College of Education Newsletter

December 2022

Message from the Dean:

A couple of months ago I asked everyone "what keeps you bouncy?" If resilience is the ability to bounce back, what thing or things sustain you when things get hard. For me, it's difficult to identify one or two things. I have found numerous ways to keep my "bounce." One of the most impactful things that I've learned to do is to focus on my gratitude and recognize the blessings I have in my life. I mean, seriously, every day I am fortunate enough to come to work at UCA and read, write, think, collaborate, teach, research...... I'm often overwhelmed by that privilege. I watched my daddy work for years as a truck driver, leaving our house at 2 a.m. on Monday morning and returning on Wednesday at midnight to turn around and leave Thursday morning on another run. I watched my momma get up and cut the ice on the pond to make sure the cows had water in the winter, chop wood, sew, cook, clean, and raise a family with limited money, but a lot of love. I have the good fortune to have children that have grown into adult(ish) people who I love, respect, and admire. Enough about me, here's what keeps you "bouncy."


What keeps you bouncy?

  • The support of my ELSE co-workers! - Alicia Brown
  • My family! - Erin Shaw
  • A significant way to bounce back is to take care of myself. I don’t take self-care for granted, no matter how small. I also try to restrategize when things become overwhelming. I will try to take some time off and come back to the activity later. - Odunola Oyeniyi
  • My Christian faith keeps me bouncy. I know that I have been given an opportunity to change lives, and I take on that responsibility with joy. That joy is expressed with something fun I share with my students - a comic strip to laugh at together, an activity to engage in together, and a conversation to share together. Every day should be a razzle-dazzle day! - Michelle Buchanan
  • Creating art - which gives me the ability to let go through the expression of my creativity. - Louis Nadelson
  • Playing a friendly competitive game of pickleball with my friends! - Darla Escamilla
  • My students when they smile big just after they taught a successful lesson and managed the behavior well. - Stefanie Sorbet
  • I am inspired by colleagues and students! I am very lucky to work with amazing people! - Donna Wake
  • Reading my daily devotional. - Lisa Herrington
  • I look at every experience as a learning opportunity. Some experiences are sunshine and some are fertilizer. You need both to grow! - Catherine Miller
  • My faith in a higher power and a higher purpose.- Debbie Dailey
  • I always try to focus on the positive side of things and always stick to my routines and try to be self-disciplined. - Shoudong Feng
  • Having a strong supportive family, loving friends, compassionate co-workers, the most supportive dogs ever, inspiring students, walks in nature, time with God, and strong coffee keep me going. - Crystal Voegele
  • Knowing my purpose - TK Anderson
  • Our young people depend on the difference we can make together. - Stacey Loyless
  • What keeps me bouncy is being able to pause and step away from whatever is overwhelming me. I allow myself to not think about it for about a day. Then I reflect, reassess the situation, and make a plan for how to accomplish the task that is overwhelming me. Going through this process gives me the motivation and drive to tackle the situation or task with positivity and optimism. - Rachelle Miller
  • Teamwork keeps me bouncy because everything is better when I have the support and encouragement of colleagues to stay the course. - Renee Calhoon
  • Having a supportive network of colleagues helps me bounce back. I feel really fortunate to have a group of colleagues here in the COE, in K-12 schools, and at other universities that challenge me to always keep learning and growing in my work. When I come up against challenges, it's the people in my community that encourage and motivate me, and I'm so grateful for those people! - Jessica Herring Watson
  • My family keeps me "bouncy". - Nathan White
  • If resilience is the ability to bounce back, I am reminded that bouncing back implies engagement with some object or form with which I have contact. If bounce begins with contact, mine is represented by daily practice at dawn. After greeting and feeding five dogs which contain enough energy to supply bounce for a week, I engage in a few daily asanas, meditate and walk the labyrinth. Before fully greeting the day, I enjoy a couple of cups of coffee, then move on to share a cherished walk with my friend Susan. The final flourish is the resolution of all the problems in the world by 8:00 am. - Patty Kohler

Mid-South Educational Research Association Conference 2022:

The Mid-South Educational Research Association recently celebrated its 50th year in Little Rock, Arkansas and was well represented by faculty and students from the UCA College of Education. The Mid-South Educational Research Association was formed in 1972 as a nonprofit incorporated educational organization to encourage and provide results of quality educational research in elementary and secondary schools and in institutions of higher learning. This year's annual meeting was led and organized by Dr. Michael S. Mills, 2022 President, and Drs. Nykela Jackson and Rachelle Miller, Co-Program Chairs. Other members of the UCA faculty who served on the 2022 MSERA board include Dr. Stefanie Sorbet, Arkansas Director and Local Arrangements, Mrs. Sunny Styles-Foster, Membership and Local Arrangements, Dr. Michelle Buchanan, Local Arrangements, and Dr. Jessica Herring-Watson, At-Large Member.

