Transforming school culture is focus of December 13th mini-conference

There is broad agreement among educators, policymakers and the public that educational systems should graduate students who are proficient in core academic subjects, able to work well with others from diverse backgrounds in socially and emotionally skilled ways, practice healthy behaviors, and behave responsibly and respectfully (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2007; Greenberg et al., 2003). In other words, schools must also attend to their students’ social-emotional learning (SEL).



To help meet this need, the UMKC Regional Professional Development Center, affiliated with the UMKC School of Education, is partnering with CharacterPlus of St. Louis to offer a one-day mini-conference, Transform Your School Culture, on December 13 at the Unity Village Conference Center (1901 NW Blue Parkway, Unity Village, Mo. 64065).


At the mini-conference, school administrators, education practitioners, school counselors, and business community stakeholders in the Kansas City metropolitan area will:

  • Learn best practices strategies available to transform school culture
  • Hear “lessons from the field” from local experts
  • Obtain best practice strategies to foster leadership development, service learning, digital citizenship and character development for students
  • Select strategies to explore for future training and implementation
  • Commit to working together to transform school culture
  • Secure resources to further school transformation

Specific breakout sessions will cover topics of restorative justice, trauma-informed educators, the journey to National School of Character designation, and positive behavior intervention supports/character braiding.  Learn, too, how to facilitate respectful and effective student summits.


Marvin W. Berkowitz, Ph.D., Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor in Character Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will serve as keynote presenter.


Register today!  The cost is $125 per participant; $100 per participant for members of the Regional Professional Development Center or CharacterPlus.


Direct questions to 816-235-2446 or



CharacterPlus®, a resource of EducationPlus®, is committed to building strong school communities where students feel valued and can succeed.  To do this, CharacterPlus helps educators instill positive character traits in students—such as responsibility and respect—through teaching, encouraging and living these values in every aspect of school life.  When character education is integrated into curriculum and throughout the school, academic performance increases and disciplinary problems like bullying decrease.  (A brief video from Busch Middle School in St. Louis Public Schools demonstrates how character development has helped create a culture of self-discipline.)


The UMKC Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) serves in collaborative partnership with PK-12 teachers and administrators in addressing challenging issues and achieving positive learning outcomes for all students. A part of the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, RPDC provides training and support to urban, suburban and rural schools in the Kansas City metropolitan area based upon the unique needs of each school.

Early childhood education Meet and Greet

255A3001For educators who want to combine their passion for educating young children with a desire to better understand what impacts learning in the classroom, consider the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction – Early Childhood Education program at UMKC.


Socio-cultural and constructivist theories frame the 36 credit hour program that aims to achieve high outcomes for birth-grade 3 learners in urban settings. Courses are offered in face-to-face, online or blended formats to meet the needs of practicing professionals. Small class sizes provide graduate students with individual attention and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.


Once in the program, students will

  • Develop ECE curriculum
  • Apply child development and learning theory
  • Conduct action research
  • Strengthen advocacy skills


To learn more, join us for an Early Childhood Meet and Greet at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, December 12 (hors d’oeuvres and beverages served).  Please RSVP.

Alumna recounts how storytelling can be a lifeline

kelley-cropCiera Dunnell Kelley (B.A. ’11, M.A. ’13), a first grade teacher at University Academy in Kansas City, Mo., and a guest speaker at this year’s annual School of Education Scholar Donor Lunch, told the audience that an opportunity to tell a personal story, at one of the lowest moments of her life, taught her that teachers who build relationships with students are crucial in education.


“Once that relationship is built, that’s when a student is more willing to open up and learn everything you, and life, have to offer,” Kelley said.


By eleventh grade, Kelley knew she wanted to teach.  “I knew I wanted to be an educator so that students who looked like me, and who lived in neighborhoods adjacent to me, could have a chance at an education that piqued their drives and imaginations while stretching their will and abilities.”


Kelley enrolled in the School’s Institute for Urban Education and claims it was the best decision she ever made, quickly learning “what it means to be an authentic classroom leader, one that is invested in the lives of the students.”


Beginning her sophomore year, Kelley became pregnant with a baby boy who passed away right before birth. “During the day I walked around the halls with a smile on my face, often pretending I was happy, and at night I laid in my room crying,” Kelley said.  “It was one of the darkest times in my life.


