COE News Archive

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

Parent to Parent honors COE alumnus, program director

Monday, October 12th, 2015

A Miami-Dade-based resource center is set to honor a College of Education alumnus as well as the director of the college’s Panther LIFE program for making significant contributions to the quality of life of people with disabilities.

Angel L. Rodriguez ’88, MS ’90, principal of Ruth Owens Krusé Educational Center, will receive Parent to Parent of Miami’s IMPACT Award.

Diana M. Valle-Riestra, director of the College of Education’s Panther LIFE program, will receive the Excellence in Family Advocacy Award.

“It’s really important for students with disabilities to see that there are people in the community like them who are working and thriving because having a disability doesn’t mean you have no hope or dreams in life – you want to be part of the community,” said Isabel C. Garcia, CEO of Parent to Parent of Miami. “That’s what Angel and Diana are doing – promoting something that needs much more awareness and support.”

Angel-L-Rodriguez_webAngel L. Rodriguez ’88, MS ’90, principal of Ruth Owens Krusé Educational Center, will receive Parent to Parent’s IMPACT Award.


Rodriguez and Valle-Riestra will be honored at Parent to Parent’s 11thAnnual Journey of Dreams Benefit on Nov. 21. Parent to Parent, a key partner in the Panther LIFE program, provides access to information, resources and support to empower the families of more than 35,000 students with disabilities in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Rodriguez is the principal of one of four Miami-Dade County Public schools catering specifically to children with disabilities and has expanded the school’s offerings to include educational opportunities for students with emotional and intellectual disabilities from Kindergarten to adulthood.

The father of a 21-year-old who is in FIU’s Panther LIFE program, Rodriguez champions efforts to get students with special needs to learn the skills that will help them to live independently and contribute to their community.

At Ruth Owens Krusé, for example, students can learn business and cooking skills that could help them find jobs. Some students sell facial scrubs and similar products, others make jewelry, and a third group works in the school’s ROK Café.

“We’re working in a world of advocacy,” he said. “You need those advocates so people pay attention and do things for people with disabilities who need support. We need to maximize their potential.”

As director of the Panther LIFE program, Valle-Riestra worked throughout her career to include parents and families in the educational process for students with disabilities. This approach is vital, Valle-Riestra said, because families can provide crucial insights into how students behave at home, which might inform a student’s education plan.

She extended that approach to Panther LIFE, and credits the inclusion of families with increasing the chance of Panther LIFE students to successfully complete the post-secondary transition program where students with disabilities hone the skills needed to live independently and to find and keep jobs.

“To me it’s important because parents and families bring a different perspective,” Valle-Riestra said. “The student should have a strong voice in their education, but the parents or the family unit is the one that provides all those missing pieces that sometimes you cannot get from the students.”

Most recently, Valle-Riestra and College of Education Dean Delia C. Garcia, successfully advocated for recurring state funds to support Panther LIFE and to develop a similar post-secondary transition program for people with disabilities who are 22 to 26 years old – an age group that typically has been underserved.

“It goes hand-in-hand,” said Valle-Riestra. “You can’t do your job without advocating for the needs and rights of the population that you’re targeting.”

Garcia, Rosa L. Jones –an assistant professor in the College of Education– and Laverne Pinkney, a visiting clinical assistant professor in the College of Law– are previous Journey of Dreams honorees.

For details about the 11th Annual Journey of Dreams Benefit, click here.


FIU’s CLAVE program recognized among most effective in nation at increasing Latino student success in college

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015


Delia C. Garcia (center), dean of the College of Education and founder of the CLAVE initiative, is pictured with CLAVE student before the Spring 2014 commencement ceremony.

For the third consecutive year, the College of Education’s Creating Latino Access to a Valuable Education (CLAVE) initiative was recognized by elected officials and higher education leaders from across the country as an Examples of Excelencia finalist.

Excelencia in Education, the non-profit that conceived and runs the Examples of Excelencia program, recognized CLAVE from among 265 programs from 30 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia as a national finalist among America’s top programs that increase academic opportunities and increase achievement for Latino students.

“Our CLAVE graduates immediately put to use the skills and knowledge they obtain from our graduate programs to help improve the performance of our local schools,” said Delia C. Garcia, dean of the College of Education and founder of the CLAVE initiative. “In addition, creating access to a graduate education for Latino leaders is critical in order to ensure that our schools system continues to reflect the diverse nature of South Florida.”

Begun in 2009, CLAVE’s goal is to increase the number of graduate educational opportunities for Hispanic students. In five years, the initiative provided tuition scholarships to four cohorts of Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers and administrators.

One cohort of students pursued a doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision, and three cohorts pursued a master’s degree in Urban Education.

In addition, more than 50 travel awards have been granted to students and faculty in order to present manuscripts at numerous professional conferences.

