SMU’s Moody School of Graduate Studies Awards Dissertation Fellowship to Simmons’ Mellado De La Cruz

Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, Ph.D. student, Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, a Ph.D. student in Simmons, has been awarded a 2020-21 Moody Dissertation Fellowship from the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. Her award of $30,000 will help her research her dissertation topic that focuses on early reading assessments in English and Spanish for emerging bilingual students. She is one of four Moody Dissertation Fellows this year.

Her proposed work is an extension of a larger, and now complete, Institute of Education Science-funded project exploring brief, published tests for effectively measuring kindergartners’ early literacy growth and efficiently predicting reading difficulties (PI Nathan Clemens; Co-PI Stephanie Al Otaiba).

“When I joined the project and as my training in the Ph.D. program progressed, I began to formulate questions about whether scores on first language early literacy skills might be helpful to educators who use these data for instructional decisions,” she says.

Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba, dissertation advisor, says Mellado De La Cruz  has had extensive training experiences at SMU through a doctoral training grant, the National Center for Leadership on Intensive Intervention, and workshops on learning different analytic methods. “She has already authored and co-authored several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has made presentations at national conferences,” she says. “Veronica is likely to go on to have a position in educational research for the vulnerable population of students with intensive intervention needs.”

Mellado De La Cruz received her B.A. in Psychology from SMU in 2007, and says that years later when she developed an interest in education research, she reached out to Simmons faculty. Her contact with them lead her to apply for the doctoral program.”I am a Pony through and through!,” she adds.




Personal Immigrant Experience Shapes Research for Doris Baker

Associate Professor Doris Baker, Department of  Teaching and Learning, is featured in a podcast, Empowering ConverzationZ with Mehran Sourourian, speaking about her own experience as an immigrant from Latin America.

Baker was born in Brazil and also lived in Colombia and Mexico before she migrated to the U.S. Her transitions from country to country impacted the way she sees the world and herself. These experiences shaped her interest in academia, including her research in bilingual education. Listen to her interview here.


Luft Baker Publishes Research on Dallas Morning News Workshops for Parents on Early Childhood and Social Media Dissemination

Associate Professor Doris Luft Baker collaborated with The Dallas Morning News on workshops to inform a group of Spanish-speaking parents about early childhood development and learn to disseminate the information on social media.

Luft Baker studied the groups over the duration of the workshops and concludes the mothers who attended the workshops significantly increased their early childhood knowledge, and children whose mothers attended the workshops significantly increased their Spanish expressive vocabulary.

However, Luft Baker did not find significant effects of the workshops on parental technology knowledge and literacy knowledge. Her article is featured in the Bilingual Research Journal.




Doris Luft Baker Receives Fulbright to Assess Beginning Readers in Chile

Associate Professor Doris Luft Baker, director of Simmons’ Master of Bilingual Education program, and co-director of the school’s Ph.D. program, has been selected for a Fulbright award to conduct research in Chile. She will set up a norming study to provide researchers and practitioners with a better understanding of reading trajectories in beginning reading.

Luft Baker also will be able to screen and monitor Chilean students who may be at risk for learning disabilities. There have been no formative assessments in Chile to screen and monitor the reading progress of students from kindergarten to the third grade.

Her host institution is the Universidad Católica del Maule, and she begins her research in Chile, March 2020.

AERA Awards Four in Simmons with Distinctions

Annie Wilhelm, Ph.D.
Doris Baker, Ph.D.



Three Simmons faculty members and one doctoral candidate were recognized at the 2019 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference with awards for their contributions to their fields.

Teaching and Learning  faculty members Annie Wilhelm and Doris Luft Baker received AERA Special Interest Group (SIG) awards.

Luft Baker was recognized for the AERA Technology, Instruction, Cognition & Learning SIG with the International Collaboration Award, and Wilhelm for the Research in Mathematics Education SIG’s Early Career Publication Award.

Dominique Baker, an assistant professor in Education Policy and Leadership, was chosen as an AERA Oustanding Reviewer 2018, and additionally was named to the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) editorial board.

Dominque Baker, Ph.D.

Also receiving recognition was graduate student Sumei Wu, whose poster proposal, Using Virtual Reality Simulations to Improve Three Novice Mainstream Teachers’ Enactment of Questioning Strategies with English Learners was rated one of the top proposals. As a finalist, Wu will present next year in AERA Division D’s In-Progress Research Gala.



Sumei Wu, doctoral candidate, pictured at right.


















Luft Baker Publishes Book on Second Language Acquisition

Associate Professor Doris Luft Baker serves as editor of Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Perspectives and Challenges, an up-to-date review of the complexities of languages found in teaching mathematics, science and social studies.

According to the introduction, each chapter provides a synthesis of the research on one of the topics and offers implications for practice and research.

Baker also included work by another Simmons faculty member, Candace Walkington, and former faculty member, Karla del Rosal. Additionally, Baker co-wrote a chapter with two of her Ph.D. students, Paul Polanco and Anthony Sparks.

Ware Appointed to New Holdsworth Professorship

Congratulations to Dr. Paige Ware, who becomes the first Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Endowed Professor in Simmons. The new professorship supports inquiry into understanding how partnerships among higher education and public school districts can contribute to improving teacher preparation practices and policies.

Ware, a scholar who has examined the impact of such collaborations to improve instruction for English learners, has served as interim dean and chair of the Dept. of Teaching and Learning.

“I am particularly grateful for this recognition because the endowment was given in honor of a remarkable woman, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth, whose contributions to public education and library services continue to impact many lives in such positive ways,” she says. “I look forward to the opportunity provided by this professorship to expand the research we are doing at Simmons in ways that foster similarly impactful, lasting collaborations.”


Simmons Teams Up with Dallas Arboretum For Teacher Development In Galapagos

This summer, Teaching and Learning faculty members Diego Román, Ph.D., and Dara Rossi, Ph.D., invited Dallas Arboretum educators, Dustin Miller and Marisol Rodriguez, to help train 125 Ecuadoran teachers in the Galapagos Islands.

Román and Rossi participate in a four-year professional development program initiated by The Galapagos Conservancy and Ecuador’s Ministry of Education. They also advise The Dallas Arboretum Education Department, which focuses on life and earth science and trains 500 teachers annually. So having Miller and Rodriguez teach with them in the Galapagos was a plus. The team also included Greses Perez, a Simmons alumna, and current student, Heny Agredo. More about the trip.

In addition to SMU, Stanford, North Caroline State, Rutgers, and Oregon State also participate in the program and the Center on Research and Evaluation assesses the program.

SMU Opens Harold Clark Simmons Hall

Harold Clark Simmons Hall Exteriors SMU will dedicate Harold Clark Simmons Hall at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. The three-story building designed to serve a new generation of teachers and leader will support work ranging from strengthening the academic skills of the youngest preschooler in West Dallas to research on new uses of technology in education.

The hall features an innovative teacher developmeStudents in Harold Clark Simmons Hall Classroomsnt studio, which uses technology to simulate classroom environments, the Budd Center: Involving Communities in Education, and the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Graduate Student Receives National Bilingual Teacher of the Year Award

Irma De La Guardia

Irma De la Guardia has been named “Teacher of the Year” by the National Association of Bilingual Education.

A third-grade dual-language teacher at DISD’s Withers Elementary School, De La Guardia also pursues a graduate degree in Simmons’ Urban Education Leadership program. Congratulations to her for achieving the national distinction. To listen to a story about what she does in the classroom, click here.