College of Education Newsletter

August 2022

Message from the Dean:

It gives me great joy to welcome you all back to the academic school year. Seeing your smiling faces warms my heart.


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2023 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Regional Finalists:

The UCA College of Education (COE) is proud to announce that three of the 13 Arkansas Teacher of the Year regional finalists are COE graduates. In August, four state finalists will be announced from the 13 regional finalists. The Arkansas Teacher of the Year winner will be announced in December.

For more information about the Arkansas Teacher of the Year program please visit

Amber Leaton:

Amber Leaton is a United States History and Leadership teacher at Bryant High School. She received a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Central Arkansas in 2012 and began teaching at Bryant that fall. Amber furthered her education with a Master’s Degree in Advanced Studies in Teacher Leadership from UCA in 2015. She teaches AP U.S. History, where she utilizes innovative projects, simulations, and technology to engage students with history. Amber uses primary sources to bring history to life and encourages students to think critically about the past and its relevance today and in the future. Amber also sponsors the BHS Student Senate, where she works with young leaders to improve school culture and serve the community. She resides in Benton with her husband, Justin, and her two children, Bennett and Millie.

Stephanie Long:

With 12 years of experience teaching pre-kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classes, Stephanie Long focuses her career on teaching children from diverse backgrounds and works with parents and the community to support the whole child.

Stephanie earned both Bachelor of Science in Education (2009) and Master of Science in Education (2010) degrees from the University of Central Arkansas. She attributes much of her success to the foundational knowledge and skills she developed from the UCA College of Education.

As a third-grade teacher at Turnbow Elementary in Springdale, Stephanie strives to provide resources to support all children in their education. A successful grant writer, Stephanie has received over $16,500 in grants and donations to benefit students and families. Her school and district committee involvement and daily activities exemplify her strong passion for educating all students. At Turnbow, she helped establish STEAM Night, now leading and expanding it into an annual event with over 30 community organizations. She works and leads as a Springdale district curriculum writer and has represented the district by presenting at local, state, and national conferences. She is recognized as an Arkansas Master Professional Educator, a 2020 and 2022 Arkansas State Finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and a National Board Certified Teacher in Early and Middle Literacy. She is also a mentor teacher to both interns and colleagues, is the Elementary Director for the Arkansas Science Teachers Association, and is the Vice President of Membership for the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas. In 2022, Stephanie was awarded the Turnbow Elementary Teacher of the Year, Springdale Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Air Force Association Chapter Teacher of the Year, and the Air Force Association Arkansas State Teacher of the Year. Most recently, Stephanie was named the Northwest Arkansas regional finalist for the 2023 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Allan West:

Allan West graduated from UCA in May of 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Early Childhood Education, Pre-K – 4th, later returning via the online program to gain the credentials to achieve his licensure to teach Gifted and Talented (GT) education. He is entering his sixth year as the GT Specialist at Central Elementary in Cabot in the same district that his children, Logan (11) and Emmy (8), attend school. His wife, Jennifer, is a Special Education teacher in the Cabot School District and is also a UCA graduate.

Since becoming a teacher, Allan has used his experiences as a struggling student throughout grade school to differentiate his instruction and the activities that he employs to meet the individual learning needs of his students. In addition to this he works tirelessly to foster meaningful connections with his students and places a lot of importance on the social emotional side of education that is often overlooked. Through the introduction of new techniques and approaches within his classroom, Allan provides unique opportunities for his students to flourish and develop much needed skills in addition to their creativity.

Although his current position focuses on the academically gifted, Allan works tirelessly to inspire all students, especially those battling a learning disability, to achieve their very best and keep “moving their mountain.”

2022 Arkansas State History Teacher of the Year:

Brick Cullum:

Brick Cullum was born in Conway in 1996 and attended Vilonia Public Schools throughout his youth. It was there that he was ultimately inspired to become an educator, as he wanted to replicate the safe space teachers created for him.

Brick graduated with honors and attended the University of Central Arkansas to study Social Studies Education. He graduated in three years (Class of 2018) summa cum laude and began teaching at Conway High School in the social studies department. Along the way, he has taught several classes, worked as the school and state Beta Sponsor, and created the first ever digital diversity quarterly “Mirrors.” Brick is currently finishing work on his Ed. S in Curriculum Leadership and loves having opportunities to talk with other teachers about engaging instruction.

