with the mission and its commitment to providing an environment of care.

Dr. Kramer has worked in a wide range of roles supporting curriculum design and implementation. Her most recent positions include supporting the design and implementation of an online educational resource for teachers at the Denver Art Museum; developing a citizen awareness program to give individuals ownership over their security at The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab; and founding the high-achieving Denver Academy of Torah’s high school, raising it to academic excellence at a national level. Dr. Kramer attributes her professional achievements in part to a strong working relationship with “tremendous mentor” and Morgridge College of Education faculty member Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.

Choose2Matter (C2M) is a national movement created by Angela Maiers to inspire K-12 students to take ownership over their educational experience. Courtney Collins—a Curriculum and Instruction (CI) student—is working with Maiers to further promote C2M and establish a partnership between the movement and the University of Denver. Collins met Maiers in the fall of 2015 and invited her to speak at the students’ Practice of Teaching course taught by Clinical Professor Paul Michalec, PhD.

The goal of C2M is to empower students—by themselves, their peers, and their teachers—to practice passion-based learning, including exploring “heartbreaks”— issues that affect students on a local, national, or international level — and to identify their genius, or unique strengths, as individual learners and contributors to the classroom. Schools participate in the movement by hosting C2M workshops.

Collins describes C2M’s approach to identifying “heartbreaks” and connecting them with passion projects as “taking problem solving to the next level” by motivating students to identify and explore issues in order to create solutions. At a recent workshop that Collins attended in Saskatchewan, Canada, students from the third grade through high school collaborated on exploring and identifying solutions for a range of heartbreaks, including mental health, loss of family members, bullying, and feelings of invisibility.

Collins said the premise of the movement “hits a fundamental nerve”, a sentiment shared by Morgridge College of Education students Tess Golding, Alicia Saxe, and Sarah Wilkins, who became interested in C2M after hearing Maiers’ presentation. Saxe and Wilkins support C2M through advocacy and workshop facilitation while Golding is starting a position as C2M’s website and social media intern. All of the students are pursuing involvement with C2M outside of course and program requirements because they consider the mission of the movement critical to their career plans and aspirations as future educators.

iwishmyteacherknew

#iwishmyteacherknew

#iwishmyteacherknew (I Wish My Teacher Knew) has become a nationally trending hashtag on twitter and other social media platforms. Kyle Schwartz (@kylemschwartz), a graduate of the Morgridge College of Education’s Denver Teacher Residency program, and third grade teacher, started the Twitter sensation. What began as a simple assignment where students were asked to finish the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…” has garnered the attention of both educators and the national media.

Schwartz’s students at Doull Elementary in Denver wrote such insightful and heartbreaking responses to her question that she began sharing some of them on Twitter. Since the initial posts the hashtag has gone viral and enormous support has been pouring into Denver area schools. The phenomenon has been featured on ABC NewsThe Today ShowThe Washington Post, and many other major media outlets.

There are a number of ways you can help support Denver area schools. Please check out Schwartz’s DonorsChoose.org page, below. You can also visit Denver area Goodwill locations and drop off books for 7News’ Books for Kids initiative.


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