Urban Education and Community Forum set for April 25

The UMKC School of Education’s ninth annual Urban Education and Community Forum will be April 25, featuring Susanne Denham, Ph.D., speaking to “Children’s Emotional competence as a Foundation for Success.”


Susanne Denham.
Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

Denham, university professor emerita at George Mason University, is an applied developmental psychologist with particular expertise in the social and emotional development of children. In this Forum, she will discuss how children’s self-regulation, social cognitions, emotional competence and positive social behaviors contribute to their early success in school. Denham also will examine how parent and teacher behavior affects children’s social-emotional learning, and how the educational system can best support those parents and teachers.


Her past work considers

  • Connections between emotions, socialization, and healthy relationships
  • What toddlers and preschoolers understand about their own and other people’s feelings
  • How changes in other areas of development, like cognition, fuel emotional skills
  • Problems that can ensue when emotional development is delayed, and how they can be ameliorated


Denham has been a guest scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health Developmental Psychology Laboratory.  The National Institutes of Mental Health, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the W.T. Grant Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the National Science Foundation have funded her work.


Free and open to the public, this year’s Forum will be 5-6:30 p.m. in room 401 of the UMKC Student Union at 5100 Cherry Street. Doors open and seating is encouraged at 4:30 p.m.  Reservations are requested by April 16.


During the Forum, the School of Education also will honor Susan Wally, president and CEO of PREP-KC, as recipient of the 2018 Hugh J. Zimmer Award for Excellence in Urban Education. PREP-KC works to improve student achievement in the region’s urban schools, specifically through college and career preparation. Prior to founding PREP-KC, Wally served as vice president for education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Nominations open for 2019 Alumni Achievement Awards

The UMKC School of Education has many alumni who could easily be recognized for their outstanding work in their field or community.  Now is the time to do that.


Nominations for the School of Education Alumni Achievement Award for 2019 are open until March 23.  Faculty, staff, students, other alumni and community members/friends may all submit nominations/letters of support—although since this process is confidential, individuals should not be told they are being nominated.


Contact Tamara Morris at or 816-235-6173 with questions.


Nominations now open for Hugh J. Zimmer Award for Excellence in Urban Education

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education is now accepting nominations for the Hugh J. Zimmer Award for Excellence in Urban Education.


The award is named for longtime UMKC and School of Education benefactor Hugh J. Zimmer, a noted business and civic leader and ardent supporter of urban education.


Zimmer was the inaugural recipient of the Urban Education award in 2013. In 2016, the award was presented to E. Bertram (Bert) Berkley, chairman of Tension Corp. and founder of the Local Investment Commission.


The next recipient will be announced at the 2018 Urban Education and Community Forum, an annual event sponsored by the School of Education during the spring semester.


In presenting Zimmer with the inaugural Urban Education award in 2013, UMKC then-Chancellor Leo E. Morton cited Zimmer for his “enthusiasm and passion” for promoting excellent schooling and improving the lives, opportunities and communities of urban residents throughout the United States, with a focus on the Greater Kansas City community.


“We are actively seeking nominations of urban educators and urban education supporters from our region who are following Hugh Zimmer’s example of passion and commitment to helping young people in our urban communities realize their full potential,” said Justin Perry, Ph.D., dean of the UMKC School of Education. “We want to recognize those who share our commitment to our core values of equity, inclusion and social justice, and who have demonstrated leadership in bringing those goals to fruition.”


Nomination forms, eligibility information and instructions are available at The nomination deadline is Feb. 12, 2018.

Students named to Dean’s List for fall semester

Recognized for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to academic excellence, 42 UMKC School of Education students were named to the Dean’s List for the fall 2017 semester.  For the School of Education, this required a fall term GPA of 3.93 or above and completion of a minimum full-time program of 12 graded hours.


We congratulate:


Madiha Azam

Christina Bailey

Kim Bales

Madison Barker

Amanda Bostwick

Jacqueline Botts

Tung Bui

Molly Byers

Tressa Canaday

Briana Cottingham

Jamie Dowell

Daiwa Emmert

Sarah Frazier

Marybeth Gilbert

Montana Grizzle

Kelsey Havner

Jenna Haywood

Breanna He

Alexis Howard

Paige Husa

Haley Jackson

Anusha Jiwani

Katherine Killeen

Leah LeMon

Megan Loganbill

Amber Lovisone

Miriam Maqsood

Rachael Morris

Makenzie Nichols

Kara Priest

Kei Rogers

Jacquelyn Schanzle

Martha Soto

Lori Sparks

Olivia Steely

Lisa Tran

Jessica Vaughan

Megan Walker

Jamie Walkinshaw

Bailey Wood

Sydni Young

Casey Zollmann

Accreditation reaffirmed for School of Education’s Counseling Psychology doctoral program

The American Psychological Association‘s Commission on Accreditation (CoA) has voted to renew the UMKC School of Education’s Counseling Psychology doctoral program’s accreditation for ten years “based on the CoA’s professional judgement that the program has demonstrated that it adheres to the Standards of Accreditation in Health Service Psychology (SoA).”