UCA students and faculty who participated as a presenter are listed below:

Baldwin, Amy - Bell, Jennifer - Bentley, Kristy - Bruick, Thomas - Buchanan, Michelle - Cotabish, Alicia - Couture, Valerie - Curry-Browne, Ruthann - Dailey, Deborah - Duncan, Taine - Felix, Rochelle - Feng, Shoudong - Freed, Allison - Gieringer, Noël - Gomes, Leslie - Green, Charlotte - Groves-Scott, Victoria - Hawkins, Amy - Herring Watson, Jessica - Jackson, Nykela - Kohler, Patricia - Lenz, Keith - Marshall, Laura - Miller, Rachelle - Mills, Michael - Nadelson, Louis - Oyeniyi, Odunola - Price, Vincent - Sartain, Kimberley - Shaw, Erin - Smith, Melissa - Sorbet, Stefanie - Styles-Foster, Sunny - Thompson, Amy - Trumble, Jason - Voegele, Crystal - Wake, Donna

* See photos below

Big picture

Educators Rising 2022:

The UCA College of Education hosted the Region 2 Educators Rising Conference on Wed., Nov. 30, 2022, from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Both high school Educators Rising members enrolled in a pre-educator program of study and collegiate preservice students attended. We hosted 108 high school students and 35 college students (UCA students and ASU Beebe). High schools included Batesville, Vilonia, Conway, Southside Charter, Beebe, Arkansas Virtual Academy, Greenbrier, and Mountain Home.

Students began the day with an inspirational keynote address from Jessica Saum, 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. Students engaged in professional development sessions focused on Universal Design for Learning, STEM, social emotional learning, college readiness, culturally responsive learning, and work/life balance. A third of the students participated in education-related competitions: children’s literature; interactive bulletin board; job interview; lesson planning; public speaking; impromptu speaking; inside our school presentation; teacher created materials; and exploring administrative, non-core, and education support careers.

Dr. Nykela Jackson (Department of Teaching and Learning) serves as the Region 2 Coordinator/Educators Rising Campus Advisor. Dr. T.K. Anderson (Department of Teaching and Learning) and Ms. Catherine Miller (Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education) also serve as campus advisors.

Thank you to the faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and student workers who helped plan, organize, volunteer, serve as judges, and present sessions. This was a fantastic, college-wide event with faculty and staff support from every department and office in the UCA College of Education.

For more information about Educators Rising please visit

*See photos below

Acceleration of Learning Communities of Practices Grant:

Drs. Debbie Dailey (Department of Teaching and Learning), Brandy Walthall (Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education), and Nathan White (Department of Leadership Studies). attended the Acceleration of Learning Communities of Practices Grant Kickoff event on Saturday, December 5, 2022.

According to an email from Karli Saracini (Arkansas Department of Education), the grant supports the Arkansas Initiative for Instructional Materials (AIIM) that is focused on every student in Arkansas having equitable access to high-quality instructional materials (HQIM), grade-level instruction, and responsive practices leading to opportunities to reach college, career, and life goals. The Communities of Practice (CoP) will be focused around Identifying Learning Loss and Accelerating Learning using High-Quality Instructional Materials (HQIM).

Education Service Co-ops, in partnership with a national partner, will bring together groups of Arkansas system leaders (district and school teams as well as EPP leaders). The CoP will explore the leadership practices essential to overseeing the implementation of learning supports that meet the moment, while staying focused on long-term recovery and acceleration goals. Also, the CoP includes a series of sessions that includes research and evidence-based strategies to

  • identify learning loss in mathematics and literacy
  • address and plan for acceleration of learning using HQIM

The purpose of the kickoff event was to learn more about the grant opportunity, research, and promising practices that will support this effort.

*See photo (from left to right: Dr. Brandy Walthall, Dr. Debbie Dailey, and Dr. Nathan White)

Student Labyrinth Guide Training:

UCA and Veriditas, an organization “dedicated to inspiring transformation through the labyrinth experience” recently collaborated on providing the first ever Student Labyrinth Guide Training. Lars Howlett, Master Labyrinth Builder and Advanced Labyrinth Facilitator led the virtual training for nine UCA students, including three students and two faculty members from the College of Education. The participating faculty members were Dr. Susan Perry and Dr. Deanna Rice, and the COE student participants were Alli Earl and Adelaide Spradling, K-6 majors, and Kyle Brott, graduate student in the Leadership SMLA program. Students from California, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania also helped facilitate the training.

