UT Tyler College of Education & Psychology

College of Education and Psychology

Faculty & Staff Spotlight

Johnny Walker, a The University of Texas at Tyler School of Education doctoral student, is celebrated by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching for transforming Winona Middle School from an "F" to a "B" in two years as its principal. Now targeting an "A" rating, his impactful leadership underscores a commitment to educational excellence.

The UT Tyler University Academy was featured on a recent episode of the SPEDTalk podcast about the positive impact of project-based learning on performance, achievement and outcomes of UA students. UA SPED students outperform other students in traditional settings. SPEDTalk is a podcast from STATE SPED Liaisons that highlights support for students served in special education.

The Memory Assessment and Research Center (MARC) is inviting the public to an open house event on Tuesday, July 11, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The event will take place at MARC's new location at 3531 South Broadway in Tyler, where it shares a building with the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County. Michael Barnett, the Director of MARC, and his team of doctoral students will be present to discuss the center's advanced research and modern services that it offers on a daily basis. Please RSVP to Kathy Gohmert at kgohmert@uttyler.edu or 903.566.7487.

Ginny Fender recently retired, and we had a retirement reception on Tuesday, June 27 to celebrate her remarkable contributions to our College. We extend our gratitude to everyone who attended the event to honor Ginny and acknowledge her immense impact. It was a pleasure to have former staff and faculty members, including former Dean Ross Sherman, join us for this special occasion. Dean Sherman spoke about Ginny's dedication in certifying teacher candidates for over four decades and her collaboration with every dean in the history of the College at UT Tyler. We sincerely thank Ginny for her remarkable 41 years of service.

Michael Barnett and his students had 3 posters accepted to the Gerontological Society of America’s conference.

Yanira Oliveras has been awarded a faculty development leave for the 2023-2024 academic year, making her one of only five faculty members to receive this honor. In the upcoming Spring semester, Yanira will travel to Belize to expand on her previous work with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology. Her project involves assessing the long-term impact of transitioning the national curriculum from teacher-centered to competency-based education. Additionally, she will support teacher education programs in redesigning their preparation programs and assist school principals in implementing instructional coaching and data-informed decision-making.

Chris Thomas and undergraduate psychology student Savannah Fitch had their paper Handedness and Test Anxiety: An Examination of Mixed-Handed and Consistent-Handed Students accepted for publication in Experimental Results.

Chris Thomas and Staci Zolkoski had their paper A Multivariate Investigation of the Motivational, Academic, and Well-Being Characteristics of First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students accepted for publication in the Journal of Research Initiatives.

Amy Hayes is one of three faculty members serving on the new IT Governance Steering Committee which will be tasked with doing the important work of collaborating and making important decisions regarding information and technology.

Gary Miller presented at Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association Summer Conference with Debra Cantu at UT-Austin and Janice Taylor at Prairie View A&M University on the Texas Program Improvement Network (a partnership with TEA and Education Development Center)

Teresa Kennedy was praised for her teaching influence on a student who has a podcast called “Teacher Nuggets”.

Jaclyn Pederson and Aimee Dennis, both esteemed members of UA's (University Academy) EdD program, have recently completed successful dissertation defenses.

Ramona Grad, along with Christopher Thomas, Sarah Sass, and Staci Zolkoski, has been awarded a $57,817 grant from the Children's Spirituality Research & Innovation Hub. The grant will fund their study on how potential traumatic events affect children's spiritual beliefs. This research project aims to fill a gap in the current literature by examining the impact of factors like emotional intelligence and risk for post-traumatic stress disorder on children's spiritual beliefs.

The Memory Assessment and Research Center (MARC) offers valuable free dementia screenings, which is a lesser-known fact in the community. To showcase their work, MARC is hosting an open house on July 11 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The new location at 3531 South Broadway in Tyler is shared with the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County, their community partner. Dr. Michael Barnett, the MARC Director, and his team of doctoral students will be present to discuss their innovative research and state-of-the-art services.                                       KLTV, YouTube

UT Tyler University Academy graduates students from Tyler, Longview, Palestine campuses inForney.

Jaime W. Burke-Hicks has been named the Texas Association of Student Councils Middle-Level Advisor of the Year, and she has been nominated for the Warren Shull Middle School National Advisor of the Year. Mrs. Hicks has guided her council to numerous Outstanding Student Council and Sweepstakes awards. Her council members have served in officer roles, including president of TASC District 419, which Mrs. Hicks currently coordinates. TASC is the largest student council organization in the United States.