“As one of this year’s finalists, FIU’s CLAVE initiative is at the forefront improving higher educational achievement for Latino students and we congratulate them for their current and continued efforts,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “By increasing awareness of top programs like this, informing program strategies, and reinforcing investment in what works, Examples of Excelencia is creating new energy and inspiring a network of action-oriented leaders to discover and implement innovations that are effective with Latino and other post-traditional students.”

The Sept. 22 announcement event, Celebración de Excelencia, coincided with the release of the 2015 edition of “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” a compendium of all 20 recognized programs including CLAVE and evidence of their success.

To download “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” visit


Art education students’ paintings go on display in GC Gallery

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015


Students in the Art Education program at the College of Education will headline an art exhibition in the Graham Center Student Art Gallery that debuts Sept. 12.


The exhibit, called Painting in the Gardens, features landscape and architectural paintings created by graduate and undergraduate students in the spring and summer art education ateliers. The students’ work will be on display through Sept. 26.


“It’s always exciting to have your work shown,” said Solangel Rodriguez, 24, who earned her bachelor’s degree in the summer and started her master’s degree in art education this fall.


Professor David Chang, who taught the atelier courses, said his students first learn about landscape painting and then conduct their own research to learn more about how master painters used different techniques to create landscape art.


After completing their research, students then dive into a weeklong painting session that runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


“The course is intense,” Chang said. “but I paint along with them. We go from a blank canvas and I take them from abstraction to completion.”


Students also huddle together and share techniques that work for them.


“Everyone has a wide range of skill and experience and it’s really great because you learn so much from everyone around you,” said Melissa Guanch Carter.


Guanch Carter chose to paint scenes from trips to Italy and France that inspired her. She also chose to paint a scene from Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens that recently was recognized in the annual Paint Me Miami competition.


At first, however, she didn’t know how her assignment would turn out.


“I didn’t start landscape painting till about three years ago,” Guanch Carter said. “l didn’t think I was going to like it because it seemed like it was so detailed but it was almost therapeutic. You can’t draw every single leaf or detail you have to suggest certain things.”


Rodriguez agreed, adding she and her classmates had the freedom to choose whether they would present nature as it appears today or whether they should change the composition or the light to make things appear more flattering.


She chose to focus her painting on the architectural beauty of Vizcaya that may not be obvious to the casual visitor.


“I didn’t want to focus on the house or the gardens because that’s the first thing people see,” she said. “What grabbed my attention were statues over by the dock.”



Art Education alumnae win top awards

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015


Patricia Cummins, ’79, was named Florida’s Elementary Art Educator of the year by the Florida Art Education Association. Here she is pictured with her oil on canvas painting, “Everglades Dream,” part of the permanent collection of the Tropical Audubon Society.

College of Education alumnae took home three major awards issued recently by the Florida Art Education Association (FAEA).

Patricia Cummins ’79 was named Elementary Art Educator of the Year; Lourdes Fuller ’98 was named Middle School Art Educator of the Year; and Beth Goldstein ’99 was named Florida Art Educator of the Year.

“It was very unexpected,” said Fuller, who teaches art at Miami’s Shenandoah Middle School. “I really did not expect it at all. I am amazed and humbled that I was recognized.”

Each year, FAEA recognizes members who have reached the highest level of professionalism and who have made significant achievements in the classroom, who conduct research or who have their work shown in exhibitions, to name a few.

“They recognize that you’re not just sitting in a classroom,” said Goldstein, an art educator at Miami Springs Senior High School. “They want to see that you’re pushing kids above and beyond or how are you making changes in the arts education community.”


2015 marks the second straight year FAEA recognized Goldstein for her efforts inside and outside the classroom. In 2014, she was named Outstanding Secondary Art Educator.

“Art ties into every other subject area – it’s nothing but the practical application of science,” she said. “It’s easy for me to stretch outside my comfort zone but I push my students to enter contests where they have to make diagrams or make a piece of art and write about its connection to science.”

One such contest where Cummins, Fuller and Goldstein encouraged their students to participate is The Fairchild Challenge; run by Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, it is open to students from pre-kindergarten to high school and calls on them to create environmentally-themed projects.

“I think that made an impact on my students,” said Cummins, who until last year taught children at Palmetto Elementary School in Pinecrest. “When they noticed that a corkystem passion flower vine at the school was damaged, they saw something happened to the butterflies – they weren’t there and they made that connection.

“They learn science, they learn math, what’s important with art and music,” she added. “It’s something that stays with them for their entire lives.”

Goldstein credits the Fairchild Challenge with motivating students where she used to teach at Miami Central High to excel. In a school where less than 12 percent of students were proficient in science at the time, she said, her students took third place overall in the science-based challenge.

In all, the alumnae credit their time at FIU for helping them become successful art educators who can summon their creativity and connect with their students.

“One of the things our professors pushed for was for us to practice our own art,” Fuller said. “It’s hard because there’s no tired like teacher tired but it’s important because once I start and I reach a hard step, it helps me think maybe this is what’s happening to my students and I think of ways I can help them.”