UNLV College of Education Awarded $1 Million to Establish Highly-Selective Program to Recruit Promising Future Educators

Governor Sandoval’s “Top Gun” Initiative—the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation (NITEP)—seeks to prepare the “best and brightest” teachers to serve in Nevada schools; names its first cohort of Fellows

Spurring a program designed specifically to train high-potential candidates to become future teachers, the Nevada Department of Education awarded the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas a $1 million grant to initiate the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation (NITEP/Institute) at its board meeting on August 30.

NITEP, originally created during the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session via Senate Bill 548, will 1) Establish a highly selective program within the UNLV College of Education for the education and training of teachers; 2) Conduct innovative and extensive research to identify promising methods used to train educators and teach pupils; and 3) Continually evaluate, develop and disseminate the best identified approaches to teaching that address the varied settings in which students in Nevada are educated.

Noting a charge of the Institute is to add personnel to the teacher pipeline to fill necessary vacancies, Nevada State Senator (District 5) Joyce Woodhouse said, “we wanted to use this opportunity to develop an elite, rigorous program that recruits the best and brightest to Nevada. We intend for the students who participate in this program to be the example of the highly qualified teachers we want in our classrooms in front of our students.”

The State Board of Education selected the UNLV College of Education as the home institution for NITEP at its November 2017 meeting, allowing the College to spend the last nine months building the infrastructure, systems and programming for the Institute. As of September 26, the College has awarded the first cohort of 10 NITEP Fellows to begin their work at the start of the fall 2018 semester. Five fellows—Sara Del Mastro (Early Childhood Education), Jessica Gonzalez (Special Education), Ilyssa McBride (Elementary), Olaya Perez (Secondary Math) and Makenzi Solis (Special Education)—were selected as incoming freshmen, and an additional five—Zuleima Aguilar-Ramirez (Elementary), Jesus Basulto (Secondary  Social Studies), April Beardsley (Elementary), Caroline Farah (Secondary English) and Brooke Lantz (Elementary)—were identified as high-achieving full-majors already enrolled in teacher education programs within the COE.

Students identified as NITEP Fellows will receive differentiated instruction and have opportunities to participate in research that seeks to transform teacher preparation, providing increasing autonomy and professional responsibility for educator candidates during their college careers. Fellows will work on special projects and assume unique leadership roles in education; in future years, with the addition of supplementary, larger NITEP cohorts, there will be a steady stream of exceptional educators entering Nevada classrooms with the capacity to lead and expand their expertise. Participating students will also form a specialized improvement network, serving as mentors to future NITEP Fellows and connecting across schools to engage with the most challenging issues in education.

A key component of NITEP is ensuring that research findings are disseminated to both state agencies and national education stakeholders, allowing the most promising approaches to educator preparation to be broadly understood and implemented, resulting in highly effective classroom leaders. The College of Education will build upon its numerous existing partnerships, both inside and outside of Nevada, to explore new methods of engaging with educators and other colleagues in teacher preparation, ensuring the work of NITEP will have ongoing and far reaching impact in schools.

“The College of Education is committed to systematically studying and refining the best practices in educator preparation to ensure that we are preparing high-quality teachers to effectively educate the next generation of Nevadans,” said College of Education Dean Kim Metcalf. “We intend for NITEP to be a model program to challenge the status quo and build leaders poised to make an impact for generations to come. We are grateful for the support of the Nevada Department of Education and the vision of our state’s leadership to create this forward-thinking institution that will not only broaden opportunities for participating fellows, but help develop transferable and scalable processes to benefit all educators.”

Register Now! 2018 Summit on Nevada Education

The UNLV College of Education is proud to expand existing best practice into “next generation practices” that address and overcome the challenges we face in education throughout Nevada and beyond.

Join educators, administrators, policy makers, community leaders, teacher preparation leaders, pre-service teachers and others with a direct link to education to gather in an open forum to share ideas, challenges and lessons to improve and celebrate what lies ahead in Nevada.

Early bird pricing ends November 5!
December 3, 2018
UNLV Student Union Ballroom

Contact Sheila Bray with questions.