Increasingly, the labyrinth is being used as a mindfulness tool on college and university campuses. UCA’s labyrinth is one of two labyrinths in Arkansas on higher education campuses. Ashley Cooksey (TLC Director) made wooden finger labyrinths which were mailed to participants. During the training, all participants engaged in finger labyrinth walks and walking meditation activities. For more information on our labyrinth, here is a link to an article about the UCA labyrinth’s installation in 2013: and a video about its installation:

*See photos below

In the Classroom:

Dr. Jessica Herring-Watson teamed up with Ms. Faith Forrest at Old High Middle School in Bentonville, AR, to co-teach her 6th grade math students. Ms. Forrest's students created Clips videos on iPads to demonstrate their understanding of mathematical scenarios and their ability to translate those everyday scenarios into algebraic equations that they then solved. Ms. Forrest is a recent graduate of the Middle Level Education program and a current graduate student in the EDDL Ed.S. program.

*See photos below

Fall Festival Fun! Students from the UCA Middle-Level Education Program recently volunteered their Thursday evening to run carnival games at the Carl Stuart Middle School Fall Festival. Carl Stuart Middle School is part of the Conway Public School District. It was a great night of fun for the middle school students, their families, and our wonderful UCA College of Education representatives!

*See photos below

Karli Saracini and Edie Stewart from the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) visited Dee Dee Cain's (Instructor in the Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education) class at UCA yesterday! While there, the ADE team met with future educators and Special Education pre-service teachers. Thank you, educators, for all you do!

*See photo to the right

The UCA Educators Rising Collegiate Chapter hosted a Friendsgiving social on November 17th. They got to know each other better, ate some good food, and played games.

*See photos below

Student/Alumni News:

Faith Forrest:

Faith Forrest, a graduate student in the Education for Digital Learning (EDDL) program, co-authored an article for Edutopia about her use of Ozobots in the middle school math classroom with Dr. Jessica Herring-Watson (Department of Teaching & Learning). You can read about their classroom collaboration here:

*See photo (left-right: Dr. Herring-Watson, Ms. Forrest)

Jada Simpson:

On Saturday, November 5, Jada Simpson, a sophomore elementary education major, was crowned Miss University of Central Arkansas 2023.

In addition to winning the title and crown, Jada also won:

- Overall Private Interview

- Academic Achievement Award (highest gpa)

- Overall Dance Performance (Talent)

- Producers Award

Jada’s mission is to use her platform to promote her anti-bullying campaign: Be a H.E.R.O. and Just Say NO to Bullying while representing the university with grace, confidence, and dignity. After graduation, she has the goal of pursing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

Faculty/Staff News:

Dr. Deb Kuster:

Dr. Deb Kuster, Professor Emeritus of Art, recently had her book, Jake the Deer-Hearted, published.

According to, "Jake the Deer-Hearted is a hopeful story about a curious, ill-proportioned dog who wanders away from his dog family. The lost puppy is befriended by a small herd of deer in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Jake is the unexpected hero who overcomes hardships, learns about values and companionship, and realizes his dreams of becoming deer-like and finding his human family."

Dr. Vincent Price:

Dr. Vincent Price (Department of Teaching and Learning) was recently interviewed by the Black Doctoral Network where he discussed the power of learning through literature, teaching today's students, storytelling, representation, and English education. He shared his passion for the development of effective teachers to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's students by creating classrooms that focus on diverse culturally inclusive instruction through the teaching of African American literature in high school settings:

Dr. Jason Trumble:

Dr. Jason Trumble (Department of Teaching and Learning) recently had an article published in the Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE) Journal.

The article, "Three Domains for Technology Integration in Science Teacher Education", proposes three domains for the integration of technology and science in science teacher education. You can read the article by going to

Dr. Jake Walker:

Dr. Jake Walker, formerly a Project Director at the Arkansas Research Center (ARC), recently started a new position as Chief Research Officer for the Arkansas Data Team at the Arkansas Department of Information Systems. Dr. Walker's position involves maintaining the State Longitudinal Data System which brings in data from all state agencies (i.e.: Workforce Development, Education, Human Services).

When asked what prepared him for this position he said, "Honestly, my life. In my family...on my mom's side of the generation is the first to graduate high school." He's also held numerous jobs since he was 13. "I was a soda jerk, a puppeteer, an actor, worked in food service, I've done every job in a chicken plant, waited tables, certified nurses aid, family service worker for DHS, graduate research assistant..."

Dr. Walker holds a B.S. in Medical Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing Technologies from Mississippi State University (MSU), an M.S. in Sociology from MSU, and a Ph.D. in Education - Instructional Systems and Workforce Development from MSU.

"Education on its own will never get someone out of poverty. You have to have a culture change. You have to have a support system around you that values education." - Dr. Jake Walker

For more information about ARC please go to

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