The process leading to accreditation entailed a voluntary assessment of the program’s resources, objectives, strengths, and limitations begun in 2016, followed by an on-site visit in May 2017.


“Our accreditation success was possible given the unwavering support from our students, program alumni, practicum and internship supervisors, psychology colleagues in Arts and Sciences, and Counseling and Educational Psychology division faculty,” says Chris Brown, Ph.D., chair of the division of Counseling and Educational Psychology.  “This was a collective effort and I acknowledge the hard work and contributions of our colleagues and the very capable leadership of Johanna Nilsson, Ph.D., professor and director of training.”


For more information visit


APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members.

Area teachers and principals complete School of Education’s first character education program

The UMKC School of Education earlier this year launched a Character Education program for Kansas City-area teachers. The program is graduating its first cohort of participants today.


According to Stephanie Prichard, interim director of the School of Education’s Regional Professional Development Center, character education “is about transforming school culture by making schools places where students and staff feel safe and have a sense of belonging.  When schools take this approach they see discipline referrals decline, attendance for both students and staff increase, and ultimately student achievement increases.”


Prichard said the RPDC has developed a Leadership Academy in Character Education (LACE) program based on the pioneering work done by Marvin Berkowitz, Ph.D., a professor of character education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Over the past two decades, character education has become a mainstay concept in many St. Louis area school districts, and UMKC’s Regional Professional Development Center has launched a LACE program to help the concept gain traction in the Kansas City region.


The first LACE training program in Kansas City involved teachers working in the Belton, Fort Osage, Leavenworth and North Kansas City school districts, and KIPP Academy Charter School.  The program is a rigorous year-long experience that included a series of monthly full-day workshops, site visits to exemplary schools, monthly written assignments and the writing of site-specific implementation plans.


The new graduates of the 2017 Leadership Academy in Character Education (LACE) include:

  • Alisa Seidelman – Principal, Belton School District
  • Amanda Spight – Principal, Belton School District
  • Pat Denney – Principal, Belton School District
  • Denise Rangel – Assistant Principal, Belton School District
  • George Shrum – Assistant Principal, Belton School District
  • Jill Brown – Principal, Belton School District
  • Kelly Crumley – Principal, Belton School District
  • Kimberly Mauck – Principal, Belton School District
  • Lesley Morey – Counselor, Leavenworth School District
  • Michelle Biondo – Principal, Belton School District
  • Roxanne Pearson – Principal, Belton School District
  • Tim Dial-Scruggs – Teacher, Fort Osage School District

A new cohort in the LACE program begins in January. Area educators interested in learning more should contact Stephanie Prichard at or 816-235-5486.


Optional Writing Intensive allows doctoral students to hone their craft

Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner oft claimed that “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”  Of course, the idea is to step back from one’s one work to critically analyze if it states clearly the intent.


It was in this vein that the UMKC School of Education’s Loyce Caruthers, Ph.D., invited current IPh.D., Ed.D. Higher Education and Ed.D. PK-12 Education Administration students to apply to participate in a 2017 Summer Writing Intensive that met nearly three hours every other week for a total of four sessions.


The objective was to allow students a safe space to enhance their writing and engage in discussion and feedback regarding the development of their dissertation proposals.


Kara Kynion from the UMKC Writing Studio provided students with expectations of graduate-level writing, including how to best develop the literature review and how to effectively approach peer reviews.  Special guests Raquel Coy, principal in the North Kansas City School District, and Keith Mispagel (Ed.D., ’16), superintendent of the Fort Leavenworth School District, provided insights into their journeys to earn doctoral degrees.


Doctoral faculty Caruthers, Donna Davis, Michele Maher, Marie McCarther and Dianne Smith, emerita professor, also participated in a panel presentation to provide tips to students about their expectations of the dissertation process as chairs and members of committee.


Caruthers initially had reservations that the group would not be able to meet the intended outcomes in such a short time frame, but “an analysis of pre- and post-data indicated positive change in various areas,” she said.  “Overall, the most significant change was students who emerged feeling the next steps in their current writing projects were clearer.  They also felt more confident giving feedback on others’ writing.”


Indeed, one student reflected that “I wrote and read more than I have in a while; achieved a much deeper, more intimate understanding of my topic and progress on my proposal.”


