2021 Reich College of Education Award Recipients Named

Nine faculty and staff members of Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education (RCOE), along with the Literacy-Cast faculty, were recently honored with 2021 RCOE awards.

  • Ike Smith: Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty Award
  • Cacey Wells: Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award
  • Jason DeHart: Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award
  • María Hofman Hernandez: Inclusive Excellence Award
  • Vachel Miller: Outstanding Leadership Award
  • Geri Miller: Outstanding Mentoring Award
  • Dave Koppenhaver: Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement Award
  • Shanan Fitts: Outstanding Service Award
  • Lynn Church ’94: Outstanding Staff Award
  • Literacy-Cast: Community of Practice Award

RCOE faculty, staff, and students were invited to submit nominations in ten categories: Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty, Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, Outstanding Graduate Teaching, Inclusive Excellence, Outstanding Leadership, Outstanding Mentoring, Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement, Outstanding Service, Outstanding Staff, and Community of Practice. For 2021, the Outstanding Administrator Award was renamed the Outstanding Leadership Award. 

Nominated individuals or groups were then asked to provide supporting portfolios, which were reviewed by the RCOE Awards Committee. Recipients were announced at the RCOE Faculty/Staff Closing Meeting on Thursday, April 29, which was held virtually via Zoom. Awards will be presented to recipients at a later date. 

Committee Chair, Dr. Debra Prykanowski, assistant professor in the RCOE’s Department of Reading Education and Special Education, and ex-officio member, Rebekah Saylors, RCOE’s director of marketing, communications, and engagement, expressed thanks to all who nominated a colleague or submitted a portfolio. 

“The faculty and staff of the RCOE have continued to do amazing work regardless of the circumstances surrounding this academic year,” said Prykanowski. “It is such a rewarding committee to serve on as we get to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of our colleagues.” 

“We had so many exceptional nominees, and we believe they all should be congratulated and recognized,” she added. 

Prykanowski also thanked committee members for their time and service on the committee: Dr. Sonja Ardoin, Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling; Mary Ferrell, Adjunct/Lecturer Representative; Dr. Beth Frye, Department of Reading Education and Special Education; Dr. Dominique Hammonds, Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling; Melissa Isaacs, Staff Representative; Dr. Aleica Jackson, Department of Leadership and Educational Studies; Dr. Greg McClure, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Dr. Mina Min, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Department of Leadership and Educational Studies; and Dr. Pamela Shue, Department of Family and Child Studies.

2021 RCOE Awards Recipients

Ike Smith

2021 Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty Award

Ike Smith

Smith began adjunct teaching for the RCOE in fall 2017 and has taught a variety of courses, including CI 2300, Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age; RE 3070, Media for Young People; and CI 3531, Seminar on Teacher Leadership. 

Prior to this, Smith taught secondary English in eastern North Carolina from 2009 to 2014 and served as the Director of Instructional Support Services for Watauga County Schools from 2014 to 2019. 

“Receiving this award is an honor,” said Smith. “It's my pleasure and privilege to teach, build relationships with students, and witness the amazing things they create and impact they will bring to our profession.”

“I'm humbled to be among the instructors in the Reich College of Education, and I'm so thankful for the collaboration of my colleagues, all of whom share the passion for great teaching,” he added.

In August 2019, Smith joined the RCOE James Center for Student Success and Advising team as their director. He enjoys supporting students in becoming dynamic, effective educators.

Smith earned a master of arts in teaching and a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Cacey Wells

2021 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

Cacey Wells

Wells is an assistant professor of mathematics education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He earned a Ph.D. in instructional leadership and academic curriculum, an M.Ed. in instructional leadership and academic curriculum, and a B.S. in mathematics education from the University of Oklahoma. 

Prior to joining the RCOE faculty in 2019, Wells taught high school mathematics for six years in San Antonio, Texas, and served as a professional development coordinator at the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center for three years. 

“Teaching in the midst of a pandemic has been no walk in the park, so I felt validated in the work I have been doing in the classroom,” said Wells. “I’m indebted to my colleagues who have given me countless bits of advice and resources since coming to App State. We also have incredible students to work alongside in our college, which is quite a privilege!” 

“Teaching has long been part of my identity, and I work hard to create authentic learning experiences in my classroom,” he added. “My hope is that students will leave my courses as confidently competent mathematicians and knowing that they were part of a caring classroom community.” 

Wells’s research focuses on authentic teaching and learning in mathematics, and intersections between mathematics and social justice. More broadly, he focuses on teacher preparation. He has published in journals including the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy and NCTM's Mathematics Teacher.  

Dr. Jason DeHart

2021 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award

Jason DeHart

DeHart is an assistant professor of reading education in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and an Ed.S., M.A.T., and B.A. from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. 

