Saler Axel

Saler Axel

Pace University, Graduate

The University of Texas at Austin, Undergraduate

Research interest(s):  Setting performance standards on high stakes assessments

Current research fellowship:  Research in Mathematics Unit (RME), working on the Istation, Inc. Screener for Grades 2-8 Assessment Development project

Professional Experience:  I was teaching at the community college in the Education and Child Development program.


Jillian Conry


Southern Methodist University, Master of Liberal Studies

Texas A&M University, Bachelor of Arts in Spanish & International Studies

Research interest(s): Second-language acquisition, instructional technology, literacy, cross-linguistic transfer, bilingual education, cross-curricular instruction

Current research fellowship: Last year I worked with Dr. Doris Baker and Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba on Project ELVA, funded by IES (Goal 2), to develop software that uses voice recognition technology and an avatar teacher to teach 2nd-grade ELLs abstract vocabulary in science and social studies. Additionally, I worked with Dr. Al Otaiba on Project ELM, a longitudinal study funded by IES (Goal 5) and aimed at determining which literacy measures can be used as valid progress monitoring tools in Kindergarten. This year I continue my work on Project ELVA and have begun a new study with Dr. Paige Ware and Dr. Karla del Rosal to investigate technology-mediated mentoring between teachers and high school ELLs. 

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I served as a classroom teacher in Garland ISD for 8 years. During that time, I taught bilingual 3rd grade, bilingual 4th grade, and secondary Spanish levels I-V. I also worked as a high school cheerleading coach, curriculum writer, and bilingual/ESL GED program instructor for the district.

Research: The School Zone- Supporting After School and Summer Programming- AT&T and Momentous Institute, 


Bethany Edwards

Teachers College, Columbia University- Master of Arts in Education Policy

Texas A&M University- Bachelor of Science in Political Science

Research interest(s): The effect of early childhood education (ECE) on lifelong learning and outcomes, as well as how ECE can be used to minimize racial inequities in the American education system.

Professional experience:  Worked as a Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) Coordinator for WestEd before transitioning to my current job as a Research and Policy Associate at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, a research center affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley.


Emily McClelland

Bowling Green State University, Masters of Education Kinesiology

Research interest(s): Biomechanical basis of sport performance. Athletic metrics and their application to training programs. Biomechanical explanations of sex difference in sport performance.  

Current research fellowship: This year in the Locomotor Performance Laboratory I have been working on projects related to vertical jumping movement and force application patterns, with Dr. Weyand and staff.  

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I worked as a full-time strength and conditioning coach, and adjunct faculty member at BGSU in Ohio. I lead training for 7 of the 18 intercollegiate sports and assisted with intern mentorship. I also taught EXSC 2390, Applied Sport Science and supervised interns within the Exercise Science undergraduate program.


Veronica Mellado De La Cruz


Southern Methodist University, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Research interest(s): Reading, assessment at the intersection of bilingualism and high-incidence disabilities (i.e., LD, EBD), research to extend evidence-based practices in data-based instruction to dual language learners, contributions of behavioral and psychosocial factors in learning.

Current research fellowship: Veronica is a National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention scholar (OSEP Grant #H325H140001; Veronica’s research fellowship under advisor Stephanie Al Otaiba has allowed her to engage in data collection and analysis, project meetings, presentations, writing, and other scholarly activities in support of Projects FOCUS, ELM, and Passport to Literacy (

Professional experience: Veronica returned to SMU after a seven-year career in early childhood intervention (Part C, IDEA). Her experience fostered two orientations: a strengths-based perspective in working with historically underserved populations; school-based services as a key entry-point for early intervention. Graduate coursework and research support as an interventionist to struggling readers helped Veronica broaden her knowledge and experience to the K-12 setting.

Ashley Moorshead 

Ashley Moorshead

Cal State, Dominguez; M.A. Special Education

Research interest(s): I am interested in working with the special population of struggling readers, with an emphasis on the impact of school-based reading interventions that target adolescent learners in the area of discipline literacy.

Current research fellowship: I am working on Project Intensity with Jill Allor and Stephanie Al Otaiba, developing reading curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities. My role with this grant is project coordinator.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I acted as the Chair of Developmental Studies at the Community College of Aurora.

Robyn Pinilla

Southern Methodist University, Master of Education in Educational Leadership

The University of Texas at Arlington, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Research interest(s): Problem solving capacity development in early childhood and elementary age children, and the impacts of mathematics instruction and intervention models on advancing adaptive reasoning capabilities. 

Current research fellowship: I am working with Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller and Dr. Lindsey Perry on the Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills (MMaRS) project. Our purpose it to develop a universal screening tool that examines Kindergarten - 2nd grade students' Numeric Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning skills and assess its validity. The tool will help teachers determine what students may be at-risk so that they may employ early interventions and prevent later difficulty.

