COE Awards and Recognition Archive

Doctoral student keeps students interested in STEM

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Remy Photo 2

When Remy Dou began teaching high school biology, he reveled in seeing his best and brightest students understand challenging concepts.

Thanks to a mentor, he soon realized that approach was all wrong.

“For teachers, we see the most engaged students and we take their success as a sign of our great teaching skills because you see the results right away and it feels good,” Dou, 33, said. “When you target the least-engaged students, it forces you to bring out out whatever skills you have to get that student motivated and learning something.”

What worked for Dou, a Curriculum and Instruction doctoral student in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, was developing closer relationships with students.

Talking to his students and attending their sporting events, for example, got them to take more interest in class and ultimately to get better grades, Dou said.

It’s that combination of the social and the scientific that Dou has made the focus of his doctoral research because as the global economy has shifted more toward the technical and scientific, he wants more students to find and keep those lucrative jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the demand for jobs in the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields is strong.

The number of jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow by 17 percent or roughly twice as fast as non-STEM occupations through 2018. STEM workers also command salaries that are 26 percent higher than non-STEM jobs, according to the Department of Commerce.

FIU, where more than 11,500 students major in STEM fields, has made significant commitments to improving STEM education. President Mark B. Rosenberg was recently named chairman of a National Academy of Sciences committee to develop benchmarks and tracking tools for STEM education.

The College of Arts, Sciences & Education is also home to FIUTeach, a secondary STEM teacher preparation initiative, and the STEM Transformation Institute, which has reshaped the way science courses are taught throughout the university.

Six science courses are taught in two state-of-the-art active learning classrooms, where professors eschew the traditional lecture model and students collaborate with one another to tackle scientific challenges hands-on.

It’s in these classrooms where Dou conducts his research.

“Seeing value in relationships led me to focus on looking at relationships in the classroom in my research and the impact of relationships between students and instructors,” Dou said. “It’s a social justice issue, for me. I want students of all backgrounds to have the ability to pursue STEM careers where employment is more secure and they can earn higher level salaries.”

According to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), today’s STEM work force is not as diverse as it could be.

Women and minorities make up a fraction of today’s STEM work force. Women, for example, make up 48 percent of the work force, yet they account for only 23 percent of all STEM employees. The numbers are worse for blacks and Hispanics, who represent a mere 12 percent of STEM workers, according to NMSI.

The question Dou and other researchers are asking is how can educators help students maintain and develop an interest in science fields that will help them continue on in science careers.

“What we’ve seen in our modeling instruction courses is students interacting with one another,” Dou said. “Success depends on how students interact with one another – it doesn’t always mean that you’re the person who is speaking. You also have to listen, participate and be engaged. These classes are designed so that those things happen naturally.”

Dou, who won a recent student poster competition held by the American Association for the Advancement on Science, is continuing to work on identifying the intangibles that will ultimately help students succeed in STEM.


Graduate studies staffer earns Presidential Salute

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Caprila Almeida 10_27_2015 picOur own Caprila Almeida of the Office of Graduate Studies received a presidential salute from FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg for her dedication and commitment to delivering excellent quality service to the FIU community.

Nominated by doctoral student Tammy Sanders, Caprila was known as a “lifesaving resource” when it comes to the Ph.D. process. Tammy said Caprila deserves to be recognized for the vital role she plays in the success of students like her.

Tammy heralds Caprila as “an encyclopedia of knowledge,” who is “gracious and generous with her time” as well as “solutions-oriented, consistently reliable and extraordinarily helpful.

Caprila’s supervisor, Associate Dean Thomas G. Reio, also shares that seeing her work with “students and faculty is like a breath of fresh air. Not only is she smart, competent, creative, and collegial, it is so clear she truly and deeply cares about the welfare of the students and faculty.”

Caprila began her career at FIU in 2007 as a secretary in the College of Education, and has been serving as office manager as well as office coordinator in Graduate Studies since 2009.

Art education grads showcase work at Frost Art Museum

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

What’s the best graduation present you can ask for?

Well, if you’re an artist, how about your very own show at the Frost Art Museum?

The nine students graduating this fall from the master of art education program at the College of Education will have their works go on exhibit at the Frost beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, with the opening reception of the Master in Art Education Exhibition.

