teacher in classroom with several students

Educator Preparation Spotlight

photo of Interim Dean Laura Stapleton

At the University of Maryland College of Education, educator preparation is being reimagined. We are dedicated to innovation in curriculum, the development of equity-minded educators, digital learning, and community partnerships that strengthen our ability to prepare effective educators for today’s classrooms.

An excellent teacher can transform learning for thousands of students over the course of their career. Reflecting the needs of today’s classrooms, our educator preparation programs prepare future educators to work with diverse student populations, utilize evidence-based approaches to online teaching and learning, and serve special education and English Language Learners.

Our pioneering researchers are advancing the field through rigorous research on how to best prepare new educators and support experienced teachers. Our research is shaped by input from practicing educators and is responsive to pressing educational issues identified by the community themselves. From math learning in early childhood to teaching reading to high schoolers with disabilities, our scholarship promotes excellence and equity in education.

Located in a diverse metropolitan area near the state and nation’s capitals, the University of Maryland provides a wealth of opportunities for field experiences. Our students have access to mentorship from world-class educators, as well as internships in local school systems that reflect our changing K-12 student populations. Our teacher preparation programs transform teaching and learning—for our students and theirs.

Laura M. Stapleton
Interim Dean and Professor
UMD College of Education

Community Partnerships

Summer Reading Clinic Supports Learners and Leaders

Dr. Ayanna Baccus

A reading clinic at a local elementary school in Prince George’s County, Maryland, provides teaching opportunities for master’s students in our reading certification program. The summer program, which helps prepare graduate students for reading specialist roles, provides supplemental help for elementary and middle school students who struggle to read. Partially funded by Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation, the program is provided at no cost to most students from the diverse local area.

“It gives our students that hands-on experience teaching reading,” Dr. Ayanna Baccus, reading clinic director, said. “Our students can try out different interventions and respond to different needs in the classroom. Teaching students work in pairs—a hallmark of our program—as they teach and assess together, so that they not only collaborate, but coach one another as well.”

Reading support can be especially helpful for students with special education needs, like dyslexia, as well as English Language Learners. The reading clinic also enables our teaching students to grow as instructors and develop confidence and ability in literacy instruction.

[Pictured: Dr. Ayanna Baccus, Associate Clinical Professor]

Toggle Talk Offers Asset-Based Learning Opportunities


Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Toggle Talk is a randomized control research project underway in ten minority-majority Baltimore City schools designed to improve early childhood reading. The project, which includes an evaluation of an English language supplement and professional development, focuses on developing an asset-based approach for teachers that work with African American language speaking students. A collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Toggle Talk researchers are also examining qualitative dimensions like teacher attitudes.

The project is designed to support students in switching between informal home language and more formal school language. For instance, teachers may draw a comparison in language and clothing choices in different settings.

“We might make the point that you speak one way and dress one way at home vs school. Not saying one way or another is better,” said Dr. Ebony Terrell Shockley, lead researcher.

[Pictured: Dr. Ebony Terrell Shockley, Executive Director and Associate Clinical Professor]

David Weintrop
Assistant Professor

David Weintrop

An expert on computer science education, Dr. Weintrop was named a 2020 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. Supported by the fellowship, Dr. Weintrop worked with school systems to integrate computing and computer science into classrooms. He hopes to encourage school systems to embrace computational thinking and literacy and give students the skills to read and write computer programs at a level similar to reading and writing conventional text.

“There’s a lot of excitement of bringing computational thinking into classrooms and there are a bunch of ideas around how to do that, but not that much empirical work exploring what it actually looks like, particularly related to bringing computational thinking into science and math classrooms,” said Dr. Weintrop.

Dr. Weintrop has ongoing collaborative projects with school systems in Washington, DC and Chicago. In Chicago, Dr. Weintrop is working with public school districts to design a middle school science curriculum called Scratch Encore, which uses cultural context to engage kids with computer science ideas.

In Washington, DC, along with Associate Professor Janet Walkoe, Dr. Weintrop is creating a 4th grade math curriculum that incorporates computational thinking and robotics.

