Oklahoma Preschool for the Deaf Early Childhood Education Center at UCO

Nestled between Mitchell Hall Theatre and University Street on UCO’s campus is a small building called the President’s Annex, home to a special kind of preschool that serves the local community and provides valuable learning opportunities to current UCO students. The Oklahoma Preschool for the Deaf Early Childhood Education Center at UCO has been housed on campus for over twenty years through a partnership between the Oklahoma School for the Deaf and UCO’s Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) Program. The school has one, full-time teacher and several graduate students in the UCO SLP program that teach and provide speech-language treatment to three, four and five-year-olds with hearing impairments four days a week under the supervision of UCO faculty members. The program is free to any child with a documented hearing impairment.

“We have kids from all over the metro area who attend,” said Amy Thomas, faculty supervisor of the preschool.

“We have a normal preschool curriculum, and we provide sign language support as well as normal voicing support. We have a total communication philosophy in the UCO speech-language program which means we use signing and voice together.”

Thomas herself was a graduate assistant at the preschool during her time at Central before pursuing a variety of jobs in the field of speech-language pathology. She returned to UCO in 2019 to take over as an instructor in the SLP program and the supervisor of graduate students at the preschool. Thomas explained the school offers unique opportunities to graduate students at UCO they might not receive in just the traditional classroom setting while also providing valuable resources to parents and preschoolers in the metro area as well.

“Everything I learned in this preschool when I was a student enriched my career, and I will be forever grateful for my experiences here,” she recalled.

“Just to see the way you can enrich language throughout the child’s school day gives our graduate students a more full picture of this career field.”

UKalen Lomas, Lucy Sargent and Katelyn Tunnell are all first-year graduate students in the UCO SLP program and assist with speech-language treatment for the preschoolers. Lomas and Tunnell provide teletherapy sessions several days a week focusing on sign-language and expressive language skills, and Sargent works in-person at the preschool assisting the children with anything from learning the days of the week to learning how to write their name.

“It’s really interesting being in the preschool because you get to experience working with children in a different way than just with speech therapy,” said Sargent.

“Here, your goals are more teaching them how to be around each other and be social.”

While they each provide a different type of service to the students depending on the semester, they all agree the experiences have been both rewarding and valuable to their future careers.

“I have been working with a little girl this semester who really doesn’t have a lot of vocalization skills, but I get to help her use her voice,” said Tunnell.

“It is so exciting and so rewarding when she finally is able to repeat something. It is so much fun, just a very rewarding place to be.”

Recalling her experiences being in the preschool, Sargent said, “I have learned so much about behavior management. I have learned how to be flexible which is something I really didn’t think about until I started working with kids. Also, sign language… getting to do it ten hours a week with the kids has been amazing for me.”

In all, the preschool is able to serve a twofold mission: providing a space for children with hearing impairments to attend preschool and receive specialized services at no cost and creating opportunities for current UCO students to expand their skills and develop new experiences in their field. To learn more about the preschool, visit the Oklahoma School for the Deaf website or contact Amy Thomas at athomas57@uco.edu.

To donate to one of several scholarships available for students in the Speech-Language Pathology program at Central, visit one of the scholarship links below:

2020 UCO Reach Higher: Reconnect Week

UCO GraduatesFinish What You Started! 

Complete your college degree 100% online through the Reach Higher – Organizational Leadership program at the University of Central Oklahoma. Reach Higher: FlexFinish is a program for BUSY ADULTS that uses your existing college credits to develop a personalized degree completion program at an AFFORDABLE TUITION rate.

2020 Reach Higher: Reconnect Week –
October 19-24, 2020

Join program representatives for any of the special events below during Reach Higher Week to learn more about the program and an opportunity to receive a tuition stipend during your first semester!

  1. RECONNECT WEBINAR: Tune in to an informational webinar where program representatives will cover the application process, financial breakdown, course requirements, and will answer your questions about going back to school!


  1. MEET WITH AN ADVISOR – Win an Amazon Gift Card! Schedule a time to meet virtually with one of our program academic advisors to ask specific questions and see what your degree plan will look like. The first 15 students to schedule appointments will receive $20 Amazon gift cards. Schedule your appointment time.