Featuring Keynote Speaker: Andrew J. Rotherham
Photo Credit: Liz Lynch

Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for underserved students. Rotherham leads Bellwether’s policy analysis and thought leadership work. He is also a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report and a senior editor at The 74, an education news and analysis publication. In addition Rotherham writes the blog Eduwonk.com, teaches courses on education at The University of Virginia, and is co-publisher of “Education Insider,” a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors, where he is a senior adviser. Rotherham previously served at the White House as special assistant to the president for domestic policy during the Clinton administration, as a member of the Virginia Board of Education, and as an education columnist for TIME and Executive Editor of RealClear Education. In addition to Bellwether, Rotherham has founded or co-founded two other education organizations and served on the boards of several other successful education startups.  Rotherham is the author or co-author of more than 400 published articles, book chapters, papers, and op-eds about education policy and politics and is the author or editor of four books on educational policy. He serves on the boards of directors several organizations including the Curry School of Education Foundation at the University of Virginia and Classroom Champions, a Canada-based nonprofit that pairs Olympic and Paralympic athletes with high-poverty classrooms and schools for student mentoring.


Watch highlights from the 2017 Summit here.

Introducing Our 2018-19 Rodman Scholars

The Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual and Special Education (EMS) in the College of Education is proud to introduce its fourth cohort of Rodman Scholars—Lyannet Alvarez, Carrie Fierro, George Carmona, Dyanna Dougherty, Jamie Felipe, Elizabeth Gloeckner, Jeffrey Long, Kristen Morris, Tiosha Moore, Nora Pantaleon, Michele Rideout and Jessica Wood.

Thanks to a generous endowment ($12.9 million) from the late Kitty Rodman, these exceptional future educators will each be enabled to pursuing a career in special education. Read more about what inspired each of these students to answer the call to their chosen profession below.

“I want to be a special educator because I have patience, acceptance and enthusiasm. I am excited to join a group of teachers who go above and beyond for their students.”

—Lyannet Alvarez

“I have always been drawn to people with special needs—even when I was six years old. My first grade teacher told my mother how kind I was to the children with disabilities in my class. I want to be a special educator because I see this as my calling in life—I believe all children have the right to succeed.”

—Carrie Fierro

“My family has played a crucial role in my choice to become a special educator. Both my father and my uncle went through the UNLV Cohort program and are now phenomenal special educators. Growing up, I spend time in my father’s classroom interacting with students with learning disabilities. I got a sense of what these children experience in school and in their lives. My commitment to educate the next generation of individuals with disabilities continues to grow day by day.”

—George Carmona

“I have known I wanted to be a teacher since I taught my younger sister how to read before she started kindergarten. The look on her face when she finally realized that letters were connected with sounds was priceless. It is a truly amazing feeling when you encourage a struggling student to not give up and they experience that ‘I get it moment.’ I want to help every student exceed their goals.”

—Dyanna Dougherty

“I know that special education is the right path for me. I want to focus on the appropriate accommodations, assistive technology, curricula and instruction for students with disabilities. I believe that my experience as a student athlete at UNLV has taught me persistence and team work that will be invaluable as I work with students with disabilities to achieve their goals.”

—Jamie Felipe

“Since my first semester at the College of Southern Nevada, I have volunteered in special education classrooms and an equine therapy center. These experiences turned my interest in special education into a passion. I know that assisting students to achieve their individualized goals their progress in education will be worth it.”

—Elizabeth Gloeckner

“Being a Rodman Scholar provides me with the opportunity to work in special education, accomplish my goals, and have a career in a field about which I am very passionate. I want to be the positive and memorable teacher that my students will never forget—being a Rodman Scholar has set me on my way to being that educator.”

—Jeffery Long

“I believe that being a special educator is one of the most rewarding careers. It has been an aspiration of mine for many years now. Children with disabilities deserve to have as many people as possible cheering for them, and although I cannot help all children, as a special educator I will impact the ones with whom I work. Every student has the capacity to create and accomplish dreams.”

—Kristen Morris

“Teaching has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember.  At an early age, I knew that I wanted to work with children. As an adult, I came to further realize that children with special needs are not being pushed to their full potential because people see the disability first and not the person. I want to give voice and encouragement to children with disabilities.”

—Tiosha Moore

“I have had the passion to work with students with special needs since I was young. For the last 10 years, I have work in CCSD with students with multiple types of disabilities (e.g., ID, autism). I have worked hard to gain knowledge and experience that I believe I can bring to the lives and education of these children. I am excited to further my education and aspirations through the Rodman Scholar Cohort.”

—Nora Pantaleon

“I have always had a passion to teach special education. From my own life, I have a personal understanding of IEPs, successes, and frustrations of students with disabilities. I have the ability and desire to help children and youth with their specific needs. I always approach learning from the students’ perspective. I look forward to my future career in special education.”

—Michele Ridout

“The reality of working as a special educator came to me in my SPED observation class—it dawned on me, that this is what I was meant to be doing with my life. I felt comfortable, was told that I was a ‘natural teacher,’ and discovered where I belonged while working with two children in a classroom. I am excited to embark on my career as a special educator—this is where I belong.”

—Jessica Wood