Participant Steve Pankey, an Ed.D. candidate in Higher Education, said “The course was a great opportunity to revisit each of the first three chapters of my dissertation as well as gain the perspective of classmates and colleagues that could objectively step through my work. Due to the small group size, we were also fortunate to receive additional feedback from Dr. Caruthers through the summer; something that helped to solidify content and structure.  The whole process was a great way to stay on track and keep motivated.”


Caruthers plans to reconvene the group after Thanksgiving to check on continued progress.


Work is also underway for a 2018 Summer Writing Intensive; stay tuned for dates and details.

University Academy Upper School receives National Blue Ribbon Schools recognition

University Academy recently announced that it is one of 342 schools across the United States to earn 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition. The award recognizes schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. University Academy is sponsored by the UMKC School of Education’s Charter School Center.


According to a news release from University Academy, this award is considered the highest honor an American K-12 school can receive:  Less than one third of one percent of eligible schools receive this award in any year. University Academy is the first charter public school in Missouri and the only high school in Missouri this year to receive this award.


“On behalf of the board, we are extremely proud to receive this incredible honor,” said Board Chairman Bush Helzberg. “It is a clear reflection of the extraordinary talent and commitment of our students, faculty and administration.”


Tony Kline, superintendent and executive director of University Academy, congratulated students and their parents for not only embracing the mission of University Academy, but also for supporting the mastery philosophy of the Upper School. He also thanked UMKC for its support as the school’s sponsor.


“Being recognized as a recipient of the NBRS award honors the hard work of past and present cohorts of University Academy Upper School students, teachers and parents,” said Clement O. Ukaoma, Upper School principal. “I wish to thank all of our stakeholders for trusting and supporting our insistence on rigorous academics, high expectations and belief that mastery eventually delivers true excellence that pays off in the long run.”


“These schools have done outstanding work in preparing their students to succeed,” said Margie Vandeven, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner of Education. “Congratulations to the school leaders, teachers, students and communities on this national recognition.”


Representatives from University Academy will travel to Washington, D.C. Nov. 6–7 when the Department of Education will honor all recipients of the award by presenting them with an engraved plaque and a program flag in the national awards ceremony. The National Blue Ribbon Schools status never expires.


Earlier this year, University Academy received the honor of being named a Gold Star School under a program established by DESE in 1991. University Academy is a K-12 charter public school that serves roughly 1,100 students who live within the boundaries of the Kansas City, Missouri School District. Admission is by lottery.

Riggers-Piehl joins School of Education faculty

Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, Ph.D., joined the UMKC School of Education faculty September 1 as assistant professor in the division of Educational Leadership, Policy and Foundations.  With her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, an M.S.Ed. from Baylor University and a B.S. from Northern Arizona University, Riggers-Piehl’s research interests include spirituality and religion in higher education, student-faculty interactions, pedagogy and student success, and issues in S.T.E.M./gender in college.  She most recently served as an adjunct professor at Baylor University.

University Academy, UMKC sponsored charter school, honored

The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) named 11 charter schools as 2017 NASET Exceptional Charter Schools in Special Education.  University Academy (UA), sponsored by the UMKC School of Education’s Charter School Center, made the grade!


Selection as an Exceptional Charter School in Special Education is the highest level of recognition a charter school can achieve through the NASET, awarded to charter schools that meet rigorous professional criteria and have demonstrated truly exceptional dedication, commitment and achievement in the field of special education.


“We are honored to have received this recognition from this national organization, particularly because it represents special education teachers,” asserted Superintendent Tony Kline.  “We received the award because the services offered, the types of disabilities we service, state and federal compliance, teachers’ qualifications and most importantly, our student outcomes.  I am particularly proud our faculty, parents and students for working together in pursuit of excellence.”


U.S. News & World Report has recognized University Academy as one of the nation’s best public high schools (2012-2015) and Newsweek Magazine ranked it 199th best high school in the country in the “Beating the Odds” category (2015).  Additionally, UA is a 2017 Missouri Gold Star School and was named a 2016 National Title 1 Distinguished School.


“During my nine years at University Academy as the leader of the Special Education department, I am proud of our special education teachers and how they set high expectations for our special education students, said Susie Biggerstaff, director of special education.  “Those teachers, along with the rest of the faculty and administration have worked very well together to support our students and help them reach their goals both at UA and beyond.  It is very rewarding to see former students succeeding in higher education and life beyond their time at UA.  Having UMKC’s support and access to its resources have gone a long way in getting us to this point.”


UA has been continuously sponsored by UMKC since 1999.  Today it serves nearly 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 from its location at 6801 Holmes Road in Kansas City, Mo.