Curriculum and Instruction New Faculty 2017

The College of Education is happy to welcome 15 new faculty members for the 2017-2018 academic year. This year, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction is joined by Adriana Alvarez, Tracey Flores, Maria Gonzalez-Howard, Grace Kim, Eric Knuth, and Tia Madkins.


Adriana Alvarez

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

I recently completed my Ph.D. in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Before joining the doctoral program I was a bilingual teacher for eleven years in El Paso, Texas.

What are your research interests?  

My research interests lie in Bilingual and multicultural education; biliteracy development and pedagogy; family and community engagement; equity and social justice for emerging bilingual students and families; second language acquisition and sociolinguistics; strength-based and critical pedagogies.

What sparked those interests?  

My interests in bilingual education are rooted in my personal experience as a young emerging bilingual student and immigrant to the United States from Mexico. I had challenging experiences in school, such as being reprimanded for speaking Spanish, and unkind attitudes from some teachers. These challenges became my strong drive and commitment toward improving the educational experiences of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, influencing my decision to become a bilingual teacher in the same school district where I was a student in El Paso, Texas.

What are you excited about for your new position at UT? 

I am immensely excited to join the Bilingual/Bicultural program to work with students, colleagues and the Austin community. I am wholeheartedly drawn to the shared values and vision of bilingual education in the BBE program and to the strong sense of community and solidarity toward social justice and educational equity.

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us? 

I have always admired Dr. Rebecca Callahan’s work and important contributions to the field. I also feel inspired by Dr. Claudia Cervantes-Soon’s work with border communities; I feel a connection to this line of work since we share the same hometown on the border.

What do you hope to contribute to College of Education or the Austin community?

I hope to contribute my profound passion, commitment, and advocacy in bilingual education, especially to improve the educational experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse students. My heart is and always will be in bilingual education, first as a young emerging bilingual student myself, then as a bilingual teacher, and now as a researcher in the field. I hope these perspectives can contribute to advance the program’s mission. I truly believe that my own mission and research in bilingual education must have a transformative intention to benefit students and result in policy and pragmatic changes that will yield higher quality education and educational equity for our students.

What is your starting date?

January 2018


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Tracey Flores - Assistant Professor

Tracey Flores

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

I received my doctorate in May 2017 from Arizona State University. Go Devils!

What are your research interests?  

My research interests stem from my lived experiences as a second generation Chicana, a classroom teacher and the stories of my students and families. My interests include family literacy, specifically family writing, as a springboard for advocacy and empowerment of families and teachers and the language and literacy practices of Latina mothers and daughters.

What sparked those interests?  

As a classroom teacher, I worked alongside my students and their families, a majority emergent bilinguals, in bilingual writing workshops where families came together to write, draw and share stories from their lived experiences. Through the sharing of our stories, I learned about the many obstacles that my students and their families at the intersections of immigration status, language, class and race, as well as, about their knowledges, hopes and dreams. Within this space, as we wrote alongside one another, we developed relationships built on honesty and trust. My work in these workshops alongside my students and their families and the relationships that we built, through the sharing of our stories and histories, is what brought to consider the ways we can draw upon the rich knowledges, practices and experiences that reside inside homes and communities to create family involvement opportunities that are inclusive of these important resources.

What are you excited about for your new position at UT? 

The commitment to teacher preparation and the focus on social justice is what drew me to the University of Texas at Austin. I was mentored and apprenticed into teaching through a field based approach to teacher prep, similar to the UT program. I can’t imagine any other way to prepare pre-service teachers than embedding them in the communities and schools in which they will one day serve as teachers. The field based approach to teacher preparation that our UT pre-service teachers are provided allows them multiple opportunities to work alongside classroom teachers to improve their craft, teach young readers and writers through intentionally organized practicum experiences and learn the theory behind equitable approaches to teaching and learning. I am honored to join UT in their mission to cultivate critically conscious teachers who are reflective in their practice and will challenge the status quo so that all students, families and communities can thrive. What starts here really does change the world.