Each student is displaying works from their extensively researched master’s theses, where they used paintings and mixed-media art to convey their message and their grasp of technique.

Perhaps the most striking piece of art going on display is Jesús A. Garcia’s “Rebirth.”

Using a photo of California’s famous redwoods, he shot during a family trip as the background, Garcia painted himself in the foreground with arms outstretched and brilliant red wings sprouting from his back.

“There is tremendous power in that painting,” Garcia said. “I show you the way I see life, the way I fight all the obstacles life has given me. The red is the flame of the Phoenix, the fire, the power. It means no matter how hard life hits me, I will hit back.”

An avid artist and painter, Garcia survived a serious accident in 1991 that cost him part of his right arm and crippled his left arm. In 2012, one of his twin sons suffered a traumatic brain injury that affected his mobility and his ability to speak. Two years later, his wife, Melanie, battled a ravaging cancer that ultimately claimed a leg.

“The main thing that inspires me is my family,” he said. “I use that as an inspiration to keep going no matter how difficult times get.”


Ramon Oscar Lopez, one of Garcia’s classmates, also looked to his own life to inspire and inform his work.

His body of work focuses on his shifting roles throughout life and culminate on a reflection of his latest role: father to a 3-month-old son.

“A lot of the paintings illustrate the different roles I play: being a good husband, a good father and becoming a better person,” Lopez said. “And, in each painting, there is  little bit of magical realism because the environments where the figures find themselves are very specific and orchestrated. I wanted the work to combine realism, abstraction and energy.”

After researching Baroque masters, Melissa Carter first focused her work on vanity and the transience of time but thinking the theme was a bit ominous, she chose to include more hopeful messages inspired by Romantic landscape painters.


In her landscape painting, “Teach Us To Number Our Days,” Carter uses the sunset to present the idea that peace ultimately can be found at the end of one’s life, knowing his or her days were well-spent.

“It’s important for people to always be aware that time is fleeting so we don’t waste our time,” she said. “We should focus our lives on what matters.”

The Master of Art in Education Exhibition runs through Jan. 15.

Professor’s math games help preshoolers

Friday, December 11th, 2015


Learning math and numerical concepts can be a challenge for young children, but one early childhood professor is pioneering a series of how-to videos showing parents how they can use fun and simple games to help their preschoolers learn math.

Pre-K is an extremely important time for young children,” said Charles Bleiker, an early childhood education professor at FIU’s College of Education. “Introducing math concepts in a fun and engaging way can lead to long-term success in math and science. This in turn opens up a whole world of possibilities in the emerging science, technology, engineering and math careers.”

The three videos highlight a few of the games utilized in Bleiker’s NumberWays program.

The games focus on teaching children four key concepts: number equating, number naming, number sequence and number writing.

  • In the Bowling game, children learn number naming and number sequence.
  • In Kitty and Bear, children learn number counting.
  • In the Tracing Game, children learn number writing.

All three videos are available online at

Bleiker first shared his research during a 2014 TEDxFIU talk, where he showed how 4-year-olds increased their math readiness after playing the games for at least 15 minutes at a time over the course of a few months.

“The results are nothing less than amazing,” Bleiker said. “We’ve been successful because games are the most powerful and natural way that young children learn. Our games are easy enough so that parents, grandparents and siblings can play these games with almost no cost and little effort.”


Our graduates are Worlds Ahead!

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Renu-Batra-for-Fall-225x300Renu Batra
Ed.D. in Adult Education and Human Resource Development
College of Education

When Renu Batra started working on her doctoral dissertation, she chose to focus on a subject close to her home and her heart.

Renu, who was born in India, traveled to Mumbai to collect data that showed the male-dominated culture of her homeland was so strong that it suppressed the opportunity of urban, middle class women to pursue their education after they were married.

According to the research she conducted in earning her Ed.D. in adult education and human resource development, middle class women in India were not expected nor were they supported in earning more than a basic high school education because they were expected to put the needs of their families ahead of their own.

And while the Indian government developed literacy programs to educate the rural poor, similar opportunities did not exist for women of the urban, middle class, Renu said.

India can turn things around, however, if private corporations were to help fund opportunities for these women to develop home-based, income-generating activities that wouldn’t take away from their day-to-day responsibilities, according to Renu.