  1. GET ENROLLED – Win a Tuition Stipend! The first student to meet with an advisor and enroll in the Reach Higher – Organizational Leadership program during Reach Higher Week will receive a $250 tuition waiver during their first semester at UCO.


For more information about Reach Higher Week, email the program coordinator Trevor Cox, Ph.D., tcox18@uco.edu

New CEPS Faculty – Fall 2020

Several new faculty members will be joining the Broncho family this fall across several departments within the College of Education and Professional Studies. Below are the names of the new faculty within each department.

Department of Adult Education and Safety Sciences

  • Janet Handwerk, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
  • Yadira Reyes-Pena, Lecturer
  • Monica Walls, Visiting Instructor

Donna Nigh Department of Advanced Professional and Special Services

  • Ed Collins, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Sciences, Foundations and Research

  • Joseph Mathews, Ed.D., Assistant Professor

Department of Human Environmental Sciences

  • Joanne Wong, Instructor

Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies

  • Eric Conchola, Ph.D., Instructor
  • Ericka Johnson, Lecturer
  • Kerry Morgan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
  • Kim Reeves, Lecturer

Department of Psychology

  • Heloisa Campos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
  • Kaitlyn Downey Ph.D., Assistant Professor
  • Vickie Jean, Ph.D., Lecturer
  • Sean McMillan, Lecturer
  • Heather Shea, Lecturer
  • Nathaniel Stafford, Ph.D., Lecturer


Psychology Students Go Digital to Assist Parents and Teachers with Distance Learning

During a normal semester in Central’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst psychology certification program, graduate students would travel to various elementary schools in the Oklahoma City metro community throughout the week to provide behavioral consultations and evaluations for special education students. But, spring 2020 was anything but normal for everyone.

Dr. Singleton shares a behavioral consultation video on the Behavior Central YouTube page.

The program is under the direction of Scott Singleton, DPSY, associate professor of psychology, and is funded each year by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The goal is to assist special education teachers by providing behavioral intervention training and assessments for children with severe behavioral issues in the classroom, such as physical-aggression or self-injury.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced state school shutdowns and all UCO courses to transition online for the remainder of the semester, Singleton and his students were left wondering how they could continue to provide this special assistance to students and parents.

“When COVID came, obviously that changed everything because we can’t be in person, and those kids were now trying to receive education through some sort of distance learning format,” Singleton said.

“So we were trying to figure out how we could still help.”

The solution came in the form of a YouTube channel created by the students with educational videos for both teachers and parents on how to handle and prevent behavioral issues with distance learning. Video topics ranged from how to use positive reinforcement, correct behavioral issues and teach children to wear masks and understand social distancing, to tips on proper mental health and well-being for teachers. Over 25 videos have been created and shared so far – many averaging well over one hundred views.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback through the state Department of Education, through teachers and teachers’ groups but also from parents. And that’s one thing we’re proud of is we get a lot of positive comments from both teachers groups and some of the parent advocacy groups,” he explained.

A screenshot of a student sharing a video.

A UCO BCBA student shares a video on how to assist children with distance learning.

While providing a much-needed service to parents and teachers during the pandemic, the videos also proved to be a valuable learning experience for students in the program as well. Providing a behavioral analysis instruction in a short video sometimes was difficult, but Singleton says it allowed students to gain a deeper knowledge for the material and a better appreciation for how to put that knowledge into practice.

“One of the difficult things about these videos is that we’re trying to convey some very technical types of interventions and principles, but the students had to be able to use everyday language that people could understand but also try to condense the videos down to five minutes. It gave them a chance to really learn more about the concepts that we’re targeting.”

Overall, the students were glad to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of special education children and their parents, especially during a time that often was faced with stress and uncertainty. Some videos have even been featured on psychology podcasts and used by school districts as professional development opportunities for teachers. And, since the program has already received funding for a second year, Singleton already plans to continue the YouTube channel in the future.

The Behavior Central YouTube channel is public and currently available for any parents or teachers to utilize.

Teaching During a Pandemic

On March 18, 2020, the traditional learning environment at Central, as we knew it, was flipped upside down as the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic caused worldwide shutdowns; as a result, all courses for the remainder of the spring semester were moved to a virtual format. Learning, teaching and working took on a whole new look for the entire Broncho community. Many faculty members were given one week to transition all of their instructional materials, assignments and exams online. Now that the spring semester is over and they begin to prepare for the upcoming fall semester, many professors are reflecting on what this experience has been like and how they plan to move forward.