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us? 

I am honored to join the faculty in Curriculum and Instruction, and Language and Literacy in particular. The commitment of my colleagues to teaching and scholarship that addresses issues of equity, access and social justice is inspiring. I’m looking forward to work collaboratively and actively with faculty in preparing the next generation of teachers and scholars and engaging in research that will impact schools and communities.

What do you hope to contribute to College of Education or the Austin community?

My passion and commitment to working with students and families. As a classroom teacher, teacher consultant for the National Writing Project and as a doctoral student, I worked alongside students and families in a variety of family literacy and family engagement spaces. My work alongside students and families in these spaces is  foundational to my classroom practices and scholarship. I hope to build more opportunities into my teaching for pre-service teachers to work alongside families in their coursework and to collaborate on research with youth, parent advocates and families.

What is your starting date?

July 26, 2017


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Maria Gonzalez-Howard - Assistant Professor

Maria Gonzalez-Howard

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

In May 2017, I received my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. While completing my PhD, I worked with Dr. Katherine L. McNeill as a graduate research assistant on a project that designed and examined the effectiveness of multimedia educative curriculum materials for supporting teacher learning about the science practice of argumentation. During my doctoral studies, I also taught the undergraduate science methods course a few times, and was involved with local schools by conducting professional development workshops around the science practices in the greater Boston area.

What are your research interests?  And what sparked those interests?

My developing lines of research have been strongly motivated by my personal experiences, as well as the work I conducted during my doctoral studies on Dr. McNeill’s research team. Having immigrated to the United States from Argentina, I grew up speaking Spanish and began acquiring English in Kindergarten. Influenced by both learning English as a second language and, later in life, teaching science in a school whose student population was largely categorized as being English language learners (ELLs), I have a particular interest in the intersections of science learning with bilingualism development. Specifically, my research interests lie in improving the educational opportunities of culturally and linguistically diverse students, particularly in terms of engagement in science practices. In the near future, I hope to work with science classrooms in elementary schools around the Austin area, carrying out research that examines the benefits (for both teachers and students) of visualizing and making transparent the interactional patterns that occur during whole class discussions.

What are you excited about for your new position at UT? 

I am very excited to be joining the Department of Curriculum and Instruction! I am looking forward to working with new colleagues and students, learning from one another and developing and carrying out new lines of research.

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us? 

I am extremely impressed by the rigorous and important work that all of the faculty at UT carry out, and look forward to the prospect of collaborating with various individuals across different programs of study!

What do you hope to contribute to College of Education or the Austin community?

I hope to become a resource for undergraduate and graduate students interested in improving the educational opportunities of all students, particularly for student groups that have been historically marginalized in science. In working with undergraduate pre-service teachers, I want to help mitigate their fears of teaching science and to get them ready to meet the needs of a diverse student population. I would like to provide graduate students with experiences that prepare them for the career path of their choice. In terms of the Austin community, I intend to work in collaboration with local elementary schools, designing projects that will help meet the needs of their teachers and students. I would like to help make science a more prevalent subject in elementary classrooms, one that students authentically engage in and is accessible to all students.

What is your starting date?

I will be starting at UT Austin this coming Fall 2017.


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Eric Knuth - Professor

Eric Knuth

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

For the past 18 years, I was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What are your research interests?

My research focuses on the engagement of students in mathematical practices and ways of fostering their development of increasingly more sophisticated ways of engaging in those practices. I focus, in particular, on practices related to algebraic reasoning and to mathematical argumentation (justifying and proving).

What sparked those interests?

As a high school mathematics teacher, I was always interested in understanding the ways in which my students engaged with mathematics, and a graduate school course on research in mathematics education I took at that time inspired me to pursue my doctorate in mathematics education.

What are you excited about for your new position at UT?

