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“Young People’s Engagement with Literature: What Does it Look Like?


  • What? Drs. Groenke and Botzakis presented “Young People’s Engagement with Literature: What Does it Look Like?


  • When? University of Tennessee MicNite on November 15, 2017


  • Where? Relix Theater, Central Avenue, Knoxville


  • Why? MicNite is a twice-annual evening for faculty and staff, based on the Japanese concept, Pecha-Kucha. Pecha-Kucha is a simple lecture in which presenters show and discuss 20 images for 20 seconds each.
Joshua Kenna

Dr. Joshua Kenna Awarded an Improving Teacher Quality Grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission

Who: Dr. Joshua Kenna (PI) & Dr. Derek Alderman (co-PI from Geography Department)

What: Awarded an Improving Teacher Quality Grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (a federally funded program) titled, “Leveraging Disciplined Inquiry to Support Reading, Writing, and Thinking in History and Geography.”

When & Where: A total of 20 high school social studies teachers from Anderson, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, and Union school districts will have an opportunity to participate in a professional development workshop funded by the grant. The workshop will take place at the East Tennessee Historical Society during the summer of 2018.

Why: The goal is to improve teachers’ history and geography content knowledge and help them integrate critical thinking skills and key social studies practices into their instruction, such as analyzing primary/secondary sources, constructing and communicating arguments, and citing evidence from sources.


2017 Teacher Education Division of Council of Exceptional Children Annual Conference

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TPTE Faculty and Alumni Participate in the 2017 Teacher Education Division of Council of Exceptional Children Annual Conference in Savannah, GA

  • Who?  TPTE faculty, alumnae and colleagues MariBeth Coleman, associate professor and Tara Moore, assistant professor, both in Special Education; Anthony Pellegrino, assistant professor in Social Science Education with George Mason colleague Peggy Weiss; Sherry Mee Bell, professor of Special Education and department head with current doctoral student, Jamie Smith and recent PhD graduate and UT Office of Information Technology staff Eric Moore; Melissa Martin, recent PhD graduate in her second year as assistant professor of State University of New York, Plattsburgh
  • What? Faculty and current and former students and colleague presented on such topics as co-teaching, assistive technology, universal design for learning, and reading assessment.
  • When?  November 7-10, 2017
  • Where?  Savannah, Georgia, Marriott Riverfront
  • Why?  Faculty and student participated in the 40th annual TED/CEC conference to share their research and to learn about a range of practices and policies affixing K-12 special education and preparation of special education teachers.

Fourth Annual TPTE Recognition Ceremony

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On October 10, 2017, the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education (TPTE) at the University of Tennessee held its fourth annual Recognition Ceremony in downtown Knoxville. The Recognition Ceremony was held in conjunction with the David T. Bailey Graduate School of Education’s Billie Grace Goodrich Lecture by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. We honored two outstanding alumni, Ellen Watson James (year of graduation) and Melissa McKown (year of graduation); three outstanding collaborators, Shannon Jackson (Knox County Schools) and Melissa Massie (Knox County Schools); and three outstanding community advocates for education, Katie Cyphers, Dr. Gene Overholt and Mrs. Lyn Overholt. TPTE recognized two outstanding faculty: Dr. Lynn Hodge (Collaboration with the Field Award) and Dr. Stewart Waters (Scholarship Award) and one outstanding doctoral student, Robin Schell (Literacy Studies/English as a Second Language).

STEM Family Night


Dr. Lynn Hodge, Dr. Ashley Walther, Michael Lawson, Shande King, and Bearden Middle School staff and students.


Family Night in the Community! Featuring food for the families, family math and literacy games from UTK, and the Bearden Middle School Step Team.


October 26, 2017 5:30-7:30


Community Center in Mechanicsville, Knoxville, TN


The purpose of this event was to build bridges through food, fun, fellowship, and servanthood with the families who can’t always attend school-based events by meeting them in their community. CEEMS and TPTE faculty and graduate students supported this event to provide resources and activities about STEM and literacy related topics for students and families.

2017 B.O.S.S. for Educators (Big Orange STEM Saturday)

What: 2017 B.O.S.S. for Educators (Big Orange STEM Saturday)

When: October 7, 2017

Where: Hodges Library


Sponsored By: UTK Libraries, The Center for Enhancing Education in Mathematics and Sciences (CEEMS), The East Tennessee STEM Hub, and the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN)

Team Members: Thura Mack (chair), Ingrid Ruffin (co-chair), Michelle Brannen, Alexa Carter, Kristina Clement, Dr. Lynn Hodge, Val Hodge, Ann Ramsey, Megan Venable, & Dr. Ashley Walther



Keynote Speaker: Dr. Christopher Lavan, Director of Experience Learning, University of TN (Topic: The Power of Experiential Learning for Today’s Students)

Breakout Sessions & Titles:

  • Dr. Clara Lee Brown, English Learns & STEM: STEM for All? Where Should We Begin?
  • Gale Stanley & Michael Lawson, Exploring Resources for K-12 Teachers to Engage Students in STEM Learning
  • Ask a Scientist, Communicating Science: Do’s and Don’ts
  • Patricia Stinger-Barnes, Creating Access to Scientific Inquiry: Everyday Ideas and Materials
  • Dr. Jeff Beard & Dr. Blanche O’Bannon, Using Mobile Technology in the Classroom

Participants: 33 educators from the East TN region (teachers, administrators, librarians) attended the conference. 14 districts were represented from the following areas: Anderson County, Blount County, Campbell County, Claiborne County, Jefferson County, Knox County, Lenoir City, Loudon County, Monroe County, Oak Ridge City, Polk County, Roane County, Sevier County, and Union County.


