Recent Graduate Spotlight: Matthew Nishimoto, Ph.D.

Matthew Nishimoto, Ph.D., a recent alumna in Teaching and Learning having earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership in 2012 and his doctorate in Teacher Education in 2016, believes that preservice teacher field experiences impact initial teacher expectations of their early career and of the roles of the principal.

In his dissertation entitled, Secondary Preservice Teacher Expectations of the Principal’s Role in New Teacher Induction, he examined the expectations that preservice teachers hold regarding school principals through investigating from where, how, and why these expectations develop.

“Due to the fact that current induction research only focused on the perspectives of principals, teachers, veteran teachers, and new teachers, my target of inquiry was to compare the knowledge, skills, and expectations of secondary preservice teachers to existing literature,” said Nishimoto. The findings showed expectations were slightly different then what has reported for new teachers.

Dr. Nishimoto is currently a guitar instructor in the Clark County School District (CCSD). Nishimoto Publishing, owned by Dr. Nishimoto, provides the bulk of instruction materials for his class and use of his materials are used at other schools in CCSD. He hopes to advance his career in academia in the future.

For additional information about the Department of Teaching & Learning, visit

New Faculty Spotlight: Jenna Weglarz-Ward, Ph.D.

Jenna Weglarz-Ward, Ph.D. joined the College of Education faculty in the fall semester of 2016 as an Assistant Professor teaching in Early Childhood Education/Early Childhood Special Education. She specializes in the inclusion of children with children with disabilities in community settings, family engagement, and professional collaboration. Dr. Weglarz-Ward received both her Master’s Degree in Special Education in 2003 and her doctorate in Special Education in 2016 from the University of Illinois.

“Life as a new faculty member at UNLV has been a really nice blend of support in her teaching and research from members of the university community,” she said.

As for the students, Weglarz-Ward noted the “different, daring and diverse” culture here at UNLV saying, “the students here are amazing and so diverse. They come from rich backgrounds, which is something I was not used to in Illinois. Here students are 21 to 60 and are teaching and working in education in different ways. There are so many people coming back after changing careers or wanting to do something different or wanting to improve what they are already doing. All the students are motivated, because they are all here for a different reason.”

In addition to her research and teaching roles within the Educational and Clinical Studies department at the College, Dr. Weglarz-Ward was named a Dean’s Policy Fellow ahead of the upcoming Nevada legislative session. She, along with several colleagues, has drafted two policy papers regarding early childhood education topics in which lawmakers may consider enacting new policies in our state. These papers, and eight others from faculty and students across the College, will be available later this month.

For additional information about Dr. Weglarz-Ward and her research, visit her bio page on the COE website.

Working with Incarcerated Youth

Mathew Love, a third year doctoral student in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies, landed a position as summer research intern with the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), in partnership with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. CAST is one of the largest special education non-profit organizations and research centers in the field of special education technology. Love was a part of Project RAISE: Reclaiming Access to Inquiry-Based Science Education for Incarcerated Students. The internship was a 6-week program, working with youth in the juvenile justice system and developing the materials to work with them. The goal of the project is for students to develop the necessary science knowledge and skills that are pivotal in the 21st century for science-related employment purposes.

Love has a long history with the Special Education program at UNLV. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in students with disabilities and emotional behavioral disorders. As a doctoral student, he currently serves as the graduate research assistant for the FOCUS project, and is also a Project CULTURED scholar.

Love sees the CAST internship opportunity as beneficial to himself as well as the program: “This is a really big deal for the department and the program because CAST is one of the biggest disseminators of products in special education. A lot of their theories and ideas have been written into law.” As he returns for the fall semester, Love hopes to take the knowledge he gains from this internship experience and conduct a few pilot studies on creating educational materials accessible to a wide range of students.

What Works in Autism Treatment

Dr. Kathleen S. O’Hara (’15), a graduate from UNLV’s College of Education is leading the way in research-based interventions in autism. Locally, Kathleen works to provide support and service to families as a Case Manager within the Early Childhood Department in the Clark County School District (CCSD). Within these capacities, Kathleen strives to commit to excellence in service in education.

O’Hara’s dissertation, “A comparison of PIPRT to VMO to increase social play skills in children with autism” was recently selected for review by the What Works Clearinghouse of The Institute of Education Sciences due to its exemplary research demonstration of an effective intervention for students with autism.

Dr. O’Hara cites that this latest development indicates that her work has meaning and motivates her to continue work in this area.

O’Hara completed a master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in autism in 2006, as well as a doctorate in Early Childhood Special Education in 2015.

For additional informational about What Works Clearinghouse of The Institute of Education Sciences, visit