“We really were not prepared at first, so there was a mixture of nervousness and surprises,” said Kanika Bhargava, Ph.D., associate professor in the nutrition and food science program.

“I was already familiar with teaching online, but during the extended break, I had to add a lot more content to stay connected with my students, other than just notes and resources.”

Speaking about the early days of the pandemic, Tom Hancock, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychology reflected, “The entire process you’re thinking about what does this mean to me and my family? What does this mean to my students? What does this mean to my colleagues? And the university? There’s just so many different levels.”

Some faculty members, like Bhargava and Hancock, already were accustomed to teaching a few courses each semester online, but even with prior experience, this was unlike anything they had faced before. Bhargava’s nutrition and food science students had planned to present research posters at a program symposium in March, but that was quickly adjusted to a virtual format using an online discussion board.

“It was a challenge for me at first to try to explain to students how to change their poster project. The students already knew from the start of the semester they have to do it in a certain way, and then, on the spot, you have to tell them do it in a different way, so they had a lot of questions. You have to make them comfortable, and you need to prepare some guidelines for a new system you’re setting.”

And, in addition to transitioning learning resources online, Bhargava and her colleagues in the nutrition and food science program also were concerned about finding ways to keep material engaging for students in the same way it would have been in the classroom setting.

“The crisis forced us to think beyond our limits and be more creative at keeping students engaged and involved. We wanted to keep them enthusiastic for learning.”

She explained that national organizations in the food science industry began making videos and creating webinars for professors to share with students, which helped. Some even showed examples of how students could conduct their own lab projects at home with minimal supplies, or how to present a live, virtual lab experience for instructors, all of which she utilized.

But then, on top of continuing instruction, came the even tougher challenge: how to stay emotionally connected with students. Central prides itself on small class sizes that foster unique relationships between faculty and students, but when the pandemic hit, many missed the value of in-class discussions and relationships. In some cases, it made navigating these uncertain times even more difficult.

Students in Zoom

An example of a Zoom class during the 2020 UCO Prospective Teacher Academy.

Some classes still met virtually via Zoom or Webex, while others finished with online lectures and group discussion board chats. For faculty members, finding creative ways to stay connected with their students and remain supportive of them was a key piece to finishing the semester.

“One of the things that I really tried to do during this time is just mindfulness and having some compassion for students. More so than any other time in my 20 years of teaching I have had to understand that they are really going through some difficult stuff,” Hancock said.

“I am still working with a student who had COVID and actually spent two weeks in the ER. It’s extremely traumatizing.”

And with the sudden switch to online learning, other faculty members were worried about whether their students were going to be able to continue the semester at all.

“One thing that really came out in the beginning was I’m not hearing from some students, they’re not engaging in the content, and then being really worried about those students, are they okay?” said Scott Singleton, DPSY, associate professor in psychology.

“So, I finally put out an email saying, hey, I don’t care about the assignments. I’m just worried about you. Just let me know you’re around.”

As we navigate through the summer and prepare for the fall, we know the pandemic is likely far from over, but many are already asking themselves the question, “how do we move forward from this when life is back to normal?”

For Bhargava, Hancock and Singleton, they don’t think their teaching styles or course formats will ever return completely to their previous state. This has been an opportunity to grow and adapt and better navigate how they serve their students. Some even hope that it will shape how the university as a whole approaches online learning in the future. And, all agree this taught them new ways to understand and care for their students. They had a chance to reflect on how they connect with students, ensure that their objectives and learning outcomes were still being communicated and balance the mindfulness of the fear and uncertainty everyone is facing during the pandemic.

“I think this was a constructive kind of experience which taught us a lot and which we can always utilize in the future in teaching our students,” Bhargava reflected.

“We know how to deal with crisis, how to reach students who are in need. In the future, the normal life might be different, but we just have to learn from it and have to keep moving.”

Community/Public Health Students Assist with Metro COVID-19 Response Efforts

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the final semester for UCO seniors turned out to be anything but ordinary. In true Broncho style, many faculty and students have embraced this change with flexibility and determination. Students in one senior capstone course at Central have even found a way to assist with metro COVID-19 response efforts as a part of their final learning project.