“These are schools with majority black and Hispanic student populations coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds who otherwise don’t have that many opportunities to have access to robotic toolkits,” Dr. Weintrop says. “We’re looking at ways to design the curricula to allow them to engage with robotics and mathematics, but also draw on their lived experience and prior knowledge, ways that they can better align who they are with what they’re doing in the classroom.”

Innovation in Curriculum and Instruction

Sarah McGrew
Assistant Professor

Sarah McGrew

Dr. McGrew researches educational responses to the spread of online misinformation. Her research focuses on young people’s civic online reasoning—how they search for and evaluate online information on contentious social and political topics—and how schools can better support students to learn effective evaluation strategies. As part of this work, Dr. McGrew studies how best to support teachers to learn online reasoning themselves and design lessons for their students.

“Many young people report that social media is their top source for news,” said Dr. McGrew. “We need to help students develop skills to find reliable information so they don’t fall prey to misinformation when they’re online.”

In one of her studies, high schoolers learned strategies for evaluating online information that professional fact checkers used. The study, which showed an improvement in students’ ability to evaluate information after learning fact-checking strategies, was published by Computers and Education. As phones and computers give unparalleled access to information, deciding what to trust is critical for making personal, community and political decisions. It’s the responsibility of schools to teach students strategies for navigating digital information, Dr. McGrew said.

“If we’re turning to the internet for information, we have to be able to evaluate it. I think as part of the civic mission of schools, it’s our responsibility to help students learn how to deal with this and take advantage of the strengths of having access to so much information while avoiding its pitfalls.”

Shenika Hankerson
Assistant Professor

Shenika Hankerson

Dr. Hankerson’s research focuses on African American-language speaking students and how to increase their success in writing through anti-racist pedagogy and Afro-centric curricula. She also teaches COE’s pre-service and in-service secondary English and literature teachers, helping to prepare these educators to instruct a diverse student population.

Her work on teaching writing to this student population focuses on anti-racist pedagogy, including lesson plans and curricula that embody African American historical and cultural background, inclusive content, and support for writing that blends academic and African American language dialect. Through an Afro-centric approach, educators develop curricula that teach Afro-centric values, culture, history, and literature, and is centered on historical and current values for language.

“This type of curricula is really important for teachers who teach this population of students. [When implemented,] African American students are really engaged because they finally see what their language really looks like, and they get really into school contexts that tend to erase them.”

Dr. Hankerson also leads the Research Institute for Scholars in Education (RISE) program, a $1.1M Institute of Education Sciences grant-funded project, which trains undergraduate students from underrepresented populations for doctoral study. Designed to increase diversity in education research, students in the RISE program receive research mentoring on language and literacy topics from UMD faculty, while receiving academic mentoring from Bowie State University faculty.

Christy Tirrell-Corbin
Clinical Professor and Execuutive Director of The Center for Early Childhood Education and Innovation

Dr. Christy Tirrell-Corbin

Dr. Tirrell-Corbin conducts research on issues of race and culture in early childhood classrooms. Through facilitating professional development on issues of race in schools, her work aims to help teachers be more responsive to the culturally-specific needs of children and families. For example, Dr. Tirrell-Corbin and Pennsylvania State University colleagues are implementing a research study on trauma-sensitive curriculum in early childhood classrooms. Her curricula work is at the forefront of helping educators to support young children who have experienced trauma, such as that caused by school shootings and the pandemic.

Dr. Tirrell-Corbin also leads the Children Study Their World project, an all-digital preschool curriculum for four-year-olds, funded by the Maryland State Department of Education and in partnership with the Smithsonian Museum. This in-depth, project-based learning curriculum includes strategies for teaching English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Already being piloted in dozens of Maryland classrooms, the curriculum will ultimately be free-of-charge to prekindergarten classrooms in Maryland.