Prior to joining the RCOE faculty in 2019, DeHart taught middle grades English for eight years at Ocoee MIdle School in Cleveland, Tennessee, and was an adjunct instructor at Lee University.

“I am honored to receive this award and to serve at a university that values teaching and research,” said DeHart. “It is a joy to learn alongside the master teachers I have the pleasure of calling colleagues and friends.” 

“Pedagogy is a never-ending process of refinement, and I look forward to learning even more and continuing to model practice for the future educators I work with at App State,” he added.

DeHart's research interests include multimodal literacy, including film and graphic novels, and literacy instruction with adolescents. His work has appeared in Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, SIGNAL Journal, English Journal, and The Social Studies.

María Hofman Hernandez

2021 Inclusive Excellence Award

 Maria Hofman Hernandez

Hofman Hernandez (she/her/hers) serves as the assistant director and community access coordinator for the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry from Spalding University and a B.A. in English with a minor in Religious Studies and a concentration in Spanish Languages & Literatures from the University of Central Florida. She is currently enrolled in App State’s Ed.D. in educational leadership program.

Hofman Hernandez has worked in higher education for over 10 years with an emphasis on student support, program leadership, service, and advising for two-year college program experiences. 

During her time with the RCOE, Hofman Hernandez has co-founded the Immigrant Mountaineers Movement, participated in the Inclusive Excellence team as an RCOE liaison, facilitated the INTERSECT 2020 retreat, chaperoned the Intercultural Student Affairs D.C. Excursion, participated in the Partnership Leaders Council, led a program for Latina mentorship, and served as co-president of APP Unidos, the Latinx Hispanic faculty and staff association.

“I accept and appreciate this award for the role it plays in visibilizing my strengths that I possess in large part because of my liminality and hybridity as a bisexual, neurodivergent, Latina professional,” said Hofman Hernandez. 

Hofman Hernandez shared that when her mother initially arrived in the United States, she too worked in higher education; however, her mother “found it difficult to navigate.” 

“Even though she was well qualified to hold an academic position with a Ph.D., she decided to pursue self-employment through business and real estate,” said Hofman Hernandez.

“She shared that her regrets outweighed the profits she gained from exiting the system, that watching me go through similar challenges—despite having lighter skin and a ‘white’ name—made her wonder how things would be different if more women of color like her had persisted in resisting institutional injustices,” she continued.

“I believe this award is exactly the kind of accomplishment my mother hoped for her children, and I hope it represents a more lasting change in the college to come,” noted Hofman Hernandez.

Dr. Vachel Miller

2021 Outstanding Leadership Award

Vachel Miller

Miller is a professor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies. He also serves as the director of the RCOE’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. Miller earned an Ed.D. in educational policy and leadership from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an M.A. in international education from the University of Minnesota, and a B.A. in German from St. John’s University. He joined the RCOE faculty in 2008.

In 2015-16, Miller, along with his family, lived in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, as a Fulbright Scholar. He has a lifelong interest in international education and issues of pedagogical innovation, organizational change, and leadership. 

Miller was honored, thrilled, and humbled to receive the award. “My gratitude to the RCOE for this award, and especially, to my colleagues in the Doctoral Program, Chris Osmond and Elizabeth Hayes, and to my co-chair on the RCOE Response Team, Betsy Rosenbalm, for being great partners in leadership.”  

He added, “So many people in the RCOE have stepped up to the challenges of the pandemic because this is a place where leadership is work we do together!”  

Dr. Geri Miller

2021 Outstanding Mentoring Award

Geri Miller

Miller is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling. She has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.

“Mentoring is fused with my teaching,” she noted. “My mentoring begins with advising, classroom teaching, etc. and, because I have taught at App State since 1992, continues long into their careers.”

This award was significant to Miller for three reasons: “First, mentoring/teaching is at the core of my work as a professor. Second, I consider it an honor to receive this award because it is given to me by my colleagues for whom I have the utmost respect. Finally, I am humbled in receiving this award because I work with many fine mentors in the RCOE.”

“Mentoring is a joy for me, and I consider it an honor to be a part of the development of quality professionals who counsel, teach, and conduct research in the area of counseling,” she added. 

Miller is a Diplomate in Counseling Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP); Licensed Psychologist (LP) (NC); Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) (NC); Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) (NC); Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) (NC); Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) (NCCAP).

She has worked in the mental health counseling profession since 1976 and in the addiction counseling field since 1979. She has published and presented research related to mental health and addiction counseling. In 2021, she published "Learning the Language of Addiction Counseling" (5th ed.) with Wiley Press.

Her research and teaching/training interests include academic violence/bullying of faculty; disaster mental health counseling; addictions; multicultural influences; and spirituality.

Dr. Dave Koppenhaver

2021 Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement Award

Dave Koppenhaver

Koppenhaver is a professor in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education. He earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Koppenhaver joined the RCOE faculty in 2004 and teaches courses related to students with disabilities, literacy, teacher research, and assistive and classroom technologies. 