After commencement, Renu eventually plans to return to India and work at a private university or a board of education where she can make a difference by developing programs that can help urban, middle class women gain access to more educational opportunities.

Renu counted on Thomas Reio, Jr., associate dean of graduate studies at the College of Education, for his mentorship and guidance.

Jesus-GarciaJesus A. Garcia
Master of Art in Teaching
College of Education


Jesus A. Garcia does not know how to give up.

At 53 years old, Jesus is no stranger to adversity: He survived a serious accident in 1991 that resulted in the partial loss of his right arm and a crippled left arm. In 2012 one of his twin sons suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash that affected his mobility and his ability to speak. Two years later, his wife, Melanie, battled a ravaging cancer that ultimately claimed a leg.

It would be enough to stop any person, but Jesus, a Golden Key International Honor Society member, has treated every day since his accident as a gift, choosing to focus on serving as an inspiration to others.

Jesus’s master’s thesis, comprising eight mixed media artworks, embody his mantra. In one piece, “Rebirth,” he used a photograph of himself among California’s famous redwoods which he then embellished with bright red wings springing from his back – the Phoenix reborn through adversity.

Despite estimating that it takes him up to six times longer than an average artist to complete a piece of art, Jesus remained undeterred and sought to marry his passions for teaching and creating original works by earning a Master of Art in Teaching to develop South Florida’s future artists.

While completing his thesis, he counted on the mentorship of Professor David Chang.

Today, Jesus works as a substitute teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, but he plans to teach art full time at the high school level.



Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, FIU partner to enhance science education

Monday, November 30th, 2015


The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and FIU have created a partnership to strengthen science education through funding from the State of Florida.

As a primary academic partner of the museum, FIU will develop a pilot program in collaboration with Frost Science to provide real-world experience in science learning for Miami-Dade County preschool children based on the museum’s Early Childhood Hands-On Science (ECHOS) program. FIU students will gain first-hand work experience in real classrooms focused on the importance of working with families to introduce science to preschoolers.

“For decades we have been missing a great opportunity – our youngest and most natural scientists were largely being ignored by the science education establishment,” said Judy Brown, vice president emerita of education at Frost Science.

In addition, FIU students in FIUteach, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher preparation program, will receive training in science communication and complete internships at Frost Science, working with exhibit content developers and education experts in the development of field trip programming for elementary and secondary education students.

“FIU is helping to create a pipeline of highly skilled teachers who inspire and challenge students in the STEM fields,” said Laird Kramer, director of FIU’s STEM Transformation Institute, a multidisciplinary collaboration across the FIU colleges of Arts & Sciences, Education, and Engineering & Computing. “The partnership with Frost Science will give FIU students the opportunity to experience and influence science education beyond the classroom in unique and exciting ways.”

In December, the first group of early childhood education, elementary education, and special education students from the College of Education who completed the ECHOS training will be paired with teachers in preschool centers operated by Head Start, Early Learning Coalition providers and Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Thena C. Crowder Early Childhood Diagnostic and Special Education Center. They will commit at least 36 hours toward working with low-income 3 to 5 year-olds in centers located across South Florida, including Opa-locka, Overtown, Libery City, Little Haiti, Wynwood and Homestead. A second cohort of College of Education students will be trained in late January.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to reduce the gap in school readiness,” said Daniela Foerch, an early childhood education instructor at the College of Education. “Head Start students will have access to Frost Science resources to gain a better understanding of science, helping them learn through inquiry while applying the scientific method. Because we are teaching science through exploration, we expect to have a long-term impact on educational equity.”

Soon-to-be graduates fill MDCPS teaching vacancies

Monday, November 30th, 2015


For roughly 40 seniors majoring in education, a recent job fair offered them the chance to land their dream job weeks before they’ve graduated.

“It’s very exciting, it’s a dream come true,” said Mariela Lanz, 22, an elementary education major who was the first student to receive and accept a job offer at the hiring fair. “This is always what I’ve wanted to do.”

Principals from 40 of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (MDCPS) elementary, middle, senior high schools and K-8 centers filled FIU’s Stadium Club on Nov. 19 looking to fill vacancies at their schools.

