Faculty and staff honored at College of Education awards ceremony

April 16, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State College of Education faculty, staff and students who have made compelling and momentous contributions to their chosen fields or majors over the past year were honored April 15 at the college’s virtual spring appreciation and awards ceremony.

Winners were selected through nomination letters inspired by their exceptional commitment to their jobs.

Cotterill Leadership Enhancement Award

The Cotterill Leadership Enhancement Award, for example, highlights those qualities, and this year Julia Bryan and Royel Johnson were co-winners.

The award was made possible by Joan and David Cotterill to recognize faculty or staff for exemplary performances and leadership efforts. The award includes resources for professionally related activities, including participation in conferences, seminars and sabbaticals.

Bryan, the current chair of the Faculty Council, has shown exemplary leadership in faculty governance over the past year, especially considering the need for communication and collaboration among faculty through the pandemic. She works consistently to improve in teaching, research and service, seeking out professional development opportunities in all three areas. She also has been honored by the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision and American Counseling Association, among others.

Johnson’s dedication to equity-minded leadership and anti-racist student-success practices takes the form not only of teaching and grant-funded research, but also outreach, as he has become a sought-after speaker at other campuses and organizations. 

His work on equity and belongingness extends to communities and populations impacted by the prison system, as well as foster care youth who otherwise would have no advocate for their right to a just and inviting learning opportunity. He has been in the College of Education since 2017.

The leadership from Bryan and Johnson have shown also has led their peers to include them in the group elected to serve on the college’s inaugural BIPOC Council. The work they will be doing as part of this new council is critical to the work of the college to progress in its mission to become an anti-racist College of Education.

Outstanding Teaching Award

This award recognizes faculty members who demonstrate exemplary teaching performance in the classroom, show respect to all students as individuals, and create an environment conducive to learning. This year’s award goes to Rachel Wolkenhauer, assistant professor of education in Curriculum and Instruction.

Erin Morgart, the Professional Development School coordinator in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said she has spent time learning from and teaching alongside Wolkenhauer and because of that has grown and evolved as an educator.

“I can wholeheartedly say that Dr. Wolkenhauer’s passion, commitment and pedagogy have shaped me into the teacher educator I am today,” Morgart said. “She deserves to be recognized for her outstanding teaching not only for the impact she has on her students, but also for the influence she has on other teacher educators.”

Outstanding Senior Faculty Researcher Award

The Outstanding Senior Faculty Researcher Award, which recognizes the overall impact of one’s research and is typically given to a faculty member who has achieved national and international recognition, this year goes to Gail Boldt and Soo-yong Byun.

Boldt is professor of language and literacy education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Over the course of her career, she evolved and expanded her research. She defines herself as a curriculum theorist with interests in literacies, elementary and early childhood education; identity and post-identity; childhood studies; cultural studies; and disability studies. 

For the past 10 years, Gail has led a reading group with faculty and graduate students from across the University Park campus.

Allison Henward, associate professor of early childhood education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said Boldt over her 30-year career “continually produced groundbreaking scholarship that has propelled researchers and practitioners alike to reconsider and rethink universalized notions of gender, child development, appropriate teaching practices and the ways in which literacy is performed and enacted in context.”

Byun, associate professor of educational theory and policy, currently serves as the professor-in-charge of Penn State's Comparative and International Education Program. He is affiliated with the Center on Rural Education and Communities as a research associate, with the Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy Analysis as a senior researcher, and with the Population Research Institute as a research affiliate.

“Byun uses cutting-edge statistical analyses to better understand the factors leading to student success in school. His research aims to discern how schools operate differently around the world, and to gain fundamental insights into the policies that influence student success and equity in school outcomes,” said Katerina Bodovski, associate professor of educational theory and policy.

Outstanding Junior Faculty Researcher Award

The Outstanding Junior Faculty Researcher Award recognizes exemplary performance in the conduct of research by College of Education faculty members. The Junior Award recognizes the significance of a particular contribution to the research literature. This year’s co-honorees are Tracy Raulston and Gabriela Richard.

Raulston is assistant professor of education in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling and Special Education.

Elizabeth Hughes, assistant professor in EPCSE, said Raulson’s research has significant impact on promoting positive outcomes for children with developmental disabilities and their families.

“Dr. Raulston continues to make a positive impact in the fields of early childhood special education and applied behavior analysis,” Hughes said. “She not only conducts quality research, but she recognizes the value of disseminating her research to practicing educators by way of practitioner journals and impacts the field by sharing evidence-based practices to practicing teachers and service providers.”

Richard, assistant professor in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems, has pushed the fields of Learning Sciences, computer science and educational technology to critically examine the ways in which technological environments can perpetuate and amplify social injustices, according to assistant professor Marcela Borge.

“Dr. Richard’s research has been quite prescient, having documented the rise of white nationalism and online hate tactics that can, and are, being used to recruit and enculturate young people,” Borge said. 

Career Achievement Award

Teaching, research and service excellence over time provide the basis for being recognized for the Career Achievement Award, and Greg Kelly, distinguished professor of science education and senior associate dean for research, is this year’s honoree. Kelly explores issues of knowledge and discourse in science education settings through his research. 

Kelly earlier this year was awarded the NARST 2021 Distinguished Contributions to Science Education through Research Award (DCRA). This is the highest award that NARST, a worldwide organization for improving science teaching and learning through research, bestows upon its members.