“Then one day in Dr. (Cheryl) Grossman’s Integrated Arts class, she gave us the project of creating something that would tell a story about something we experienced,” Kelley explained.  “For weeks I struggled with this project. Should I create something that would show what I really felt? Or should I continue hiding my pain and create something that wouldn’t make me so vulnerable?”


Grossman saw Kelley struggling with the project and asked her to stay after class. “She sat me down and told me to tell her a story about a time that changed my life forever,” Kelley said.  “At that moment, I broke out in tears as I relived the day in my head that I got the news that my son passed.”


“She then dried my tears and helped me create a draft for one of the most self-reflective projects I have done to this day. She taught me in that moment that building a strong relationship with your students at the beginning is crucial.”


Kelley went on to build a strong early career as an educator at one of Missouri’s most acclaimed charter schools, recognized earlier this year by her principal in front of the school as having the most growth in reading, and the highest reading and math scores, in first grade.


“As I received that honor, I had no choice but to reflect on all that the IUE taught me and the opportunities it provided for me,” Kelley stated. “So, I thank the professors who gave me the tools to become the educator I am today, my colleagues that never let me slack, but most of all, the donors. You all not only believed in me as a future educator, but as an educator who can change the world for the future.”

Winter break your way

Registration via Pathway is now open for new students who wish to experience a course in the UMKC School of Education’s accelerated Winter Session.  Winter Session is open to all students from other universities, adult professionals and life-long learners in addition to current UMKC students, offering students high-demand courses in a month-long intensive format.  Courses are online and run from December 27, 2016 – January 13, 2017.



EDCP 492 (Class No. 18073) – 3 credits

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of development during adolescent years.  We will examine various aspects of physiological, emotional, cognitive, social and moral development in adolescence.   Attention is focused on a conception of adolescence that is grounded on current research and theory.  Topics include influences on adolescent development by family, peers, schooling a255a2455nd culture.  This course also provides information about adolescent sexuality, issues in teen development, mental health and prevention programs.



EDCP 493 (Class No. 18074) – 3 credits

How do we learn and how can modern educational settings harness recent innovations about the essence of human learning?  Educational Psychology provides an introduction to psychological research, theory and practice as it relates to learning and instruction.  We will explore the multitude of ways that the impact of individual, cultural and contextual differences have on learning and the neural basis of learning. We also will explore assessment, creativity and problem solving situations.  Course assignments are designed to enable students to analyze, construct and apply educational psychology concepts in real world applications.


Winter Session courses are offered at a discounted rate through the School of Education’s Continuing and Professional Education and charged to spring tuition statements.


Questions may be directed to 816-235-1188.

Berkley hires one of its first alumni

Mary Warm, a preschool graduate of the Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center, has chosen early childhood education as her life work.

Mary Warm, a preschool graduate of the Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center, has chosen early childhood education as her life work.

After opening 23 years ago, UMKC’s School of Education’s Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center is starting to see past graduates apply for part-time jobs. Mary Warm, a 1997 preschool graduate from Berkley, began working as a child development assistant at her alma mater this summer.


Warm currently is studying early childhood education at Penn Valley Community College and just completed her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™. The CDA is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education (ECE) and is a key stepping stone on the path of career advancement in ECE.


Warm chose to return to Berkley for several reasons.  “First, I wanted to work for an accredited program because I knew it would be high quality,” she said.  “An accredited preschool has to do everything to high standards and that provides safety to me as an employee and comfort to families.”


Warm, who happens to have Down syndrome, also wanted an employer who would be fair to her as a person with a disability.  “I knew UMKC would be a fair employer and I like how important they are to the community,” she explained.


And third, “This is the place where I learned to walk, talk and read,” Warm relates.  “This is the place where I started to understand that I could have a family outside of my own family. It’s all good.”


The Berkley staff is enjoying hearing Warm’s stories about her years as a student there. In fact, Warm’s name is engraved on the glass block wall by the staff lounge outside the kitchen area as one of Berkley’s founding pre-schoolers, starting as a toddler, when Berkley opened its doors in June of 1993.


