Educators who care inspire students who change the future
As an education studies student, you’ll experience education at its best. You’ll form a close-knit group with fellow Lumberjacks and dedicated professors who share a common purpose: developing a strong class of future educators. Award-winning faculty and staff members in the Department of Education Studies bring a variety of interests and extensive professional experiences to the table, and they love imparting their wisdom to see you succeed in your next challenge.
Faculty and staff
Dr. Carolyn Abel
Dr. Carolyn Abel teaches early literacy courses (graduate, undergraduate, face-to-face and online) and was awarded the Margaret Hoover Perkins Professorship five years in a row. She was first author and principal researcher for Leaping the Language Gap: Strategies for Preschool and Head Start Teachers, published in the International Journal of Child Care & Education Policy. More recently, she co-authored Early Literacy in Cuba: Lessons for America, published in the Texas Journal of Literacy Education.
Dr. Abel’s research interests include early literacy development, teaching and learning and social justice.
Dr. Adam Akerson
Dr. Adam Akerson is an associate professor in the Department of Education Studies. In 2011, he earned an EdD in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education from the University of Houston. He serves as the EC-6 program coordinator. His research interests include co-teaching, peer feedback and the early childhood learning environment.
Dr. Lauren Burrow
Dr. Lauren E. Burrow, associate professor in the Department of Education Studies, taught PK-12 and holds a Master of Education in reading and language arts and an EdD in teacher education from the University of Houston. She is co-founder and co-director of the C.R.E.A.T.E. program track, and she teaches courses in subject matter methods and family/community engagement. As an Engaged Scholar, she uses service learning as pedagogy and pursues scholarship in response to social injustices. She is a Mother-Scholar to three kind, intelligent children who inform, inspire and often join in her creative scholarship.
Dr. Chrissy Cross
Dr. Chrissy Cross is an associate professor who teaches courses in undergraduate and graduate teacher education. She earned her PhD in curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University. She is the secondary education graduate program coordinator and oversees three graduate programs. She serves as a co-PI on the NSF Noyce Scholarship Grant Talented Teachers in Training for Texas (T4). Her research interests include science and math curriculum, STEM teacher education, qualitative research methodology, Mother-Scholarhood and student rights in education environments.
Dr. Shannon Darst
Dr. Shannon Darst is the program facilitator of and assistant professor in the Visual Impairment Preparation Program. She served as a teacher of students with visual impairments in both a residential setting and in the itinerant service model for 20+ years in the central Texas area before journeying into personnel preparation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in music and German from St. Edward’s University, as well as a Master of Education in special education with a concentration in visual impairment and a PhD in special education with a concentration in deafblindness from Texas Tech University. Most recently, Dr. Darst received the Texas Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Phil Hatlen Award, which recognizes excellence in leadership and innovative changes in the field of visual impairment.
Dr. Darst’s research interests include best practices for students with visual impairments and for students who are deafblind, best practices for personnel preparation in the field of visual impairment, and methods for creating research-based tools for student-focused service delivery for visual impairment professionals.
Dr. William Davis
Dr. William S. Davis received a Bachelor of Arts in German from Belmont University and a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Arkansas with a concentration in secondary world language education. He received his PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Arkansas in 2020. His primary strand of research explores how world language educators are able to support students flourishing through culturally responsive pedagogy and antiracist education. His teaching experience includes working with diverse junior high and high school learners of German and K-12 preservice teachers of all subject areas.
Donna “DJ” Dean received her Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies from Texas Woman’s University in 1995. She received her Master of Education in special education from SFA. Dean holds certifications in special education, elementary education, visual impairment, and orientation and mobility. She is involved in several professional organizations, including the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, The Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans, the Professional Preparation Advisory Group and Texas University Professors in Visual Impairment.
