As we enter 2019, let us celebrate the many opportunities Sul Ross State University provides to encourage life-long learning. As a new Education assistant professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies, I am honored and grateful for the opportunities afforded to me this last year. We have the privilege to serve undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing the noblest profession, education. Preparing a new generation of diverse learners equipped in 21st century literacies requires future-ready skill sets to encourage and engage learners to question and think deeper, problem solve, collaborate, and create.
Completing a Ph.D. in cognitive science and learning technologies at the University of North Texas afforded me the opportunity to design literacy initiatives to encourage diverse learners to design and make learning artifacts to improve reading comprehension in makerspace environments. Receiving 4 small NASA grants, I designed research and learning experiences that resulted in improving Science, Engineering, and STEM literacies in schools, libraries, and museums around the world. These creative spaces provided training to librarians and teachers and gave students in remote areas new learning opportunities located in Arizona, west Texas, the Kennedy Space Center for a the NASA Mutiscale Magnetosphere student makerspace launch party, and equipment to facilitate 6 public school libraries assisting elementary and middle school makerspace programs. I have served as a Texas public school educator and advocate for the last 19 years in a variety of capacities, teaching K-12 students, providing professional development to both educators and leaders, and developing curriculum with NASA, museums, state, and federal programs. I earned an undergraduate and graduate degree at Tarleton State University with a principal certificate and was honored early as the Robert Elliott student teacher of the year in the education preparation program in 2000. The Texas Governor’s STEM council selected the NASA program as a model curriculum program in 2014. After completing a Ph.D. in 2016, I continued graduate courses at the University of Sam Houston in literacy to improve my practice in designing appropriate intervention programs to facilitate stronger literacy experiences using the makerspace model. Working with NASA, I led professional development and assisted in setting up a makerspace program to celebrate the 2017 solar eclipse at a Navajo reservation located in northern Arizona.
As the coordinator of the Reading Specialist M.Ed. online program, designing and leading quality-learning experiences to diverse learners sometimes located in remote areas is rewarding. I have the opportunity to connect makerspace environments to curriculum content through a learning process that encourages improvement in reading comprehension, parent and community involvement, and creativity through the art of learning or making. During the last year, we have worked to develop community partnerships with our alumni and are in the process of developing a literacy council. We held our first Science of Learning Leadership Conference in September 2018 and encouraged our graduate students and Texas public school leaders to share ideas, collaborate, and present. Many alumni presented and served as our keynote speakers to include Tamara McWilliams, elementary principal at Ozona ISD. We are searching for alumni to share at our 2nd Science of Learning Conference, which will be held later in 2019. Follow us on our new Facebookpage, Twitter account, or follow our department WordPress blog. Please connect with us and let’s work together to improve literacy initiatives supporting ALL students.
Dr. Jennifer Miller Ph.D.
College of Education and Professional Studies