Polly Prendergast, director of Berkley, says “It is such an honor that Mary’s experience with us as a child inspired her to apply for a part-time positon and that she chose early childhood education as her life work.”


Warm gravitated to the field of early childhood education because she is committed to teaching kids about the world they will live in.  “I love kids and I feel that I’m good with them,” she explains.


“That narrowed my [career] choices a lot. From there it was easy. Early childhood gave me an early start. I was the only kid in my Sunday School toddler class that knew where the cotton ball nose went on the paper plate. I was one of a few early readers in kindergarten. I always felt smart in school because I was ahead of everyone else.  Eventually, kids who have an easier time learning caught up but the stories a child tells themselves at the age of 2-5 are the stories that stick.”


Warm’s memories of her early years at Berkley are many.  “My favorite memory,” she said “is probably the adorable thing that a student said to me today.  Seriously, every day new memories happen and I love each of them. Can you believe Vanessa Gibbs, the cook and best drummer ever, showed the children yesterday an African drum song? She did the same thing for me when I was three years old!”


The Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center has built a community that continuously learns and grows from the knowledge of its children, families, faculty and teachers, taking great pride in cultivating a program that is rooted in developmentally appropriate practice and current research. Berkley holds accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionalswhich lets families in the community know that children in Berkley’s high-quality program have teachers who create engaging classrooms, enhance relationships with their parents and families, and develop rich experiences for their students. As a resource to others, Berkley enrolls children of UMKC employees, students, and the community.

Conference attendees examine ways to best serve diverse urban communities

The Missouri Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education (MoNAME) conference, held on the UMKC Volker campus October 22, afforded the approximately 75 attendees the opportunity to examine their beliefs and practices and collaborate with colleagues on how best to serve our diverse urban communities.  The conference theme, Racial and Cultural Justice: Engaging Multicultural Education for All, speaks to NAME’s goal and commitment toward promoting excellence and equitable education for all students.


Takeisha Brown (M.A. '07), vice principal at Kansas City Public Schools and MoNAME vice president and conference committee member; Linda Brown, PhD. , of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.; Debra Doyle (M.A. '81), MoNAME board member and conference committee member; and Omiunota Ukpokodu, Ph.D., professor in the UMKC School of Education and MoNAME president and conference committee chair.

Takeisha Brown (M.A. ’07), vice principal at Kansas City Public Schools and MoNAME vice president and conference committee member; Linda Brown, PhD. , of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.; Debra Doyle (M.A. ’81), MoNAME board member and conference committee member; and Omiunota Ukpokodu, Ph.D., professor in the UMKC School of Education and MoNAME president and conference committee chair.

Conference presenters included several UMKC School of Education faculty and staff, including Donna Davis, Ph.D.; Dea Marx, Marie McCarther, Ed.D.; Candace Schlein, Ph.D.; Omiunota Ukpokodu, Ph.D.; Leah Panther, Uzziel Pecina, Ph.D.; and Rhianna Thomas.  Students Abdul Bakar, Shaunda Fowler and Godlove Tebe also presented.


Justin Perry, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education; Takeisha Brown from Kansas City Public Schools; and Mark T. Bedell, Ph.D., superintendent of the Kansas City Public Schools, also were among the guest speakers.  Linda Christensen, Ph.D., director of the Oregon Writing Project in the Graduate School of Education at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., spoke to Teaching for Joy and Justice: Engaging Multicultural Education for All.


NAME is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide opportunities for learning in order to advance multicultural education, equity and social justice; and proactively reframe public debate and impact current and emerging policies in ways that advance social, political, economic and educational equity through advocacy, position papers, policy statements and other strategies.  Visit www. for more information.


University of Missouri Board of Curators names university’s 24th president

mu-choiFollowing a near year-long national search, the University of Missouri Board of Curators today announced the appointment of Dr. Mun Y. Choi, 52, as the 24th president in the history of the University of Missouri System. The current provost and executive vice president of the University of Connecticut (UConn), Dr. Choi will succeed Interim President Michael Middleton on March 1, 2017.


Board of Curators Chair Pam Henrickson introduced Choi today in Jefferson City.