Dr. Marisol Diaz
Dr. Marisol Diaz holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies in bilingual education and a Master of Arts in linguistics from the University of Texas at El Paso. She has a PhD in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in critical pedagogy and physics education from New Mexico State University. She completed part of her focus in physics education at the University of Washington. For seven years, she taught in a Title I elementary school in the borderland of Southwest Texas. In 2015, Dr. Diaz won the National Multicultural Educator Award, which highlights educators who promote equity and multiculturalism in their classrooms. Dr. Diaz continues to work in her community supporting teachers, parents and students. She studies correlations between academic achievement and critical pedagogy. Her research areas include critical social justice issues in education, bilingual education, culturally relevant pedagogy, critical race theory and critical theory. Dr. Diaz’s content area specialization focuses on elementary English language arts and conceptual STEAM teaching.
Erica Dillard earned both her Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies and Master of Education from SFA. Additionally, she studied teaching, learning and culture at Texas A&M University. She teaches courses in early childhood education and serves as the coordinator of the Early Childhood Research Center Resource Room. She has twice been honored with a Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award.
Dr. Dillard’s research interests include TEKS-based instruction, developmentally appropriate learning environments and rural school educational practices.
Dr. Jim Ewing
Dr. Jim Ewing teaches mathematics education and supervises at the ungraduated level. He also teaches ESL courses at the graduate level. He was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award in 2019 from the Perkins College of Education. His book, Math for ELLs: As Easy as Uno, Dos, Tres, was reviewed in the prestigious Choice Magazine. Dr. Ewing gives national keynote talks about meeting the needs of emergent bilinguals (ELs) in mathematics. He also provides teachers with professional development.
Dr. Ewing’s research focuses on meeting the needs of emergent bilinguals (ELLs) in mathematics.
Dr. Brandon Fox
Dr. Brandon Fox is an associate professor as well as chair of the Department of Education Studies. He holds a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in early childhood and teaching from Texas A&M Commerce, a master’s degree in secondary education and teaching from SFA, and a bachelor’s in kinesiology and exercise science from SFA. He was awarded the 2017-20 Montgomery Professorship for Humane Education in the Perkins College of Education.
Dr. Elizabeth Gound
Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Baker Gound holds a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies from SFA, a Master of Education with an emphasis in secondary education from the University of North Texas, and an EdD in educational literacy with an emphasis in digital literacy from Sam Houston State University. She is an assistant professor of elementary and secondary education. Her research interests include digital literacies and the preservice teacher, technology in teaching and literacy in the teacher preparation program.
Karla Hamilton holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Education from SFA. Her areas of specialization include assessment, special education and social studies.
Dr. Tracey Covington Hasbun
Dr. Tracey Covington Hasbun is an associate professor of early childhood education at SFA. She has 14 years of experience as an early childhood and elementary school teacher and 14 years of experience in higher education. Her research interests include early literacy, language acquisition and teacher education. She received her PhD in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University.
Dr. Yuan He
Dr. Yuan He graduated from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where she received her doctoral degree in education leadership. She earned her first doctorate and Master of Science in early childhood education at Nanjing Normal University. Her research interests include curriculum and instruction in early childhood education, curriculum and instruction in early childhood teacher education, and comparative and international education.
Dr. Tonya Jeffery
Dr. Tonya D. Jeffery received her EdD in curriculum and instruction, with a special emphasis in science education, from the University of Houston in 2012. She is in her 14th year in education. Prior to joining SFA, Jeffery gained extensive teaching experience in K-12 and higher education and served in various roles. She taught K-12 at a Title I middle school in the Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest school district. During her public school teaching tenure, Dr. Jeffery taught science in grades 6-8 and served as science department chair, mentor to beginning teachers, chair of the school’s math/science club and campus science fair coordinator.
Dr. Jeffery’s research agenda focuses on STEM teacher preparation, self-efficacy and professional development; culturally responsive pedagogy; teaching science through the critical lens of social justice and racial equity; recruitment, retention and persistence of beginning science teachers; nature of science; and teacher identity, beliefs and practices. She also examines an evolving focal point on social justice issues at the intersectionality of gender, race and class as it relates to women in academia.
Dr. Kevin Jones
Dr. Kevin Jones’ research interests include curriculum and instruction, urban school/university partnerships, equity pedagogy and music education.