Why: Big Orange STEM Saturday for educators (EduBOSS) is a free professional development opportunity for education professionals in East Tennessee. Educators from across the region gathered to learn and discuss STEM education. This year’s theme: STEM4ALL: Equity & Access for K-12 STEM Education.

East Tennessee STEM Hub Regional Meeting & Open House


On Friday, October 20, the East TN STEM Hub hosted its first regional meeting and open house since management passed to The Center for Enhancing Education in Mathematics and Sciences (CEEMS) at the University of Tennessee. The Hub is a regional partnership and collaborative effort designed to promote and support high quality STEM education in the East Tennessee region. The regional meeting and open house served as a networking and introductory meeting. Fourteen STEM-focused organizations were represented as exhibitors during the event. Teachers, administrators, and higher education faculty attended the event. Special exhibits included: STEM & Literacy and STEM Education Resources. Additionally, attendees had the opportunity to discuss STEM professional development and community needs, and the ways in which STEM intersects their organization.

Anthony Pellegrino

Funding Secured By Dr. Anthony Pellegrino for TPTE Social Science Ed Program

  • Who? The Social Science Education faculty of TPTE have secured funding for a UTK/Knox County Schools partnership project from the Teaching with Primary Sources Program of the U.S. Library of Congress.
  • What? The purpose of the project is to better prepare our teacher candidates for their internships through a combination of clinically-rich pre-internship coursework and mentor/intern professional development training to support methods for teaching with primary sources.
  • When? Planning for the project begins in fall 2017. The first pre-internship methods course will         begin in spring 2018, and professional development for mentors and interns will begin in summer 2018.
  • Where? The clinical experiences and professional development will take place with Knox County middle and high school social studies teachers.
  • Why? The purpose of the project is twofold. First, our candidates will gain clinical experience and deeper understanding of teaching practices through the pre-internship methods course. Second, our school-based mentors and interns will have the opportunity to work together prior to internship to build relationships and discuss high leverage practices for social studies prior to the beginning of the internship year. We hope that doing so will help mentors see the vision of our Social Science Education program and be better positioned to support our candidates in their internships.

VolsTeach Students prepare for their First Field Teach

  • Who?  VolsTeach, a TPTE licensure program designed for undergraduate math, science, and engineering majors interested in teaching careers.
  • What? The program, which began six years ago, is working with its largest cohort of Step1 and Step 2 candidates to date.
  • When?  Fall 2017
  • Where? Teacher candidates are working in area schools in clinical practice that supports their preparation for the classroom.
  • Why?  As TN continues to need highly qualified math and science teachers in middle and high schools, the VolsTeach program offers a clinically rich model of educator preparation to help fill that need.



Susan Groenke

TPTE’s Susan Groenke “Going the Extra Mile”

 “Going the Extra Mile”

Susan Groenke,  TPTE Associate Professor of English Education, tries to figure out how to motivate adolescents to read and write—and then shares that knowledge with current and future teachers.

Susan Groenke“Young people will read and write if we let them. I think our responsibility as educators is creating the time and space that motivate young people to engage with texts—both those they read and those they write—in personally meaningful and fulfilling ways,” said Groenke, an associate professor of English education in the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education and director of the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CCYAL).

Groenke teaches a variety of courses that allow her students to hone their teaching skills in true classroom settings.

In a summer young adult literature course, novice and veteran teachers become “Book Buddies” with children at the Haslam Boys and Girls Club. During this five-week program, the teachers are paired with local youth to motivate the youngsters to read during the summer months.

“Susan Groenke is a gift to both UT and the greater Knoxville community,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. “She is responsible for bringing the Freedom School to Knoxville so that children living in disadvantaged communities here can be exposed to meaningful and culturally appropriate literature. Susan is an outstanding representative of our college, both here in Knoxville and throughout the United States, and is deeply committed to helping students, whether they be in the public schools or here at the university.”

Groenke also teaches a methods course in which student teachers—who are completing a one-year residency in area schools—observe professional teachers who are particularly good at teaching reading and writing and leading classroom discussions. After watching these exemplary teachers in action, the students come back to Groenke’s class to talk about what they’ve learned.

In Groenke’s composition pedagogy course—a course that teaches the practice of teaching writing—she has her UT students serve as writing tutors for local high school students.

“It’s one thing for me to talk about composition pedagogy to my students, but sometimes they don’t have a real-world context to put it in,” she said. “So I thought that putting my students in a writing classroom as tutors—at the same time that they’re learning about composition pedagogy in my course—would give them a context in which to actually practice the theories, ideas, and strategies we toss around in class.”

Through this experience, students see the problems many adolescents face when writing, such as having trouble generating ideas for writing or being overly reliant on the teacher to provide a structure or purpose for writing. They also learn about the politics of teaching.

“We have new state standards that emphasize student writing more so than in the past, so teachers are feeling the pressure to meet these new standards and change their instruction accordingly,” she said. “It’s helpful for my students—beginning teachers—to witness how policy influences teacher decision-making and autonomy in the classroom so they can begin to think of ways to negotiate that when they’re in their future classrooms.”

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