This hands-on approach was a marked departure from the typical information sessions the school district used to market itself to education graduates.

Instead of helping graduates understand the process for finding teacher vacancies and applying for open positions, district leaders worked with the College of Education to help fill vacancies immediately.

“Our principals are always asking for FIU graduates because they are tried and true,” said Ana Flores, a senior recruiter at MDCPS. “We know teachers are eager to get started and this year we wanted to be more proactive.”

The proactive effort to hire FIU students came about during a meeting with College of Education Dean Delia C. Garcia and Jose L. Dotres, MDCPS’s deputy chief of human capital.

“We agreed we needed to put a plan in place so our student teachers could gain immediate employment with the district,” Garcia said. “We were thinking out of the box as much as possible.”

As an added benefit for students who were hired, Garcia said that at the end of the school year, they will be credited for having worked a full year, which will help them accrue benefits and pay raises faster.

Some students like special education major Jorge Iglesias, 22, fielded several job offers from K-8 centers, elementary and middle schools.

“It’s been fantastic,” Iglesias said. “There’s a need for special education teachers and I felt that today. I’m going to take a bit of time to sit back and think about my opportunities.”

Others, like Lanz and Annette Moses signed teaching contracts on the spot.

They were among the many students who completed hiring paperwork on site and will report to their schools in December as temporary instructors. They will officially become full-time teachers in a few weeks, once FIU verifies they have met graduation requirements.

Principals also invited many of their classmates to tour their schools, which could lead to more vacancies being filled.

Moses will teach fourth graders at Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center near Miami’s West Little River neighborhood.

“I feel nervous and excited,” she said. “You want to get in the classroom and you want to do things your way. I know it’s going to be a lot of work but I want to do my best and show that I can do this.”

Lanz will return to nearby Poinciana Park Elementary, where she was wrapping up her student teaching assignment.

“There were two openings and I picked the classroom right next to my internship teacher,” Lanz said. “I chose second grade because they haven’t had a teacher for a couple of weeks already and I felt like they needed someone the most because they need to learn the content most to move on to third grade, which is a crucial year because they’ll be taking the FSA.

“I made my decision based on the children – I always put them first,” she added.

For some principals, extending offers on the spot was an easy decision.

“I don’t need good teachers anymore because I have a lot of good teachers – I need teachers who are extraordinary,” said Amrita Prakash, Poinciana Park Elementary’s school principal. “With FIU graduates, I can almost guarantee success. I always see that they come out of the blocks ready to go. They’re the first ones to know the best strategies that work for my kids, the latest technology and the latest techniques.”

Dean Garcia named outstanding educator

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015


Delia C. Garcia, dean of the College of Education, was honored recently for her service and dedication to the field of education, and specifically, the education of Hispanic students.

Garcia was among several educators, principals and Miami-Dade County Public Schools administrators in the county honored with the 2015 Cervantes Outstanding Educator Award, presented by Nova Southeastern University’s College of Education.

“As a life-long educator, I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” Garcia said. “During my time as dean of the College of Education, we have awarded thousands of degrees to Hispanics students and have secured financial support to facilitate their accessing higher educational opportunities.

“Our graduates make substantial contributions to their schools and work diligently to prepare and lead the next generation of students,” Garcia added. “As educators, we must remain committed to impacting the lives of our students in meaningful ways and advancing the preparation of Hispanics in our nation. I am honored to be in such good company with the other recipients.”

Garcia was lauded for implementing the Creating Latino Access to a Valuable Education (CLAVE) grant at FIU.

Since its founding in 2009, CLAVE sought to increase graduate school opportunities for Hispanic teachers and administrators pursuing masters and doctoral degrees.

To date, one cohort of four students pursued a doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision, and three cohorts totaling 34 students pursued a master’s degree in Urban Education.

The grant also issued 50 travel awards so students and faculty could present manuscripts at professional conferences.

For three consecutive years, CLAVE was named an Examples of Excelencia national finalist by Excelencia in Education, a non-profit organization that ranks educational programs based on their effectiveness in creating opportunities for Hispanic and Latino students to pursue higher education.

National Outlook in Education Magazine has also ranked the college No. 2 in the nation among colleges of education in awarding degrees to Hispanic students.

