Educational Leadership and Policy New Faculty 2018

Sept. 12, 2018

The College of Education is happy to welcome 11 new faculty members for the 2018-2019 academic year. This year, the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy is joined by David DeMatthews and Sylvia Reyna. Rebecca Callahan has moved from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy.


photo of David DeMatthews

David DeMatthews - Associate Professor

David DeMatthews

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

My previous institution was University of Texas at El Paso where I was an assistant professor and a director of the EdD in Educational Administration. Prior to that, I worked as a school and district administrator in the District of Columbia Public Schools.

What are your research interests?  

My research interests focus on school leadership, especially in urban schools and districts. Specifically, I focus on how principals can create more inclusive and high-performing schools with special education for English language learners and students with disabilities. This work includes considering the important role of family and community in the school improvement processes. I also look at how state and federal policies impact urban school districts.

What sparked those interests?  

My interests were sparked by being a high school teacher in Baltimore and my work in District of Columbia Public Schools where I worked to address significant educational equity issues confronting low-income students of color, many of whom were inappropriately identified as a student with a disability and/or underserved in their schools.

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

I am most excited to join one of the nation’s top educational leadership and policy programs and also being in the capital, where I hope I can translate my research and expertise into policy recommendations that can improve schools.

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

I hope to be a partner and collaborator with the dynamic researchers and scholars in the college. I’m also excited to join the Austin community and advocate for policies that support principals, teachers, and students.

What is your starting date?

I officially joined the department on August 1st in the Public School Executive Leadership program.


photo of Rebecca Callahan

Rebecca Callahan - Associate Professor

Rebecca Callahan

What inspired your shift from Curriculum and Instruction to Educational Leadership and Policy?

My research and my work has always focused on how policies, both educational and language, shape the educational and social experiences of immigrant students in US schools. While my background is as an elementary bilingual teacher, my research interests are more closely aligned to questions of policy development, interpretation, and implementation. Our chair, Dr. Sáenz, and my colleagues in ELP have all been incredibly welcoming and supportive in this transition, for which I am extremely grateful.

What are your research interests?  

Most recently, I have been examining how local interpretation and implementation of federal education and language policy under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) shapes the educational opportunities open to every English Learner (EL) and other bilingual youth in high school. I’m particularly interested in how policy implementation shapes students’ trajectories as they transition from high school into the postsecondary realm. In particular, I am interested in how school, district, and state educational leaders determine program effectiveness for ELs and other immigrant and bilingual students.

What sparked those interests?  

As a former K-2 Bilingual Teacher, I spent a few years working as a high school Bilingual Resource Teacher. I was teaching Kindergarten in a really wonderful, dynamic school system that supported one of the earliest Dual Language programs in San Diego County at the time that Proposition 227 passed in California. At the time, I was saddened and stunned that the research on language development seemed to matter so little in the election process. This experience made me want to focus my energies on affecting change on a larger scale.

What do you hope to contribute to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy or the Austin community?

I look forward to collaborating with colleagues and with graduate students here in ELP, and getting a few more research projects off the ground! I’m especially interested in the possibility of developing collaborations with colleagues at TEA as they consider modes of outreach for surrounding districts and other local educational agencies.

What is your starting date, program area within your department, and academic rank?

I transitioned into ELP on July 15, 2018 as an associate professor with tenure. My home is in the Educational Policy and Planning (EPP) program, I look forward to collaborating with students and colleagues across the ELP Department.


photo of Sylvia Reyna

Sylvia Reyna - Assistant Professor of Practice

Sylvia Reyna

Can you talk about your professional experience in school systems?

My professional career spanned four urban public-school systems over 37 years before I officially retired in 2014.  I started my career as a teacher in 1977 at the San Antonio Independent School.  During my 31 years with SAISD, I moved through the ranks to Associate Superintendent before transferring to Edgewood ISD in San Antonio to serve as Associate Superintendent for curriculum and instruction and school leadership.  After two years in EISD, I moved to Fort Worth ISD to serve as Chief of Staff for the 83,000-student school district.  At Fort Worth ISD, I worked directly with the board of trustees, supervised the human capital management, student support services, parent engagement, governmental relations, and professional ethics departments.

I planned to retire after that assignment but had the opportunity to serve as the Chief of School Leadership for the 160,000+ student school district—Dallas ISD.  In that role, my responsibilities involved the direct and indirect supervision of all services related to campus instruction and operations of some 223 schools.  I also supervised the districts athletic, parent engagement and student support services departments.  After two years of extensive leadership and campus and instructional transformation efforts, I officially retired to my home in San Antonio. 

Since my retirement, I have enjoyed teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A & M University-San Antonio. I have also served as Professional Service Provider in partnership with the Texas Education Agency and three urban public-school systems to turn around underperforming public schools.

What is your area of expertise?  

I consider my expertise to be in educational leadership. I also consider family engagement to be another area of expertise. 

What sparked those interests?    

As a teacher, I considered myself an activist and effectuated significant change for the improvement of the lives of the students I served and my fellow teachers.  Early in my career, I knew that I could influence positive change on a grander scale as an educational leader and thus became an administrator. I served an educational leader for 30 years during my 37-year career.

What do you hope to contribute to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy or the Austin community?

I hope to share what I have learned from working in school systems with the students enrolled in the CSP program as well as any other programs.  I have real-world practical experiences that can enhance theoretical learning so that each student gains a rich understanding of educational leadership. My experiences are also relatively recent as I stay currently connected to public school systems, I bring a network of leaders with whom our students can interact.

What is your starting date?

I co-taught both sessions this past summer and officially started on Sept. 1, 2018 in the Public School Executive Leadership program.