Beatriz Quintos
Assistant Clinical Professor

Beatriz Quintos

$2.5M National Science Foundation grant led by Dr. Quintos is supporting UMD-led research on how family-school collaborations that build on the strengths of multilingual families and teachers might improve math learning for multilingual students.

Projections suggest that multilingual students will make up 40% of all K-12 students by 2030. Because of language and cultural mismatches and scarcity of school resources needed for success, many such students are in severe need of expanded learning opportunities, she said. The project aims to help teachers be responsive and build on advantages that multilingual students and parents bring to mathematical reasoning.

“We want teachers to be aware that multilingual students should be positioned as having assets,” said Dr. Quintos.

The study will take place in grades 3-5 in underserved communities in Arizona, Maryland and Missouri, reflecting diverse cultural and linguistic populations. At its core, the project is built around challenging math tasks grounded in everyday life—like scaling the recipe of an horchata drink to a large party, or working with wrenches that have fractional measurements. Findings from the study will help educators and researchers develop partnership programs that support long-term equity and learning goals for historically marginalized students. Prince George’s County has a diverse student body, and it’s essential that UMD collaborates with local school systems for these reasons, Dr. Quintos said.

The UMD also team includes Carolina Napp-Avelli, Claudia Galindo, Melinda Martin-Beltran and Tarik Buli, as well as researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Miss

Janet Walkoe
Associate Professor

Janet Walkoe

Dr. Janet Walkoe

Walkoe received a prestigious National Science Foundation Career Grant to investigate how teachers notice and respond to the seeds of algebraic thinking in middle school students. Using video clips of math classes, teachers analyze students’ gestures and actions, which help reveal student thinking and understanding of algebra.

“Often, children can gesture an idea before they can articulate it, especially for students who are English language learners or neurodiverse,” Dr. Walkoe said.

The innovative approach gives teachers a window into other dimensions of student learning, with a facilitator helping small groups of teachers synchronously tag student actions on an interactive video screen. Through the project, Dr. Walkoe hopes teachers and students notice precursors of algebraic thought, such as the relationship between balance in a playground and balance in math, and capitalize on the innate resources children bring to math.

“Algebra is a gatekeeper for kids—those who don’t have success in algebra get shut out from advanced science careers,” she said. “Right now, we don’t pay attention to kids’ resources. Instead of teaching algebra from the top-down, I’m interested in teaching algebra from the bottom-up.”

With the support of the $800,000 five-year NSF grant, Dr. Walkoe’s work focuses on increasing success in algebra, especially for underrepresented minority and neurodiverse students, along with English Language learners.

Simulating the Classroom with Avatars

Avatar technology, or digital representations of people in real-life situations, is used across educator programs in our College. Avatars help our students prepare for real-world teaching scenarios. From modeling interactions with students with disabilities to mock parent-teacher conferences, preservice teachers are able to hone their lesson plans and classroom management techniques by interacting in real-time with avatars played by actors. Dr. Daniel Levin, associate clinical professor, facilitates the avatar program and ensures it is informed by, and in turn informs, research on teacher education.


Moving Teacher Inteernships Online

The COVID-19 pandemic presents great challenges, but also provides new opportunities to learn about, develop and plan outstanding online courses that are adaptable, accessible to all students under a variety of circumstances and are highly innovative.


Alison Jovanovic

Alison Jovanovic, a senior faculty specialist, received a teaching innovation grant from the University to re-imagine the seminar and internship experience for teacher candidates in our secondary and K-12 undergraduate and graduate programs. Given the significance of personal interaction in the seminar and in-classroom teaching internship, transitioning to a virtual environment presented significant challenges.

Supported by the grant, our teacher education program pivoted to preparing teacher candidates to assess students’ mastery in an online context; observe experienced teachers build rapport in a virtual context; effectively teach content via the school system’s platform; modify lesson plans for the online environment; and adeptly use virtual tools to assess students’ work.

Additionally, the teaching team redesigned several internship and seminar-based tasks and experiences with a new technology-based component that aligns with our new International Society for Technology in Education standards, which also translated to new technological abilities for COE faculty.