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Faculty and Staff News

Learn more about some of TPTE’s faculty and staff members

Welcome 2019


Sherry Jankiewicz photo headshotSherry Jankiewicz joined TPTE as clinical assistant professor of art education in 2019. Read more here.





Kristen Secora headshotKristen Secora joined TPTE as assistant professor of communication disorders in 2019. Read more here.




Kelly Wallace headshot

Kelly Wallace joined TPTE as clinical assistant professor of elementary urban multicultural education and English education in 2019. Read more here.




Allison Varnes headshotAllison Varnes joined TPTE as clinical assistant professor of English education and urban multicultural education in 2019. Read more here.



Tara Bumgarner joined TPTE as accounting specialist in 2019.

Lori Daniels joined TPTE as administrative specialist in 2019.

Kristi Cook joined TPTE as senior accounting specialist in 2019.

Welcome 2018


Dan Hoffman headshot 107x128Dan Hoffman joined TPTE as clinical assistant professor of education of the deaf and hard of hearing in 2018. Read more here.



Josh Rosenberg headshot 107x128Josh Rosenberg joined TPTE as assistant professor of STEM education in 2018. Read more here.




Zoi A. Traga-Philippakos joined TPTE as assistant professor of literacy education in 2018. Read more here.




Katie Bookout joined TPTE as administrative specialist in 2018.

Heather Davis joined TPTE as administrative specialist in 2018. Read more here.

News Stories

Frances Harper headshot 200 x 300

Just add math for fun!

Written by Joan Grim, senior lecturer, special education

Assistant Professor of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education / math, Frances Harper, has multiplied student and family engagement in math through her outreach efforts.

Since starting your career in Knoxville, what has inspired you to reach out in the community to encourage out-of-school experiences in math?

My motivation for encouraging out-of-school experiences in mathematics is twofold: (1) to support the development of the teacher candidates that I work with and (2) to create opportunities for students who are often marginalized in mathematics to see themselves as capable learners and doers of mathematics.

Working directly with students provides teacher candidates valuable learning opportunities to develop their mathematics teaching, but the high stakes nature of school mathematics can make it challenging for teacher candidates to be creative and innovative in their school-based experiences. My goal is to prepare teacher candidates for innovative and effective mathematics teaching by giving them an opportunity to use what they are learning in my mathematics methods courses in an alternative learning space to bridge school mathematics content with the ways in which children use and experience mathematics in the community.

My work with teacher candidates indirectly creates opportunities for students, who are typically marginalized, to see themselves as capable in mathematics, but I am also motivated to partner directly with families (parents/guardians and children) to support increased opportunity for mathematics engagement. Mathematics, more so than other subjects, serves as a gatekeeper for STEM pathways, with many students avoiding or abandoning STEM tracks because of mathematics requirements.

Parents and guardians play an important role in supporting children’s opportunities for mathematics learning, but researchers and educators often overlook the ways that Black and Brown families from low-income backgrounds deliberately advocate for and support their children’s education. My goal in partnering with families is to better understand the ways they already advocate for their children in mathematics and to offer access to findings from mathematics education research that they find helpful in more effectively acting as intellectual resources for their children in mathematics.

What kinds of programs have you designed and implanted?

The most established program is a partnership between teacher candidates enrolled in my mathematics methods courses, the East TN STEM Hub, and local preschools and elementary schools. I received a Community Engagement Incentive Grant for 2018-2019 to design and enact this program. As part of a major course project, teacher candidates in my courses visit a local community surrounding a designated school and learn from conversations with community members. The purpose of engaging with the local community is to recognize ways in which mathematics and other STEM disciplines are integral parts of children’s and families’ daily lives. Teacher candidates identify resources from the local community that they can use to support children’s mathematics learning, and they leverage these resources to design an activity for a family STEM night at the designated school. The East TN STEM Hub works with local schools to coordinate these events, and provides some additional materials for the activities. The teacher candidates facilitate their activity with children and families who bring a range of mathematics experiences and backgrounds. This experience helps teacher candidates to recognize that all people are capable of doing challenging mathematics work when it is relevant to their lived experiences. You can see examples of activities teacher candidates have designed here.

What are some upcoming programs that you will be leading?

I am excited about a new program that is beginning this Fall with support from an Engagement and Outreach Mini-grant. The goal of this project is to support Black and Brown parents and guardians from low-income backgrounds to act, more effectively, as intellectual resources in their children’s mathematics education. I am currently developing and will implement three workshops designed to address the unique challenges that Black and Brown families from low-income backgrounds face to involvement in mathematics education. Each workshop will draw on the research base in mathematics education and make important findings about equitable mathematics teaching and learning for Black and Brown children accessible to parents and guardians of those children. The emphasis of each workshop is designed to develop practices shown to foster more effective parental involvement among Black and Brown families and higher mathematics achievement for Black and Brown children. The first workshop will focus on navigating the school mathematics curriculum. This will include understanding why new school mathematics curricula incorporate approaches to problem solving that are unfamiliar to parents and guardians and the importance of conceptual understanding for procedural fluency in mathematics. The second workshop will focus on supporting mathematics learning at home and in the community by leveraging community-based and cultural ways of knowing and doing mathematics. Finally, the third workshop will focus on the impact of stereotypes on children’s opportunities to learn mathematics and ways that families can challenge and navigate those stereotypes.

What roles do graduate students have in these programs?  

Because most of the teacher candidates that I work with are also master’s candidates, graduate students play a direct role in the family STEM night program by designing and facilitating activities. I have also worked with two fabulous doctoral students on the family STEM night program, Nick Kim and Zach Stumbo, to do research on what kinds of learning opportunities the family STEM night experience creates for the teacher candidates. Nick and I will be presenting some initial findings at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in February 2020, and the three of us are waiting to hear back about two papers related to this work that we submitted for AERA 2020. Zach Stumbo worked with me last year to help guide teacher candidates to design and plan for their activities, and he’ll be continuing in that role this year as well as helping me get the new program for families up and running.

Can you share a story about the lived impact of your program?

I’ll share a little about one activity that teacher candidates designed that I think illustrates how the experience helps them to understand ways to make mathematics accessible to every child. In fall 2018, a group of teacher candidates decided they wanted to design an activity to connect to Fair Garden Preschool’s “Fall Festival” theme for the family STEM night. By visiting the community, the teacher candidates noticed several places near the school where families could buy pumpkins. Building on children’s experiences with pumpkins, they developed an activity that asked students to answer, “Which pumpkin is fattest?” From a group of pumpkins, children could measure the pumpkins in different ways (circumference, diameter, weight, etc.) and make a mathematical case for how they decided “fattest”. The idea of “bigness” naturally prompts quantitative reasoning, but the way it is quantified is open to interpretation. Some students measured the circumference of each pumpkin using measuring tape or string and a ruler, but other students used the physical pumpkins to compare “fatness”. Some students even explored “pumpkin pi” by comparing the circumference of each pumpkin to its diameter and noticing the pattern (it is always approximately 3). This activity gave every child, regardless of mathematics background or experience, an opportunity to reason quantitatively and construct a mathematical argument. You can see more details about the activity here.