UCO Student Kelly Smith

Community/public health senior, Kelly Smith, takes a selfie as she sits down to write her briefing on April 11.

The Oklahoma City Metro Shelter Directors Response Team contacted faculty in Central’s community/public health program to assist people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though students and faculty could not help in person, they could meet a need by providing a daily briefing for the shelter response team. The team has been busy implementing new strategies to protect the populations they serve, leaving little time to seek out daily additional resource information. These much-needed briefings are providing information directly applicable to managing vulnerable populations and specifically people experiencing homelessness during this time along with general daily COVID-19 updates.

The assignment was quickly incorporated into the community/public health capstone class taught by professor J. Sunshine Cowan, Ph.D., as a substitute for the midterm project. Each student will complete one daily briefing to submit to the response team by 3 p.m. The briefings are now being sent to 46 individuals involved with the Oklahoma City Metro Shelter Directors Response Team.

“I am excited about this, as it is a community partner requested need and it gives our students a role to do during this pandemic while still social distancing at home,” said Cowan.

“I am hopeful students will be able to look back on this chapter and know they had a positive impact in otherwise uncertain times.”

Students will research the topics using credible information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other professional health and medical sources. An example of the briefings is shown here in the daily briefing from April 8, created by community/public health student Sakinah Al Saleh & edited by Wellness Management graduate student, Bryan Shannon: Health Brief April 8.

Math for Social Justice

Education Students at the Teacher StoreWhen most people think back on their college statistics class, they likely think of a semester full of charts, numbers, and confusing formulas that take hours to understand. A new course at UCO, Math for Social Justice, is aiming to take a new approach at teaching this math concept while providing students with real-world experiences to better prepare them for their future career in teaching.

In the elementary and early childhood education programs, all students are required by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to take twelve hours of math course credits as part of the 4×12 general education requirement. In the past, these students have opted to take a statistics class in a traditional math course format, with little information provided in regards to how statistics will apply in a future classroom setting. Professors in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction saw this as an opportunity to create a new statistics course, specifically for education majors.

“When we received permission to create this course, I thought ‘there are a lot of issues in schools that deal with social injustices,’ and we realized that math and social justice pair well together. I also wanted to combine a service learning project with this element,” said Darlinda Cassel, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“This class allowed our students to collect data for statistics and also complete a service project for a nonprofit.”

Math for Social Justice pairs statistics with facts and realities about injustices in the world, specifically centered on education and resources teachers often need. To help study this, the class has partnered with the nonprofit organization Feed the Children which operates a Teacher Store warehouse in Oklahoma City. Businesses across the country donate items to the store where teachers from title I schools across the state are then able to visit and select free materials for their classrooms. Items in the store range from books and writing materials to snack foods and classroom furniture.

Education Students Touring the Teacher Warehouse
The goal of the project is for students to conduct research on if teachers’ needs are being met by the materials they receive at the store and how the process could be more effective. All students are responsible for a portion of the project that has included visiting the Teacher Store to interview teachers and observe the processes involved. They will then compile their research and present it to administration at Feed the Children at the end of the course.

The process has been eye opening for many students in the class as they have been exposed to the need often faced by teachers in low-income districts when trying to provide materials for their classrooms.

“I talked to a wide range of people at the teacher store that included teachers and school administrators, and all of their needs seemed to be the same,” said Dillon Wise, a senior elementary education major.

“They are just trying to help support their students however they can.”

Karen Inselman, a senior elementary education major, explained, “One teacher at the store that I talked to said she was sometimes spending around $100 per week to just help feed her students, so the teacher store has been a good resource for her.”

Overall, the students agree they have gained so much more than just statistics knowledge throughout the course, and it has reaffirmed their passion for their future profession.

“I took this course, because I felt like it would give me an opportunity to experience more than just a traditional classroom setting,” said Taylor Gutierrez, a junior elementary education major.

“I feel like I actually know this material and can apply it to my future school setting since I have had a chance to use it for real-world experiences in this class.”

Students will complete this course in May 2020, and the course is expected to be offered again in a similar format for the upcoming fall.