“It is fitting that we begin a new era for the University of Missouri System today in our state’s capital city, as Dr. Choi is just the individual to lead the university system to new heights in achieving our statewide mission of serving all 114 of the state’s counties,” Henrickson said.  “An outstanding and visionary leader, Dr. Choi understands and appreciates the value of public higher education, having devoted his impressive career to the success and inclusion of all students, progressive education, scholarship and state economic development.”


Choi’s 24-year career in higher education includes his present position as provost and executive vice president at UConn, one of the nation’s top 20 public universities in the latest U.S. News rankings. Since 2012, he has overseen a budget of $700 million while working with 1,500 full-time faculty, 31,000 students and 2,000 staff across 12 schools and colleges including Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine and Law.  Under his leadership, UConn developed several innovative new programs that have resulted in enrollment growth, increased faculty hiring, innovative research and new and expanded industry partnerships.


“I am humbled to become president of the University of Missouri System, and am excited to have the opportunity to play a role in shaping the future of this historic institution,” said Choi. “It will be my honor to work closely with the chancellors, faculty, students, staff, alumni, friends and other key constituents to continue to uphold the highest standards of excellence and integrity, delivered in an environment that respects academic freedom and inclusiveness.”


During his tenure at UConn, Choi worked closely with the university’s leaders, trustees, Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy and members of the Connecticut legislature to develop and implement the framework for the $1.5 billion Next Generation Connecticut program, an investment to increase enrollment at UConn by 5,000 students, hire 300 new faculty, increase research expenditures and create industry partnerships to create high-paying jobs in the state.


Additional significant accomplishments include spearheading an $18 million University Academic Plan in 2015 to strengthen research, teaching effectiveness and public engagement. His leadership helped launch an industry partnership called the Tech Park program, a $172 million project to enhance research and training programs with industry partners. To date, partnerships valued at more than $85 million have been created with such leading companies as Pratt and Whitney, General Electric, Comcast and Fraunhofer.


Born in South Korea, Choi came to the U.S. as a child. He graduated from the University of lllinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in general engineering in 1987. He later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University.  Choi is married with three children.


Prior to serving as provost and executive vice president, Choi was dean of engineering at UConn from 2008 to 2012. Earlier, he was department head of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Drexel University (2000-2008) and assistant and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


“Becoming president of the University of Missouri System is unquestionably the pinnacle of my professional career,” said Choi. “As a product of and passionate champion for public higher education, I will advocate tirelessly on behalf of our exceptional institutions with state and national business, political and civic leaders to achieve excellence in all that we do, and make sure our great campuses realize their full potential.”

Student believes professional counselors are vital for all schools

Gabrielle Isom, recipient of the Alumni Association Board Scholarship-UMKC School of Education, was one of more than 60 students recognized at the School of Education’s annual Scholar Donor Luncheon in September for earning scholarships that help them pursue their dreams, along with more than 40 individual, family, non-profit and corporate donors who financially make those dreams possible.



Selected as one of the guest speakers, Isom stressed to the audience the importance of building relationships with students.  In her second year of pursuing a master’s degree in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling, Isom learned as an undergraduate that her passion for teaching “wasn’t in reading or math, but in ways that reach deeper into a child’s behavior and thinking.”


Having worked as a Para Title 1 at Kennedy Elementary School in Kansas City, Ks., last spring leading small group interventions in math and reading, Isom realized how crucial it was for students to have a professional counselor in their own school.


“The students I worked with struggled, not only in reading in math, but in relationships at home and school, the way they looked at the future, their plans for college or a career, and many other areas,” Isom explained.  “The school I was working in did not have a full-time counselor. There were a few times as a para where I sat with a child having a breakdown in the hallway while the school tried to reach the counselor at her other building to come and help.”


After Isom spent time with two school counselors at different elementary schools during a practicum experience, she realized they had her dream job.



“They were able to go into a classroom and teach about topics that are relevant, important and that promote a growth mindset. Character education, bully prevention, drug and alcohol education, lessons on how to be a great friend or how to calm anxiety before a test were all lessons they delivered to groups of young students.


She continued, “Not only are school counselors able to speak in classrooms, but they also develop programs that inspire, encourage, and raise children to new levels. They meet with students one-on-one, in small groups, in the hallways, during lunchtime, and when they get off the bus.  They encourage children to reach their goals, to dream big and start small.”