UA Tyler students take top two spots in ETEC idea challenge. University Academy-Tyler students have made an impressive mark in the East Texas High School Idea Challenge, hosted by the ETX Launchpad. Bliss Joseph and Rebekah Daniel claimed first place with their integrated health care app, Apollo Care, earning each of them a $5,000 UT Tyler scholarship. Tristan O'Sullivan,Giovanni Pinedo, and Hayden Burns secured second place with their multi-use, self-charging utility tool, EcoStep, and received $2,500 UT Tyler scholarships each. These talented students have showcased their innovative ideas and entrepreneurial potential, bringing well-deserved recognition to their school.

The Office of Career Success at the university recently hosted its annual luncheon to recognize the outstanding contributions of student employees. Justin Vargas, a Psychology BA major, received the Spirit Award, while Bailey Cox, a Psychology BA major with a Criminal Justice minor, was honored with the Rising Star Award for their exceptional work in the Office of Academic Success and Office of Housing and Residence Life, respectively. Congratulations to both students for their well-deserved recognition!

UA Longview has been recognized by the Accelerating Women’s Success and Mastery in Computer Science honor roll for its efforts to encourage and support female students in the field of computer science. AWSM (Accelerating Women’s Success and Mastery) in CS (Computer Science) is a National Science Foundation funded project focused on increasing access and participation of young women in computing courses.

The University of Texas at Tyler University Academy Longview campus has made the national CHILDREN AT RISK School List as an A/A+ school for 2022. UA Longview is ranked No. 20 out of 3,967 elementary schools.

Wes Hickey and the UT Tyler's East Texas Center for School Based Research and Instruction received a $14K sponsorship from the Cooperative Teacher's Credit Union to help host the Back-to-School Bash on August 8th for area ISDs.

Ramona Grad and UTT of Chi Sigma Iota International Honor Society in Counseling hosted a second annual Practicum and Internship Fair. There were approximately 30 students attendees and more than 12 organizations that provide counseling services in Tyler.

Yanira Oliveras presented for members of the East Texas Center for School Based Research and Instruction (ETC) on Educational Coaching as part of the Ed Talk series.

Jessi Rueter received an award for her Outstanding Contributions and Superior Dedication to the Council for Educational Diagnostics Services (CEDS) at the Council for Exceptional Children Conference (CEC).

Wes Hickey organized an UT Tyler Law conference through the East Texas Center for School Based Research and Instruction(ETC) with guest speakers Kelli Karczewski (Fisher Firm) and Ray Wilson (District Director for Bryan Hughes) and facilitated a UT Tyler Rural School Symposium that was led by EdD in School Improvement students Lori Anderson, Paige Lloyd, Steven Young, and Gladewater ISD Foundation President Katie Ellis.

Jennifer Bailey was elected to serve as Chair of the School Effectiveness and School Improvement Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). 

K-12 students at University Academy Longview participated in a project-based learning initiative showcase, which was recently held. The showcase aimed to demonstrate how vertical Project Lead the Way curriculum can be successfully achieved to area schools. April Moon, the Regional Director for PLTW, praised the students, saying, "Your students were absolutely amazing, reflecting the outstanding work of their teachers and UTTUA staff."

Trane Technologies reaches out to University of Texas at Tyler University Academy students through student tours to address staffing shortages and retain future employees. KLTV

The University of Texas at Tyler Reading Literacy program ranked as a top school for online master’s in education for 2023!. UT Tyler has been ranked as one of the nation’s best colleges for online master’s programs in education. Just six percent of regionally accredited postsecondary institutions earned a ranking position. Congratulations Gina Doepker, Anna Consalvo, Kouider Mokhtari and Joanna Neel!

Gary Miller, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, has received the Researcher of the Year Award from the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration.The award was presented at the midwinter 2023 TCPEA meeting.

Erin West, Associate Professor of Counseling and Citlali Molina, Associate Professor of Counseling are representing UT Tyler in its partnership with Tyler, Winona and Brownsboro school districts to provide mental health professionals in East Texas schools. KETK

Joanna Neel and Mike Odell were selected to serve by the THECB on the Texas Transfer Advisory Committee’s (TTAC) first discipline-specific subcommittee on Education to aid in the development of the Texas Transfer Field of Study Curriculum (FOSC) for three key Education pathways. 

Teresa Kennedy was re-elected to serve on the UNESCO NGO Liaison Committee as the only U.S. Representative on the committee working with international representatives from Bulgaria, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, France, Germany, Poland, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. She was appointed Vice President, and Liaison to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Brandon Bretl’s article Adolescence is a ‘use it or lose it’ time for moral development was published.

Amy Hayes was a keynote speaker at the 2023 2023 Texas STEM Conference.

Woonhee Sung, Brandon Bretl, and Chris Thomas had their paper Emotional Intelligence and Anxiety in University Students: Evidence of a Curvilinear Relationship accepted for publication in the Journal of Further and Higher Education.