Faculty Recognitions: Jill Davis

Jill Davis, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, was honored with the inaugural 2019 Advocacy Award from the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE). She was selected for her outstanding advocacy in the field of early childhood education through her work at Central and was invited to attend the NAECTE awards reception in Nashville, TN in November to accept the award.

Davis currently teachers courses in the elementary education program and also serves as the faculty adviser for the Central Association for Responsive Educators (CARE) student organization. Jill Davis receives award at Education Conference

CALL @ UCO: Transforming Students and the Community, One Class at a Time

Student Leading CALL Class
UCO student Marlee Hearn knew from a young age she had a desire to someday spend her career working with older adults. Her passion for health and wellness led her to pursue a degree in kinesiology-exercise/fitness management where she became connected with the Center for Active Living and Learning (CALL).

“Throughout my time in the kinesiology program my professors would always encourage me to get involved with CALL because of my passion to work with older adults, but I didn’t know if my schedule would allow for it,” said Hearn.

“I love CALL so much now. I can’t imagine not being a part of it.”

The goal of CALL is simple: to promote healthy living and lifelong learning throughout the lifespan with particular emphasis on UCO students and older adults. The program also offers targeted, transformative learning experiences for students which recently earned the center and its two co-directors, Melissa Powers and Jacilyn Olson, the Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award at UCO’s 2019 Fall Forum. The health and wellness benefits of the various classes are supported throughout years of research and offer a great way for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a professional environment.

Hearn currently holds one of the paid student positions for the program as the CALL student project coordinator. Her main roles are to handle the scheduling of classes and management of class instructors, many of whom are her peers. This role has taught her how to communicate in a professional environment, the importance of being organized, and just how rewarding it is to work with members of the community.

She explained that not only do CALL classes provide for health and wellness opportunities, but also for valuable, intergenerational social interactions.

“I really get to know my participants and about their lives, and they always ask about what I’m doing in college.”

CALL initially began through a grant-funded program under the direction of Kinesiology and Health Studies Professor, Melissa Powers, in 2008 that allowed kinesiology students to visit community centers and hold classes for older adults. In 2016, CALL officially transformed into a year-round program held on Central’s campus which has now grown to host eleven classes per week.

CALL also provides 24 different classes per week in communities across central Oklahoma at no cost to participants through partnerships with the Areawide Aging Agency and various residential communities.

Larissa Boyd, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies, credits CALL for sparking her interest in community-based research. She was part of the initial grant-funded research program which allowed kinesiology students to lead fitness classes in the community back in 2009.

“I seriously doubt I would’ve ended up as a faculty member here had I not had the opportunity to learn more about community based research through this program,” said Boyd.

“It changed my perspective on how education research can impact the community and students.”

All students in the kinesiology-exercise/fitness management program are now able to gain valuable experiences through CALL with a required involvements in several courses such as introduction to kinesiology and physical activity and aging along with the opportunity to become paid CALL student project coordinators and class instructors.

The future for the program looks bright as new funding opportunities have allowed CALL to continue to expand not only on UCO’s campus but also in the metro community with a new class recently being added at the Okarche Center of Family Love.

Hearn explained she hopes to see CALL continue to transform the lives of students just as it did for her.

“I hope to see CALL keep growing because it provides great experiences for students and a benefit for older adults who might not have this low-cost opportunity anywhere else.”

For more information about CALL at UCO and in the community, visit uco.edu/call or contact the program coordinators at call@uco.edu or 405-974-5309.

UCO Hosts Troops to Teachers Program

Veterans attend UCO Troops to Teachers Program






UCO is continuing its mission of providing educational opportunities for veterans by partnering with Oklahoma’s Troops to Teachers to host the annual Troops to Teachers Jump School professional development program. The first seminar was held on Central’s campus in June, and the program will once again be offered in summer 2020. The three-day seminar was open to veterans who are currently teaching or planning to enter the education profession.

Over thirty veterans attended the sessions which focused on how to develop a positive classroom learning environment, design engaging instruction, integrate technology into the classroom and meaningfully assess student learning. Participants also attended a special ceremony in Old North with former UCO President Don Betz and current UCO President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar. Special thank you to professors from the Educational Sciences, Foundations and Research department for helping to plan and lead this event!