Professional experience: I served the Dallas Independent School District as a Special Education Teacher, Assistant Principal, and Interim Principal between 2010 and 2019. I also worked in private industry as an Inside Sales Associate and Regional Sales Manager in Education Technology solutions, including assessment services and paperless document management systems.

Paul Polanco


University of Dallas - Master in Business Administration

Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Santiago, Dominican Republic) - Bachelor in Business Administration

Research interest(s): I am interested in exploring the benefits of different bilingual programs and general educational policies affecting bilingual students under the lens of economic outcomes.

Current research fellowship: I am working directly with Dr. Doris Baker and Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba on an English Language Vocabulary Acquisition (ELVA) Project. The purpose of this Goal 2 project funded by IES is to create a software that develops science and social studies vocabulary on 2nd-grade English Learners.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program I worked for 9 years as a Dallas Independent School District bilingual teacher mostly as a 5th-grade science bilingual teacher. There, I also served in various committees overseeing the annual progress of our school and developing training for bilingual teachers. Before working for Dallas ISD, I worked in banking and business development strategies.

Research: English Learner Vocabulary Acquisition (ELVA): Promoting the Vocabulary and Language Proficiency of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Second Grade, English Learner Vocabulary Acquisition 

Lauren Stevenson

University of California Los Angeles, Graduate

Research interest(s): My primary research interest is on methods of professional development as they pertain to impacting the retention of effective high quality teachers in urban and suburban public school systems. This research interest stems from my background in secondary education mathematics, where I witnessed the detriment of work conditions to experiencing the full benefits of positively impactful professional development and tools to increase secondary mathematics achievement.

Current research fellowship: Currently, I am working with Dr. Patricia Mathes on the OSEP grant evaluating the most effective methods of coaching teachers and their correlation with student academic growth. My role as a research assistant is three-fold: developing and presenting writing strategies materials for practitioner use, analyzing previous literature to enhance program materials, and assessing students with special literacy needs.

Professional experience: I taught high school Algebra 1 - AP Calculus (some project-based learning) for 7 years while also doing curriculum writing and development for the district and outside sources.

Claire Trotter

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs- Master of Science in Biology

Southern Methodist University- BA Psychology and BS Applied Physiology and Health Management

Research interest(s): Alterations to muscle sympathetic nerve activity in individuals with multiple sclerosis during exercise and heat stress and at rest; Large artery stiffening in individuals with multiple sclerosis.

Current research fellowship: I work under advisement of Scott L. Davis, PhD in the Integrative Physiology Laboratory. I am funded by a Fairess Simmons Graduate Fellowship, a University PhD Fellowship and a graduate teaching assistantship in the Department of Applied Physiology.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I completed a Master’s of Science in Biology at University of Colorado- Colorado Springs where I worked as a graduate teaching and research assistant. My thesis research investigated the effects of skin temperature on the ability to tolerate blood loss in individuals who had previously been exercising in hot environments.

Danielle Tyree

Danielle Tyree

The University of Georgia, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): I’m interested in international university partnerships, with a focus on factors that sustain successful study abroad collaborations. My background teaching and studying in China catalyzed an interest in how sociolinguistics can play a role in fostering these types of institutional relationships.

Current research fellowship: I’m working on the 0-5 Evaluation Grant that examines the efficacy of nonprofit preschools aimed at a low-income Hispanic population with the principal investigators Dr. Ken Springer, Dr. Paige Ware, and Dr. Deborah Diffily. My work includes administering the DESSA survey amongst kindergarten teachers assessing the socio-emotional preparedness of these children upon entering kindergarten and contributing to a literature review of school readiness.

Professional experience: I was teaching English at the tertiary level in southeastern China, providing educational consulting, assisting in educational research concerning creativity, and studying Mandarin in my spare time.


Sumei Wu

Southern Methodist University, M.Ed. with Specialization in ESL Education

Hainan Normal University (in China), Bachelor of Arts in English & Japanese

Research interest(s): I am interested in working with English Language Learners and exploring evidence-based instructions to facilitate their second language acquisition and literacy development. I also have great passion for computer-assisted language learning, multimedia literacy, and teacher professional development via technology.

Current research fellowship: I am working as a research assistant for Dr. Paige Ware and Dr. Karla del Rosal. I am currently cooperating with Dr. Karla del Rosal and Dr. Annie Wilhelm on teacher social network and trust research. I am also participating in a telecollaborative project with Dr. Nancy Montgomery to involve our pre-service secondary teachers in an online partnership with teachers in Taiwan. The project aims to help develop our teachers’ multicultural communication competence and enhance their abilities to design appropriate instructions to address the needs of culturally diverse learners.

Professional experience:Prior to entering this program, I worked as an ESL instructor for two years in China and in Dallas for a year. I taught elementary ESL learners and secondary ESL learners. I also volunteered to teach adult ESL learners with Literacy Instruction for Texas. During my masters program at SMU, I served as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Paige Ware on creating the Project CONNECT website as an ongoing network for teachers and students with instructional resources.