He often collaborates with students on mutual research interests and has co-authored papers and presentations with current and former doctoral students at App State, including Tonya Moore, Bronwyn Harris, Ashley Pennell, Brooke Hardin, and Amy Williams. 

His current research examines literacy in students with Williams syndrome, thinking and learning in students with significant intellectual disabilities, and inclusive literacy practices for students with high support needs.  

“I am grateful to the many students and colleagues in the Reading Education and Special Education Department, students in the Educational Leadership doctoral program, public school professionals, and, most especially, individuals with disabilities and their families for all you have taught me,” said Koppenhaver.

Dr. Shanan Fitts

2021 Outstanding Service Award

Shanan Fitts

Fitts (she/her/hers) is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She earned a doctorate in Educational Foundations with a focus on anthropology of education at the University of Colorado Boulder and joined the App State faculty in 2008.

“Participating in service activities is rewarding and rejuvenating for me,” said Fitts. “I have developed meaningful relationships and become a more empathetic and informed person through my service activities.” 

“I appreciate the honor, but want to highlight that I never do this work alone,” she added. “I would like to recognize Yolanda Adams, the Family Resource Coordinator for Watauga County Schools, and Sarah Donovan in the Department of Social Work for their work and commitment to the Latinx community in Watauga County.” 

Fitts has worked with immigrant, refugee, and American Indian communities since 1994.

At App State, her teaching focuses on preparing future teachers to work with linguistically and culturally diverse learners and their families. Her scholarly activities include research on writing in science, and research exploring the lives and experiences of Latinx populations in our region. 

Lynn Church ’94

2021 Outstanding Staff Award

Lynn Church

Church has served as the RCOE budget officer for over 20 years. She earned her B.S. in business administration from App State.

Prior to joining the RCOE staff, she worked in Campus Dining (formerly Food Services) and for her parents’ real estate and rental business. 

Church always looks forward to working with faculty and staff in the college and across the university. “I enjoy what I do, and I hope to have many more years here in the RCOE.”

“I am humbled by this award as I feel all staff deserve to be recognized for their dedication and hard work because, without them, I can't do my job well,” she noted. 

She added, “Thank you to all of our STAFF!  This award is because of all of them.” 

Church is very close to her family. Her daughter is transferring to App State this fall, majoring in chemistry.


2021 Community of Practice Award

Literacy Cast FacultyLeft to right: Dr. Devery Ward, Dr. Beth Buchholz, Dr. Beth Frye, and Dr. Jason DeHart.

Created by Department of Reading Education and Special Education faculty Dr. Devery Ward ’96, associate professor and director of the Anderson Reading Clinic; Dr. Beth Frye ’91 ’93 ’04, professor and program director for reading education; Dr. Beth Buchholz, assistant professor; and Dr. Jason DeHart, assistant professor; the Anderson Reading Clinic Literacy-Casts are collaborative, interactive literacy experiences held online via virtual tools including Zoom, Book Creator, Seesaw, Kindle, and Padlet. 

The Literacy-Casts began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the closure of university classrooms and public schools, Buchholz, DeHart, Frye, and Ward met to strategize ways to continue the work of the Anderson Reading Clinic in virtual spaces. 

With little time for preparation and training, Literacy-Cast began on March 18, 2020, with 40 participants including children and families from as far away as West Virginia and as close as App State’s home county of Watauga. Over time the community grew to as many as 240 participants including reading education and special education graduate students, scholars from App State’s Scholars with Diverse Abilities Programs, the families, teachers, and staff who attend the Academy at Middle Fork, and researchers from universities in Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska.

The Literacy-Casts offered an opportunity for engagement in authentic reading, writing, and creating; teaching and mentoring to graduate students and practicing teachers; and a connection to the community. From the lessons learned, Buchholz, DeHart, Frye, and Ward offered professional development seminars to other educators. 

In addition to the student authors, the Literacy-Cast provided an opportunity to visit inspirational authors and illustrators, including Jason Walz, Ben Towle, Sara Varon, Raúl the Third, Kwame Alexander, Meg Medina, and Lauren Castillo.

Buchholz, DeHart, Frye, and Ward were both honored and humbled by this award. “It has been an extraordinary privilege to learn with and from the children, students, educators, and families that have come together in our Literacy-Cast Zoom space,” said Ward. 

“We came together in an uncertain time, and together, we created a community that changed all of us,” she continued. 

The lyrics of what became the Literacy-Cast theme song, which was written by Coach Phelps, the fitness/health/PE teacher at the App State Academy at Middle Fork, capture the spirit of the community of practice - "I'm a Mountaineer. You're a Mountaineer. We are Mountaineers and we're going to make it through together."

RCOE Faculty and Staff Award Recipients
Published: Jun 3, 2021 1:01pm