Dr. Leah Kahn
Dr. Leah Kahn received her EdD in educational leadership at Lamar University, Master of Education at SFA and Bachelor of Science in elementary education at SFA. She earned a Perkins College of Education Teaching Excellence Award in 2017.
Dr. Kahn’s research interests include engagement of the middle school student in academics, the influence of mentor teachers on the teaching effectiveness of preservice teachers and STEM integration in middle schools.
Dr. Jennifer Lindsey Kennon
Dr. Jennifer Lindsey Kennon is the director of the deaf and hard of hearing program at SFA. She earned her EdD in developmental education administration from Sam Houston State University, Master of Education in educational leadership from SFA and Bachelor of Science in deaf education at SFA.
Dr. Summer Koltonski
Dr. Summer Koltonski holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, a master’s degree in special education with an emphasis in emotional disturbance and autism, and a doctorate in school psychology, all from SFA. She is a course instructor in the online educational diagnostician and special education programs.
Dr. Paige Mask
Dr. Paige Mask joined the faculty in 2005. She holds a Master of Education and PhD from Texas Woman’s University. She is a course instructor in the online educational diagnostician and special education programs.
Dr. Mask’s research interests include students with disabilities in college and university settings.
Ronda McClain received her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1994 and MEd in 2013, both from SFA. She has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Education Studies since 2017. Her teaching areas are early childhood and literacy/reading. Ms. McClain also serves as the program support coordinator for the Department of Education Studies.
Dr. Vicki Mokuria
Dr. Vicki Mokuria holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and English from Tufts University, a Master of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at Dallas, a Master of Arts in educational leadership and societal change from Soka University of America, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University. Her passion is to foster future teachers with a foundation in critical multicultural education and a spirit to genuinely respect and treasure each student they teach.
Dr. Mokuria’s research interests include teacher education, multicultural education, Soka education, antiracism education, comparative and international education, urban education, mentorship and care in education.
Dr. Mark Montgomery
Dr. Mark S. Montgomery teaches mathematics methods within the EC-6 and 4-8 programs, supervises students in field experiences and coordinates the standard elementary master’s program. Prior to earning a PhD in curriculum and teaching from Baylor University in 2014, he spent 16 years working in public schools as a teacher, instructional coach and district instructional technologist.
Dr. Montgomery’s research interests include fostering growth among future and current educators through the use of peer feedback and collaboration, co-teaching and developing effective strategies for understanding in mathematics education.
Dr. Heather Munro
Dr. Heather R. Munro has been a member of the faculty since 2014. She holds a a Master of Education from SFA and a PhD from Texas Tech University. Munro is dually certified as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI) and an Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) with over 20 years of experience in the field. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, The Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans, the Professional Preparation Advisory Group and Texas University Professors in Visual Impairment. Munro is an assistant professor in the Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility Preparation Program.
Dr. Munro’s research interests center around societal perceptions of blindness and disability, personal narratives of individuals with visual impairments and Braille/literacy.
Dr. Heather Olson Beal
Dr. Heather K. Olson Beal taught Spanish at the secondary and post-secondary levels and obtained a Master of Arts in modern languages at Texas A&M University before completing a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Louisiana State University. She is the co-creator and co-director of the C.R.E.A.T.E. program at SFA and teaches courses in educational foundations, family and community engagement, and educational policy and advocacy. Her scholarship examines the issues of school choice, second language education and the experiences of women and mothers in academia.
Dr. Margaret Patterson
Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Patterson served as an adjunct teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program from 2010 to 2015. She joined the program full-time in the spring of 2016. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts from SFA. She holds a DARS/DHHS Board for evaluators of Interpreters – Interpreter Certification Level I and a Kansas QAST Level 4 Interpreting and Level 4 Transliterating. She also holds a certificate in Deaf Education K-12 and Teaching ASL K-12.
Dr. Christina Pigg
Christina Pigg is a reading instructor in the Department of Education Studies and has been with the department since 2019. She received her Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies in 1997 and her Master of Education in reading in 2001, both from SFA. Prior to joining the faculty at SFA, she served in the public school system as an instructional coach and reading specialist. Her academic areas of interest are early literacy development and struggling readers.
Dr. Susan Reily
While working with teacher candidates in the elementary and middle-level certification programs, Dr. Susan Reily has published various articles and presented on several topics focused on innovative practices to prepare teacher candidates for the constant changes in best practices. Along with degrees in curriculum and instruction and educational leadership, Dr. Reily’s practical experiences as a classroom teacher, instructional coach and administrator have instilled the importance of understanding different perspectives for her students and for her research.
Dr. Amanda Rudolph
Dr. Amanda Rudolph teaches in both the undergraduate and graduate secondary education programs. She earned her PhD from the University of Arkansas in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in arts education. She has published two books, one on classroom management and the other on education reform. Dr. Rudolph has also served on the board of directors for the Association of Teacher Educators, the Texas Association of Teacher Educators and the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education. She has also served as president and chair for the latter two. Currently, Rudolph is working on gifted and talented education research and acting as vice chair of the Parent Resource Committee for the Texas Association of Gifted and Talented. She has also served as editor and co-editor for Teaching Education and Practice, TxEP, Texas Educator Preparation and the Texas Forum of Teacher Education.
Dr. Rudolph’s research focuses on gifted and talented education, especially the socioemotional needs of the gifted.
Mandy Seybold holds a Bachelor of Science in hearing impaired science, a Master of Education with a major in educational leadership and a Master of Education with a major in elementary education, emphasis reading specialist, all from SFA. She is a lecturer for the deaf and hard of hearing program. Her main area of interest is teaching literacy to future educators.
Dr. Kathleen Sheriff
Dr. L. Kathleen (Kathy) Sheriff earned her doctorate in special education from Texas Tech University with an emphasis and certification in deafblindness. Her Master of Education is in educational psychology from Texas A&M University with an emphasis in low-incidence disabilities. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas with an emphasis in human development and family studies. Her research and teaching interests involve children with CHARGE syndrome and other low-incidence disabilities, assistive technology, transition, early childhood special education, issues surrounding family members of children with medical fragility and teacher training, and professional development programs serving children with disabilities.
Dr. Sarah Straub
Dr. Sarah M. Straub is an assistant professor and antibias, antiracist educator in progress. While teaching K-12 in southwest Houston, she earned her doctoral degree from the University of Houston in curriculum and instruction with a focus on social justice education. Straub is an award-winning educator who is most proud of her student-driven publications, including “Know My Life: Sharing Student Voice through Poetry” and “Rewind: A Reverse Chronological Study of American (In)Justices.” She values critical pedagogy and social justice education, which is embedded throughout her courses and in her activism with student groups like the Bilingual Education Student Organization. Additionally, Straub serves on the board for the Texas chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education. She was awarded the 2020-22 Montgomery Professorship for Humane Education in the Perkins College of Education.
Dr. Straub’s research interests include bilingual education, culturally responsive teaching and antibias/antiracist education.
Dr. Vicki Ezelle-Thomas
Dr. Vicki Ezelle-Thomas holds a PhD in educational administration, a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction, and a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, all from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has served as an officer for the National Council for the Social Studies and the American Educational Research Association as well as state and local organizations.
Dr. Ezelle-Thomas’ research interests include the responsive classroom approach, global and service learning, study abroad program research and technology integration.
Dr. Eric Torres
Dr. Eric D. Torres is an associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Education Studies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in law from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, as well as a Master of Science in school administration and a PhD in curriculum and teaching with a specialization in cultural studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He holds a specialization in constitutional law and political science from the Center of Constitutional Studies in Madrid, Spain.
Dr. Torres’ research interests include the critical interrogation of education public policy and its global trends; the understanding of curriculum design and assessment as social construction processes; the discernment of relations of power in the context of education; equity, diversity and inclusion in the public space; the promotion of critical literacy as a condition for democratic citizenry; the re-description of public education as a fundamental right; and the pedagogical implications of postformal approaches to ethics, identity, multiple allegiances, market, fear, conflict and warfare in global learning.
Dr. Pamela Vaughn
After teaching elementary school students for 15 years and serving as a local campus literacy coach for five years, Dr. Pamela Vaughn joined the SFA faculty in 2010. She earned her Bachelor of Science in education from East Texas Baptist University; a Master of Science in education, reading, from Texas A&M University–Commerce; and her Doctor of Science in education, literacy, from Sam Houston State University. She has supervised Field I students and taught multiple reading courses.
Dr. Vaughn’s primary focus for research has been on early literacy, literacy assessments and teacher preparation.
Dr. Amber Wagnon
Dr. Amber E. Wagnon holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from SFA, Master of Education with an emphasis in English from SFA and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University. She is an assistant professor of secondary education. Her research interests include the teaching and learning of ELA, literacy and public school advocacy.
Dr. Dawn Michelle Williams
Dr. Dawn Michelle Williams taught special education for 20 years, served 11 years as a middle and high school administrator in Kansas and Texas, and is currently employed as a professor and coordinator of the middle-level grades and undergraduate special education programs in the Department of Education Studies. She holds master’s degrees in special education and educational administration, and she completed her doctorate in educational leadership at SFA.
Dr. Tingting Xu
Dr. Tingting Xu holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Nanjing University of Finance and Economics and a Master of Science in early childhood education and PhD in curriculum and instruction from Florida State University. Xu has a solid research agenda, with research interests focused mainly on childhood obesity and preservice teachers’ professional development. She has published 12 peer-reviewed/refereed journals and two book chapters.
Cathrine Danielson is an accounting clerk III in the Department of Education Studies. She has been with SFA since October 2016.
Heather Stewart has been providing administrative support since 2008 to students, faculty and staff in the Department of Education Studies. She’s dedicated to helping students achieve their degree-seeking goals.
Nichole (Nikkie) Strahan is an administrative assistant in the Department of Education Studies. She has been with SFA since February 2018. Her main duties are processing travel for faculty, property inventory, classroom technical support and other administrative duties as needed.
Dr. Neal Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen has taught at several universities and public schools in Utah, Missouri, Nevada and Florida. Dr. Nguyen grew up in Saigon, Vietnam. After several failed attempts escaping the country by fishing boats, his family had successfully sought the long overdue freedom in the United States when he was sixteen years old. As years passed, before working as a teacher educator in higher education, he taught seven years at several public elementary schools in Nevada and Florida. In 2007, Dr. Nguyen was awarded “Teacher of the Year” at Thacker Elementary School of Osceola County School District, Kissimmee, Florida. In 2015, he received the “College of Education Faculty Professional Growth Award”. Additionally, he has also served as an Honors Faculty for the Jane Stephens Honors College at his previous institution in Missouri. His research interests include early childhood education and development, early literacy skills acquisition, neuroscience and early learning, compassion science, and instructional and collaborative practices.
Dr. Nguyen has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in typical and atypical child development, special education, early literacy, designing and implementing a blended curriculum for all young children, positive behavioral support interventions, teacher-parent collaborative practices and assessment for all young children. Dr. Nguyen has been teaching classes and advising and mentoring students at both undergraduate and graduate levels since 2009. Dr. Nguyen has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Publications from his research interests have appeared in journals such as The Reading Teacher, The Reading Professor, The Educational Forum, Teaching Exceptional Children, Young Children, Kappa Delta Pi Record, & Early Child Development and Care. He has presented assorted topics regarding early childhood education and development, compassion science, effective instructional and collaborative practices in inclusive early childhood classrooms, and the reading skills of young children at national, state, and local professional conferences over the past decade. Additionally, he has collaborated with local public schools, principals, and reading specialists in southern Florida in the past six years to assist young children, including those with special needs, to enhance their reading abilities.
Dr. Nguyen has been a member of several professional organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), International Literacy Association (ILA), Professors of Literacy and Teacher Education (PLTE) and the Division for Early Childhood (DEC). Dr. Nguyen has also been serving as consulting editor and manuscript/book reviewer for six peer-reviewed journals.