I have always been impressed by the College of Education’s tradition of research excellence and outreach, and am looking forward to contributing to that tradition. I am also excited that my wife and I will now be at the same institution as she is also joining the faculty at UT (she will be an associate professor in the School of Nursing). And, of course, what is not to like about Austin!

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us?

I am really looking forward to working with my colleagues in the STEM Program.

What do you hope to contribute to College of Education or the Austin community?

As I mentioned in response to one of the other questions, I certainly hope to contribute to the College’s tradition of research excellence, and I also look forward to contributing to the preparation of future generations of school mathematics teachers and of educational researchers. I also look forward to building relationships and partnerships with local schools and districts.

What is your starting date?

I will officially be joining the faculty in August.


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Tia Madkins - Assistant Professor

Tia Madkins

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Notre Dame Center for STEM Education in Notre Dame, Indiana

What are your research interests?  

My main research interests include (1) elementary STEM education with a focus on issues of equity and elementary science education; (2) elementary teacher education, especially elementary teacher candidates’ understandings and use of equity pedagogies in STEM learning contexts; and (3) teacher workforce diversification via alternate routes into the teaching profession and historical perspectives on Black teachers in the segregated South.  I also enjoy engaging in projects related to higher education/campus climate issues that influence the recruitment and retention students from nondominant communities and the experience of collegiate-level student athletes. 

What sparked those interests?  

These interests are rooted in my professional and personal experience with teaching and learning broadly.  Specifically, my interests were molded during my time as an upper-elementary classroom teacher engaging as a participant in various research projects and as a science teacher leader in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).  As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, I worked closely with Drs. Na’ilah Nasir, Aki Murata, Malo Hutson, and Kathleen Metz.  They allowed me to have the time and space to shift my thinking and understandings of each of these areas while I engaged with local teacher and students, to ultimately refine and extend my current research agenda.

What are you excited about for your new position at UT? 

I am most excited to join the faculty in the College of Education and work closely with my colleagues and students in the STEM Education program and Center for STEM Education.  Having multiple opportunities to engage with students within the COE and campus more broadly will be invigorating both professionally and personally! 

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us? 

I am thrilled to collaborate with faculty in the STEM Education program, such as Drs. Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Vic Sampson, and Sepehr Vakil, to investigate and address issues of equity in STEM Education.  Being able to collaborate with faculty members focused on teacher education in other departments, such as Drs. Kefferlyn Brown and Rebecca Callahan are exciting! 

What do you hope to contribute to College of Education or the Austin community?

I hope to have a reciprocal learning relationship with colleagues and students in the College of Education.  My contributions to the COE will be my expertise in issues of equity in STEM teaching and learning contexts; research methodological approaches; and perspectives on teacher education.  I hope to contribute to the broader UT Austin and Austin communities my love for research and teaching, perspectives on education and schooling, and support the academic and socioemotional experience of undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those from nondominant communities. 

What is your starting date?

Spring 2018


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Grace Kim - Assistant Professor

Grace Kim

What institution were you most previously with and what was your role?

The University of California, Berkeley. I just finished a Ph.D. in the Graduate School of Education. While writing my dissertation, I was also a curriculum writer for the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education.

What are your research interests?  

Literacy, Language, Semiotics, Multicultural Education, New Media, Globalization, Asia and Asian America

What sparked those interests?  

Experiences as a student and as a high school English teacher in U.S. public schools, teaching abroad, and work on curriculum design and teacher professional development

What are you excited about for your new position at UT? 

I am excited for the opportunity to research and teach at such an incredible university situated in a vibrant city. Go Longhorns!

Is there anyone in the department or program whom you wanted to work with or who inspired you to join us? 

I look forward to working with colleagues and students across UT, the College of Education, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and, of course, in Language and Literacy Studies.

What do you hope to contribute to the College of Education or the Austin community?

I hope to find meaningful ways to contribute as I learn more about the College of Education, the campus community, and Austin.

What is your starting date?

July 2017