Aside from his professional life, Brick currently lives with his husband Grey just outside Conway where they manage a small circus of three dogs. Brick loves working in the yard and spending time with family.

Brick will serve as the state’s finalist alongside 53 other teachers across the country for Gilder Lehrman’s National History Teacher of the Year Award. The institute will announce its national winner in the fall.

Faculty/Staff News:

Dr. Alicia Cotabish:

Dr. Alicia Cotabish (Department of Teaching and Learning) was recently promoted to Full Professor.

Dr. Cotabish coordinates the Change Leadership for Equity and Inclusion Ph.D. program. She is the Past President of the Arkansas Association of Gifted Education Administrators (AAGEA), and the recipient of the 2015 National Association for Gifted Children Early Scholar Award and 2012 Early Leader Award. She has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 100+ journal articles, book chapters, and products focused on K-20 STEM and gifted education. She has delivered numerous professional development workshops, presentations, and keynotes at local, state, national, and international venues, and serves as a National Association for Gifted Children Expert Speaker. Her recent research has focused on STEM and gifted education, and examining the effects of virtual coaching.

Dr. Valerie Couture:

Dr. Valerie Couture (Department of Leadership Studies) was recently promoted to Associate Professor.

Dr. Couture began teaching in the M.S. in School Counseling Program in August 2016 and in 2018 became the Program Coordinator. Dr. Couture holds a B.A. in Sociology from Indiana University, a M.Ed. in Counseling and Career Development from Colorado State University, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Couture maintains a professional license in clinical mental health counseling as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She has worked in diverse settings including schools, community agencies, corrections, and colleges working directly with individuals to achieve their goals. She enjoys teaching future school counselors who will have an important impact in the lives of students. Her research interests include mental health issues in schools and building multicultural counseling competencies in future counselors.

Megan Fotioo:

Megan Fotioo was recently hired as the Director of UCA's Child Study Center. Megan is a Conway native and UCA College of Education alumna. She has a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master's in Advanced Studies in Teacher Leadership. She taught kindergarten and first grade for ten years at Conway Public Schools where she was named District Teacher of the Year in 2016. In her free time, she enjoys reading and going to UCA sporting events with her husband, Alex, and daughter, Molly Claire. Megan loves Jesus, her family, and the Bears!

Noël Gieringer:

Noël Gieringer (Department of Teaching and Learning) is excited to join the College of Education as a visiting clinical instructor. Noël lives in Little Rock where she has taught middle and high school English for the past eleven years. She holds a BA in English, a BA in Cultural Anthropology, and an MAT in Secondary Education (ELA), all from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Some of her interests outside of the classroom are crafting, tap dance, and all things pop culture. She is excited to join the team at UCA!

Dr. Louis Nadelson:

Dr. Louis Nadelson (Department of Leadership Studies) was recently promoted to Full Professor.

Dr. Nadelson holds a B.S in biological and physical sciences from Colorado State University, a B.A. with a concentration in mathematics and computer science from The Evergreen State College, a M.Ed. in education leadership and instructional technology from Western Washington University, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology – emphasis on research methods and measurement from University of Nevada Las Vegas. His scholarly interests include teaching and learning, leadership, preservice and inservice teacher professional development, program evaluation, multidisciplinary research, and educational innovation.

He uses his over 20 years of high school and college math, science, engineering, and computer science teaching and various K-12 and IHE leadership roles to frame his research. Dr. Nadelson has published over 150 research reports and has collaborated with over 100 students and 85 different faculty members across an array of disciplines.

Dr. Stefanie Sorbet:

Dr. Stefanie Sorbet (Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education) recently presented at the Arch Ford Novice Teacher Institute. Dr. Sorbet presented on Social and Emotional learning in the classroom and facilitated a morning meeting simulation.

* Dr. Sorbet is pictured with several UCA College of Education graduates. (from left to right) Victoria Niko, Kayla Kelly, Erin Dortch, Dr. Sorbet, Mariah Moffett, and Tara Swaffer.

Dr. Brandy Walthall:

Dr. Brandy Walthall (Department of Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education) recently presented at the 50th annual Arkansas Literacy Association (ALA) conference in Benton. Held July 26-27, Dr. Walthall's presentation, "Creative Way to Creating Reading In = Reading Out", presented a crime scene that will allows students to read nonfiction text and write an opinion piece about what they read. The presentation also had an Escape Room and Writer's Fair.

*Photo is of Dr. Walthall (left) with ALA Book Award winner Wade Bradford.

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