Isom views professional school counselors as a vital and steady pulse in a school.


“School counselors do even more than I ever imagined,” she explained.  “They also rely heavily on all other areas of education, such as administration, teachers, custodians, food service providers, paraprofessionals, social workers, office administrators and so many more caring adults in education. The students we all work with are the not future of America, they are the right-now-living-and-breathing world-changers we have the privilege of working with.”



IUE student believes relationship building is the foundation to effective teaching

parga-cropIrvin Parga, a senior in the IUE studying Middle School Mathematics, and the recipient of the Jerry and Patty Reese Family Foundation Scholarship for the IUE, shared his story at the UMKC School of Education’s Scholar Donor Lunch in September.  A first-generation college student, Parga has experienced first-hand the power of relationships.


“I remember first meeting (Assistant Clinical Professor) Dr. Uzziel Pecina at a summer enrichment camp called Avanzando,” Parga recalled.


“He understands the lack of Hispanic leaders in the field of education. Once he knew how passionate I was about educating my community, he took me in as his mentee. I don’t have any uncles to talk to but he has been the closest thing because he always has the time to check on me to see where I am at in the program or just see how I’m doing in life. It’s powerful knowing that someone who is just like you has been successful; he inspires me in and out of the classroom.”


parga-quoteParga continued, “One reason I was attracted to teaching was because I grew up with the notion that people should be treated fairly, respected, and have their needs met in order to continue an education that will help in the pursuit of their dreams and to positively impact our communities.  I want to better prepare students and increase awareness in Hispanic families on how college is possible.”


Recognizing his parents as influential role models, Parga believes parents, guardians, teachers and community members must all set good examples and set children up for success.  “We can begin with building good relationships with the children,” he said, because it is only then that effective teaching can commence.


Parga credits learning the importance of relationships from Dr. Jason Beavers, an adjunct professor at UMKC and deputy superintendent at Hogan Preparatory Academy charter school in Kansas City.


“I learned from him what it meant to be a social capitalist,” he explained.  “In life, we are born with different opportunities. The opportunities that are within my grasp in Wyandotte County (Ks.) are going to be different than the average person’s opportunities that grew up in Johnson County (Ks.). An important skill for any urban youth to learn is to build relationships with good people because they may be the ones who help you down the road.


“Where urban youth lack resources, building relationships can help in achieving personal and professional goals.  Every student is chasing a dream that’s bigger than him or herself. We’re all fighting for the dreams of our city’s children to shed their light on our communities. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the support from scholarship donors and the persistence from our future teachers. I’m proud to be among the people who will do whatever it takes to ensure educational equality for generations to come.”


SOE faculty bestow award for stellar historical project

Donna M. Davis, Ph.D., professor at the UMKC School of Education and S. Marie McCarther, Ed.D., associate professor at the UMKC School of Education, who respectively serve as editor and associate editor of the American Educational History Journal, presented the Article of the Year Award to Melandie McGee at the annual meeting of the Organization of Educational Historians in Chicago on September 30.


The awards presentation was the culmination of a year of editorial work for Drs. Davis and McCarther. They directed the production of the 43rd Volume of American Educational History Journal, a peer-reviewed journal of the Organization of Educational Historians, and selected the annual award winner from among a stellar collection of historical projects.


Dr. John Laukaitis, conference program chair; Dr. S. Marie McCarther; Dr. Donna M. Davis; Melandie McGee; and Dr. Susan Berger, president of the Organization of Educational Historians.

Dr. John Laukaitis, conference program chair; Dr. S. Marie McCarther; Dr. Donna M. Davis; Melandie McGee; and Dr. Susan Berger, president of the Organization of Educational Historians.

McGee’s article was entitled, “The Forgotten Slayings: Memory, History, and Institutional Response to the Jackson State University Shootings of 1970,” and outlined how higher education institutions in the United States responded to a shooting at an Historically Black College (Jackson State) a mere two weeks after the Kent State tragedy.  McGee’s parents traveled by car from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to be present at the ceremony.


McGee is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.


Plans for Volume 44 of the Journal are underway and Davis and McCarther anticipate receiving a record number of manuscript submissions. For more information about the Journal or the Organization of Educational Historians, visit: