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Preparing Next Generation Special Education Leadership Scholars.

TJEEI Scholars

Morgan Diaz is a third-year doctoral student in the Exceptional Education program at the University of Central Florida. She is a Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute Fellow. She received her M.Ed. degree in Exceptional Education and her ASD Certification from the University of Central Florida as a Project ASD Scholar. Morgan began teaching in Central Florida in 2012 as an elementary special education teacher. She has worked as a support facilitation teacher, an inclusion teacher, and a literacy coach. Morgan was the PBIS leader for her school, working alongside teachers in the school to strengthen Tier I instruction, ensuring teachers were teaching to the standards for all students. Additionally, Morgan worked closely with the MTSS team to help teachers develop and implement Tier 2 and 3 interventions. Morgan has been recognized by the FLDOE as a High Impact Teacher for the success of her students. She received the Teacher of the Year award for her school. She is interested in improving behavioral and academic support and services for individuals with disabilities participating in the elementary general education classrooms.
Jennifer Caton is a second-year doctoral student in Mathematics Education at the University of Central Florida. She received her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematics from the University of Central Florida. Jennifer’s teaching experience has included elementary school along with middle and high school mathematics. Her research has focused on improving efficacy in mathematics among low-level achievers and students receiving services in mathematics. As a Toni Jennings Scholar, Jennifer is involved in research focusing on teacher shortages in STEM and special education areas, along with game research related to STEM. Currently she works as an Algebra teacher in Volusia County Schools, where she is focused on providing equal mathematical learning opportunities for all students.

Down Syndrome Foundation Post Doc

Hi! My name is Jonathan “Nick” Solomon, I am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida in the Exceptional Education Program. My vision is that individuals with differences will be given every opportunity possible to reach their fullest potential in the areas of independent living, community involvement, education, and employment. I personally struggled to overcome many obstacles earlier in life due to being Hard of Hearing that allows me to relate, support and advocate for many other individuals and families who are going through similar situations. After undergrad and in pursuit of a teaching career, I landed at a non-profit organization teaching and training individuals with intellectual disabilities how to live independently. During my time there, I became the director of a newly built, independent living apartment complex for 120 individuals with intellectual disabilities. In order to better support and further the needs of this unique population I then decided to pursue my Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida.

Lead IT Scholars

LEAD IT is a doctoral program designed to prepare highly competent special education leadership personnel, from culturally and linguistically diverse populations, for university faculty positions or for service in training positions in agencies or school systems.

Missy Glavey is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Exceptional Student Education Program at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Missy’s started her career as a paraprofessional in a self-contained classroom for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After getting her Master’s degree in Exceptional Student Education from UCF in 2012, Missy worked as a licensed special educator for five years to students with mild to moderate disabilities in K-5 and 9-12 inclusive classrooms. Missy’s teaching, research, and service are rooted in her mission to prepare educators to work with students with disabilities in inclusive K-12 and post-secondary classrooms, to improve the overall quality of inclusive education and the overall quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Missy’s graduate work has largely focused on developing and facilitating community-embedded exceptional education teacher preparation, and equity for individuals with disabilities in access to post-secondary college and career opportunities.
Whitney Hanley is a doctoral candidate, AACTE Holmes Scholar, and LEAD IT scholar in the Ph.D. Exceptional Education program at the University of Central Florida. Whitney received her B.S. in Special Education from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky and her teaching certificate in Special Education P-12 for students with learning and behavior disorders. She received her M.Ed. from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. While teaching in Georgia, Whitney also completed her Ed.S in Curriculum and Instruction at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. For seven years Whitney taught in three different classroom settings. For the first six years of her teaching career, she taught students with learning and behavior disorders in the Elementary setting. In her seventh year of teaching, she taught 8th-grade students with learning and behavior disorders. Her research interests include the use of evidence-based supports and interventions for culturally diverse females with emotional and or behavior disorders.
Amanda Lannan is a 3rd year Ph.D. student and LEAD scholar at the University of Central Florida. During her 13 years as an elementary general and special educator, for Orange County Public Schools, as well as in her advocacy work, Amanda is committed to increasing an accessible inclusive education for all students. Lannan’s research focus is on developing equitable STEM education for students with disabilities by leveraging game-based and immersive technology. She hopes to directly influence new teachers, showing how high expectations, creative teaching, and sincere confidence in children leads to success.
Sacha Cartagena is a Ph.D. student in the Exceptional Education program at the University of Central Florida. She has six years of experience as an elementary special education teacher in Title 1 schools. Sacha is passionate about training pre-service and in-service teachers on best practices for working with students with disabilities. Her expertise is in moderate/severe disabilities and her research interests include teaching social-emotional learning to students with moderate to severe disabilities. Currently, Sacha serves as an executive board member for the AACTE National Holmes Scholar Council and for the Florida Council for Exceptional Children.
Timara Davis is a Ph.D. student and LEAD scholar in the Exceptional Education program at the University of Central Florida. She previously earned her Master’s in Special Education with an emphasis on Mild to Moderate Disabilities. Timara is a dually licensed teacher in General and Special Education. Her background is in teaching students with disabilities in high needs, Title I settings as the resource or self-contained teacher with experience in inclusive classrooms. Her research interests include teacher preparation and professional development for general education teachers in inclusive settings, teacher shortages, and retention in special education.
Annette Romualdo is a doctoral candidate and LEAD-IT scholar in the Exceptional Education program at the University of Central Florida. With a Masters in Secondary Education, mathematics emphasis, and experience in inclusive settings, Annette's passion is to increase equity and equality for students with neurodiversity in post-secondary settings. Annette's research interest is the academic outcome of persons born late-preterm, focusing on adolescence and transition.
Phillip Sasse is a second-year student of the Exceptional Education Ph.D. program at the University of Central Florida. Currently, Phillip is a graduate assistant for the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. Previously Phillip worked with the University of North Florida’s THRIVE transition program, along with earning his Master’s of Special Education, with a concentration in disability services. His research interests include developing college transition programs for students with disabilities.
Hi! My name is Jonathan “Nick” Solomon, I am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida in the Exceptional Education Program. My vision is that individuals with differences will be given every opportunity possible to reach their fullest potential in the areas of independent living, community involvement, education, and employment. I personally struggled to overcome many obstacles earlier in life due to being Hard of Hearing that allows me to relate, support and advocate for many other individuals and families who are going through similar situations. After undergrad and in pursuit of a teaching career, I landed at a non-profit organization teaching and training individuals with intellectual disabilities how to live independently. During my time there, I became the director of a newly built, independent living apartment complex for 120 individuals with intellectual disabilities. In order to better support and further the needs of this unique population I then decided to pursue my Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida.

LEAD NEXT Scholars

LEAD NEXT will prepare the next generation of special education leadership personnel to address shortages in state and national identified need for personnel preparation in special education. The focus of this federally funded project is to support educators to become national experts in (a) teaching, research, and service to support marginalized students with disabilities in Learning Sciences and evidence-based practices (b) collaborating and conducting research with State and local education agencies; (c) preparing future teachers and collaborating with families; (d) using technology and Learning Sciences to impact learning; (e) working collaboratively with colleagues in content areas and Learning Sciences; (f) conducting program evaluations; and (g) improving outcomes for students with disabilities by influencing policy and practices.

Molly Greer relocated to Orlando, FL from Crestwood, KY, a small town outside of Louisville. For five years Molly taught in a highly structured classroom teaching functional academics. After a life-changing health crisis, she viewed life through a new perspective and wanted to impact exceptional education in a different way. After being asked if she was making the difference she had dreamed of, she realized the answer was no. This led Molly to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida. Molly received her Bachelor's Degree in elementary education (p-6) and moderate-severe disabilities (k-12) from Morehead State University and a Master's of Divinity, with a focus on children's and family ministry, from University of the Cumberlands. Molly’s mission is to prepare teachers and inform policymakers to effectively increase educational outcomes for students with tier 3 academic and behavior interventions through deeper learning.
Chelsea Pierce is a current Ph.D. student in the Exceptional Student Education Program at UCF. Chelsea has over six years of classroom-based experience as both a General Education teacher and a Special Education teacher. She worked with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of Central Florida, as well as CARD at the University of Florida (UF) Health Jacksonville. She worked for the UF Health Neurodevelopmental Pediatric Center, serving on the Multidisciplinary Developmental Assessment Team and administering assessments and consultations through the Florida Diagnostic Learning and Resource Systems, Multidisciplinary Center (FDLRS-MDC). She’s presented at local and statewide conferences in areas of interest, including the use of visual supports and behavior management strategies. Her mission is to increase knowledge and understanding of medical professional and educational personnel serving children with medical complexities inclusive of behavioral, sensory and/or communication challenges.
Lynn Scott relocated to Florida from a small rural community in Indiana and is at UCF pursuing her Ph. D in Exceptional Education. Lynn obtained her undergraduate degree from Saint Mary of the Woods College in Indiana and a Masters in Educational Administration and Leadership through Indiana State University. She began her profession in education after a career change from the business world. Her journey started entry-level so to speak and would continue to advance as she worked as a paraprofessional while pursuing her special education teaching degree. After years of classroom experience, Lynn progressed to an administrative role expanding beyond her own classroom. Lynn’s 18 years of classroom experience includes students from grades pre-k through grade 12+ in a variety of educational settings and disability categories. All these opportunities have afforded her a range of experiences and perspectives in the field of education. Lynn’s goal is to better prepare teachers and administrators in the pursuit of inclusive and equitable classrooms while promoting strategies and understanding of neurodiverse learners.

Teleports Scholars

The University of Central Florida - Technology Enhanced Learning Enabled by Partner Organizations, Research, and Teaching Success - UCF TELEPORTS

This project prepares special education personnel at the doctoral level with specific skills in the area of teaching, research, and service with effective leadership skills suitable for university positions. The focus of this program will be to prepare scholars to assume leadership roles in (a) local, state, and national levels with expertise in innovative technologies for students with disabilities (e.g., autism, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities). Scholars will specialize in technology-enhanced instruction for secondary students. They will focus on effective transition practices that lead to college and career readiness.

Kiera Anderson has a background in Occupational Therapy specializing in children with exceptional needs. She is seeking to bridge the world of Occupational Therapy with education through research while obtaining her Ph.D. Kiera is researching accessibility for children with exceptional needs through the perspective of the “whole child”. She seeks to find new and innovative technology that will increase children’s learning, as well as culture and environmental awareness training for educators that will enable maximal attainment of skills. Kiera is thrilled to be a part of the program at the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida.
Jacob is originally from LaGrange, KY but grew up in Ohio. In 2012, he received a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Behavioral Neuroscience from Wright State University, followed by an M.S. in Psychobiology from Florida State University (FSU) in 2016. While teaching undergraduate courses at FSU for three years, he earned a second Master’s Degree in STEM Teaching. After completing his second Master’s Degree, he received the wonderful opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). A Ph.D. from UCF will allow him to fulfill his mission of working with pre-service and in-service teachers to bring STEM content and experiences to secondary students with mild to moderate disabilities through the use of technology and universal design for learning. He is a proponent of team-based learning and inclusivity and he looks forward to working with others and building professional relationships over the course of the next three years.
Keri Lynn Nass is a first-year Ph.D. student and TELEPORTS Scholar. Keri Lynn began her profession in education after a career change from Property Management, Real Estate Development, and Hospitality. Her journey began at the Early Childhood level as a preschool teacher while pursuing her undergraduate degree in Exceptional Student Education. After years as a secondary classroom teacher working with students with emotional and behavior disabilities, Keri Lynn obtained a master’s degree in Exceptional Student Education and Intervention Specialist as a Project Bridges Scholar at UCF in 2017. This allowed her to lead transition projects and initiatives with Sodexo and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as other school-based enterprises. Students became increasingly successful and motivated when given these hands-on opportunities to receive on-the-job training, mentoring, and skills for post-secondary life. This sparked a passion and purpose to further her work and vision; to increase equity and equality for at-risk and low-income populations to achieve success when transitioning to work, college, and careers. Specifically, related to policy and program reforms, educating leaders and administrators of the significance of hands-on transition programs in secondary schools.
Rohana Swihart is a first-year Ph.D. student from Washington State. She partners with innovative technology companies to conceptualize and develop products that improve STEM college and career readiness for students with atypical neurological development. Ms. Swihart experienced an industrial accident in 2015. She embraced the new challenges a disability presents and became a secondary special education teacher, focused on STEM, in a rural, Title 1 school district. As a teacher with a disability, she models self-determination, self-efficacy, and grit to overcome adversity. Ms. Swihart has a background in large-scale construction projects, STEM business administration, technical writing, and transition services for students with disabilities. In addition, she incorporates music and equine-assisted activities and therapies as a means to improve daily living for individuals with disabilities.

TPQ Scholar

Lindsey Pike is a first-year doctoral student and second-time UCF Knight. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Literature from Lees-McRae College in 2009 and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UCF in 2013. She worked in central Florida public schools as both a social worker and an Exceptional Education teacher over the past six years. Ms. Pike will complete her Intervention Specialist Master’s Certification this semester through Project Bridges at UCF. She is currently working as a Graduate Research Associate on the Teacher Quality Partnerships: Downtown Experience Grant. Ms. Pike enjoys traveling, reading, yoga, and exploring new cultures in her free time. Her research interests include secondary students with learning disabilities, teacher preparation, and teachers with disabilities.

Scholars

Dr. Tucker is a faculty member in the Program of Physical Therapy at the University of Central Florida. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Alabama, a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Indianapolis, and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of South Alabama. Dr. Tucker is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education in the Exceptional Education Track at the University of Central Florida. She is board certified in pediatrics by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Dr. Tucker is the Director of UCF Go Baby Go and Co-Director of the IMOVE lab. She serves on the Medical Advisory Board for the Down Syndrome Association, the Advisory Board for the Creative School at the University of Central Florida, and is a Medical Director of international missions with Sharing Smiles. She has presented on physical activity, service delivery models, and promoting early mobility nationally. Her research interests focus on physical activity and participation in children with and without disabilities, early mobility, and, parent education. Dr. Tucker maintains clinical practice and consultation in private practice in Orlando, Florida.
Sami Algethami is an international student from Saudi Arabia. He is earning his Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida. His goal is to make special education resources more accessible for parents and teachers in Saudi Arabia. Sami’s research interest is the effects of technology on students with behavioral disorders. Also, He is interested in Positive Behavior Intervention and Support PBIS”
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