“Dean Garcia is deserving of this recognition for her remarkable track record of creating opportunities for Hispanic students, helping them to thrive and excel in the field of education and beyond,” said Miami-Dade County Public School Board Member Susie V. Castillo, who nominated Garcia for the award.

About 35 percent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers are FIU graduates, and during Garcia’s tenure as dean of the College of Education, four of the previous five Miami-Dade County Public Schools Teachers of the Year have been FIU graduates. Alexandre Lopes was even named Florida’s Teacher of the Year in 2013 while he pursued a doctoral degree in education.

Garcia is the second person from FIU’s College of Education to receive the award from NSU in as many years. Elena Capablanca, an art education student, was among the recipients of the 2014 Cervantes Award.


Pelaez earns Excellence in Research honors

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015


The College of Education’s faculty continues to be recognized for their efforts in the classroom and in research.

At the annual Faculty Convocation, Professor Martha Pelaez won the Excellence in Research and Creative Activities award. Her colleague in the educational psychology program, Senior Instructor Joanne Sanders-Reio, won an Excellence in Teaching award.

“I was ecstatic,” Pelaez said. “I didn’t expect to receive the award because there are so many people doing fantastic research at the College of Education and at FIU.”

Pelaez focuses her research in the area of infant development, finding ways to help infants develop behaviors that affect their learning as they become toddlers. Pelaez has been recognized by FIU twice for her work. In 2005, she receieved the Excellence in Service award and in 1997, she also received the Excellence in Research Award.

For example, when an infant is only 3, 4, and 5 months old, it should be able to make eye contact with its parents. This helps build the behaviors necessary for language development and for socializing with other children and family members.

Some infants, however, don’t develop this skill as expected, Pelaez said. Infants who are on the autism spectrum, for instance have trouble engaging in eye contact smiling, vocalizing, and socializing, she said.

“It’s very gratifying, but if you tap into the right procedures, then you can get the behaviors you desire most of the time,” Pelaez said. “Once parents begin to understand the techniques and the important of their own behaviors in establishing these behavioral repertoires, they can help their own children develop.”

Their awards come on the heels of previous honors won by their colleagues in the College of Education.

Previous College of Education Faculty Award Winners


  • Lynne D. Miller – Excellence in Teaching
  • Elizabeth Cramer – Excellence in Service
  • Eva Frank – Excellence in Mentorship and Advising


  • Alexis McKenney – Excellence in Service
  • Joyce Fine – Excellence in Engagement

Sanders-Reio earns Excellence in Teaching honors

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015


The College of Education’s faculty continues to be recognized for their efforts in the classroom and in the field.

At the annual Faculty Convocation, Senior Instructor Joanne Sanders-Reio won an Excellence in Teaching award. Her colleague in the educational psychology program, Professor Martha Pelaez, won the Excellence in Research and Creative Activities award.

“What makes me different, I think, is that I marry theory and practice,” Sanders-Reio said. “Theory is the mother of practice. Teaching and learning strategies arise from theories, so if you understand the theories, you understand how the strategies work and when to use them.

“Theory drives everything – how the classroom is set up, what kind of tests are administered, the kinds of questions that are asked,” she said. “Theory gives you the big picture.”

Sanders-Reio’s students agree. One wrote that Sanders-Reio “put everything in perspective and explained why teachers teach the way they do, and what is effective and what is not. She affected my outlook on teaching in such a huge way.”

Sanders-Reio was also commended for helping students develop their writing skills. A former writer, Sanders-Reio teaches expert writing practices. For example, she gives her students specific substantive and mechanical feedback and then allows them to rewrite for a higher grade.

“Revision is the norm in the workplace. Even professors get the chance to revise and resubmit their articles and do better,” she explains. “We need to prepare our students to take an edit and revise.”

Her students are often surprised that they actually enjoy the process. “I read the comments and feedback, and I realized I agreed with all of it,” one student wrote. “Revising enhanced my writing.”

Previous College of Education Faculty Award Winners


  • Lynne D. Miller – Excellence in Teaching
  • Elizabeth Cramer – Excellence in Service
  • Eva Frank – Excellence in Mentorship and Advising


  • Alexis McKenney – Excellence in Service
  • Joyce Fine – Excellence in Engagement