“His research established a line of inquiry for future scholars to pursue and he mentored several generations of researchers who have made their own distinctive imprints in science education research and on science education,” said Eileen Parsons, a professor of education at the University of North Carolina.

Outstanding Exempt Staff Award

This award is presented for outstanding service and commitment to faculty, staff and students of the Penn State community, and Kasey Hearn is this year’s winner.

Hearn has worked in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling and Special Education for six years and currently serves as the lead staff member for Department Head Karen Murphy.

Murphy said Hearn’s leadership abilities and creative problem-solving methods set her apart as an exceptional staff member. 

“Kasey is an intelligent and methodical problem-solver who embraces the challenges of her role with enthusiasm and rigor. Moreover, she has a flexibility in her thinking and work style that propels her toward excellence in her own work as well as in her management and mentoring of the staff with whom she works,” Murphy said.

Outstanding Non-Exempt Staff Award

The Outstanding Non-Exempt Staff Award honors staff members who contribute in significant ways to the quality of life within the college. This year’s recipients are Susan Bass, administrative support assistant in the Department of Education Policy Studies, and Samantha Roan, records coordinator in the Advising and Certification Center.

According to David Guthrie, teaching professor in Higher Education, Bass is highly efficient, highly effective and extremely well-liked. 

“Staff and students regularly comment to me about the care, expertise and timeliness of Susan’s efforts. The students who serve on the Preview Days Committee with Susan and me mention every year, without prompting, how much they appreciate working with Susan because, as they put it, ‘she knows how to get everything done and she’s so much fun to boot,’” Guthrie said.

Those in the Advising and Certification Center had high praise for Roan. Academic adviser Megan Schrock said that even outside work hours, Roan continues to be an outstanding colleague. 

“Sam has spent her personal time organizing and delivering homemade meals for sick team members and organizing virtual events to promote team building and community within our suite,” Schrock said. “All of this is done out of the kindness of Sam’s heart to help us feel more like a family than an office team.”

Climate Enhancement Award

The Climate Enhancement Award this year honors two individuals who promote the college’s diversity agenda, including those efforts made through the Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (DCEC).

This year’s dual honorees are Alicia McDyre, assistant professor of education and director of Curriculum and Instruction Field Experience, and Seria Chatters, adjunct associate professor in EPCSE and director of equity and inclusivity in the State College Area School District, who were jointly nominated.

Elizabeth Smolcic, teaching professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said McDyre shows consistent commitment to the cause of diversity and equity in the College of Education. Alicia is co-facilitator, along with Chatters, of two faculty learning communities on anti-racist teaching, one composed of faculty within the Early Childhood and Elementary Education program and another of faculty members from Counseling Education and Rehabilitation Services.

“It is important to note that one of Alicia’s primary roles is to place and manage the hundreds of undergraduates requiring student teaching placements. During a pandemic in school systems that are frequently closed, sometimes in session remotely, and at other times in-person but unwelcoming to external visitors (our students), the logistical challenges of this scenario can only be described as a nightmare,” Smolcic said. 

“The manner in which Alicia succeeds to carry out these tasks while also contributing and staying committed to the equity work of the college is commendable and also amazing," added Smolcic.

Colleagues were equally enthusiastic about Chatters.

“I have admired her dedication and commitment to making Penn State a more welcoming environment for all students and for creating innovative programs and initiatives that have not only made the College of Education more welcoming and inclusive but also have created amazing opportunities for our students to learn and to develop the skills and confidence to become leaders and change-agents in their own right,” said Liza Conyers, professor in Rehabilitation and Human Services.

Graduate Student Recognition Award

This award recognizes an advanced graduate student’s contribution to research and/or teaching. Azaria Cunningham, doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is this year’s honoree.

Her honors and awards include the Frank Conrad Jr. Graduate Fellowship, the Rodney J. and Vernell Reed Graduate Scholarship in Urban Education and being named to the Next Generation Science Standards Curriculum Revision Team in 2016.

According to Fran Arbaugh, professor of mathematics education and Cunningham’s doctoral adviser, Cunningham has excelled in the three areas of academia — research, teaching and service.

“In a word, Azaria is an outstanding doctoral student. Her work on my research project has been integral in making the project work, as she has conducted data collection and analysis as well as contributed to the writing of research manuscripts,” Arbaugh said. “Her grasp of the teacher education literature is impressive, particularly in the area of instructional coaching.”

Undergraduate Leadership and Student Service Award

This year’s winner, Caitlin Brennan, will graduate from the College of Education in May with a bachelor of science degree in elementary and early childhood education and a minor in special education. 

Bethann Dudley McCain, supervisor of student teachers at Penn State, said she has been impressed with Brennan’s growth as an educator and leader during the past year. She said those skills were put to the test by external circumstances and that Brennan successfully overcame the hurdles.

“At the beginning of the school year, Miss Brennan was responsible for student learning, as her mentor teacher had an emergency. She accepted this challenge as an opportunity and used her learning of trauma-informed care and COVID-19 safety to acclimate students to their new learning environment,” Dudley McCain said. “Although there was a substitute teacher, Miss Brennan was the leader in the classroom and upon her mentor teacher’s return, she continued to be the lead in the classroom."

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Last Updated May 05, 2021