Special Education and Plan II Senior Recognized as a Distinguished Graduate

April 24, 2020
Photo of Jessica Toste (left) and Gabriella Coelho
Jessica Toste (left) and Gabriela Coelho

Gabriela Coelho, a senior in the All-Level Special Education program in the College of Education and the Plan II Honors Program in the College of Liberal Arts, has been named a 2020 Dean’s Distinguished Graduate in the College of Liberal Arts.

Coelho, a Charles Butt Scholar in the College of Education, says, “Plan II is a four-year interdisciplinary arts and science honors major designed to act as a foundation to grow individuals as learners and human beings.I have brought my own knowledge and beliefs about educational equity and policy to each of my courses in Plan II, while Plan II has allowed me to explore the area that interests me most: special education.”

As part of her Plan II degree, Coelho completed an undergraduate honors thesis, “The State of Testing: Elementary Teachers’ Perceptions and Reports of the Utility of Multiple Sources of Student Assessment Data.” She interviewed elementary teachers across the U.S. and ultimately presented her work as part of a panel on data-based decision-making practices among K-12 teachers at the Council for Learning Disabilities Conference last fall.

“This project allowed me to further my understanding of what it means to be a teacher. The programs went hand in hand, allowing me to become the best possible thinker, learner, and teacher I can be,” she says.

“It is extremely rare for an undergraduate student in the College of Education to engage in independent research; not only did Gabriela take this on, but she excelled. To my knowledge, no undergraduate special education major has ever completed the Plan II Honors Program. Our undergraduate program in special education is extremely structured, intensive, and demanding—it does not provide much opportunity to explore scholarship outside of the training requirements,” says Jessica Toste, assistant professor of special education.

Coelho, who graduates in May, plans to attend graduate school in educational policy after teaching special education in the Austin area for a few years.

The Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Award in the College of Liberal Arts was established in 1980 to recognize graduating students who have distinguished themselves in the areas of scholarship, leadership, and service to the college and university community.