UT Tyler awarded more than $1.3 million from Department of Education to support mental health of students.  KLTV,KETK, Health Care Today

UT Tyler University Academy in Longview announces expansion CBS 19, KETK

Samy had an external grant funded! Estrada, S., Tsai, C. L., Owusu, G. (2023). Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Research Grant. “Concept Mapping in Introductory Psychological Statistics: A Social Network Analysis Approach.”

Congratulations to Robert Stevens for signing a contract with Linus Learning Publishers to publish, "Homespun: Teaching Local History in Grades 6-12." It was originally published in 2001 by Heinemann with 15 chapters. The revision has 26 chapters and significant editing.

Congratulations to Lauren Kirby, Staci Zolkoski and team for their accepted paper (that includes 3 doctoral students): Kirby, L.A.J., Zolkoski, S., O’Brien, K., Mathew, J., Kennedy, B.R., & Sass, S.M. (Accepted). Examining staff and faculty work– life balance and well-being using the dual continua model of mental health during COVID-19. Journal of Happiness and Health.

Congratulations to Michael Barnett who had two papers with student co-authors accepted for publication:

  1. "Attention Problems and Off-Topic Verbosity Among Young Adult and Older Adult Age Cohorts" was accepted for publication in Applied Neuropsychology: Adult. My co-authors were Jessica Helphrey and Lucas Childers, both masters alums now in doc programs (at UTSW and Texas Tech, respectively).
  2. "Processing Speed and Executive Functioning in Relation to Off-Topic Verbosity Among Young Adults and Older Adults" was accepted for publication in The International Journal of Neuroscience. My co-authors were Leah Smith, masters alum, and Allyson Coldiron, doc student.

Congratulations to Yvonne Ralph for her paper “Volumetric development of hippocampal subfields and hippocampal white matter connectivity: Relationship with episodic memory” 

UT Tyler received $100,000 from the estate of Elizabeth “Bitsy” Wright to establish an endowed scholarship for students in the sociology and psychology program.

Advancing Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service Congratulations to Wes Hickey who received the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration’s (TCPEA) James A. Vornberg Award. 

Jo Ann Simmons is proud to announce that UT Tyler University Academy Longview has received GreatSchools.org’s 2022 College Success Award! UA Longview is one of 1,742 schools in 25 states to be honored with the Award, which recognizes and celebrates high schools like ours that demonstrate excellence in ensuring students are prepared to succeed in college. 

Annamary Consalvo published “Texts as open doors: Inviting students into the long conversation – A gender-focused example.” in The Leaflet, 119(1), 31-48.

Brandon Bretl published “An exploration of the structure of moral intuitions in early adolescence” in Cognitive Development.

Jennifer Bailey published "Creating intentional space for change: Reflection, examination, articulation and pursuance.” In K. Brown & R. Papa (Eds.), Recipes to combat the ‘isms': Volume one—Equity (pp. 7-14). ICPEL Press. 

UT Tyler was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop an innovative program designed to increase the number of certified teachers in Texas and strengthen the educator training pipeline.

East Texas school districts brainstorm teacher shortage solutions - KLTV,KETK, Tyler Morning Telegraph

Michael Barnett has been invited to review NIH applications for Small Business: Biobehavioral Processes grants.

Fourth-year PhD student Jenna Moore received the Jess Hay Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship from UT System. Jenna’s research is to improve neuropsychology assessments for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders.

Yanira Oliveras had her article, The Impact of High Stakes Testing on School Leadership, published in School Leadership Review.

[Spotlight Archives]

College of Education & Psychology Awards


  • Research Award
    • Citlali Molina, Psychology & Counseling
    • Jennifer Bailey, School of Education
  • Service Award
    • Lauren Thomas, Psychology & Counseling
    • Annamary Consalvo, School of Education
  • Staff Award
    • Sharon Amaral Back, Psychology & Counseling
  • Teaching Award
    • Lauren Thomas, Psychology & Counseling
    • Joanna Neel, School of Education


  • Research Award
    • Adam McGuire, Psychology & Counseling
    • Woonhee Sung, School of Education
  • Service Award
    • Sarah Sass, Psychology & Counseling
    • Staci Zolkoski, School of Education
  • Staff Award
    • Linda Speed, Psychology & Counseling
  • Teaching Award
    • Eric Stocks, Psychology & Counseling
    • Chris Thomas, School of Education


  • Research Award
    • Michael Barnett, Psychology & Counseling
    • Chris Thomas, School of Education
  • Service Award
    • Erin West, Psychology & Counseling
    • Yanira Oliveras, School of Education
  • Staff Award
    • Kristie Allen, Psychology & Counseling
    • Lisa Dempsey, School of Education
  • Teaching Award
    • Lauren Kirby, Psychology & Counseling
    • Staci Zolkoski, School of Education