Team Members

Dr. Tracy Spies (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Spies is an assistant professor and program coordinator for the English Language Language Program in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Dr. Spies received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Hispanic bilingual education from Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on the development of oral academic language in content area settings. Specifically, she examines the academic oral language used by teachers of English Learners (ELs) during content area instruction. Dr. Spies has extensive experiences designing Professional Development (PD) activities programs, which are integral to her PD research related to academic language in the content areas. She has conducted over 50 PD trainings related to EL language development. Prior to appointment in higher education, Dr. Spies was a bilingual teacher, literacy coach, and an instruction leader on a K-5 job-embedded PD school. She has also served as a trainer for the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and received the Milken Educator Award in 2010.

Dr. Spies has served as the principal investigator for two funded projects: Project LEAP: Learning English for Academic Purposes and a federally funded training grant, Project BELL: Blended English Language Learning. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as Intervention in School and Clinic, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, and Science Activities. She also has a book chapter published in Creating Dual Language Schools for a Transformed World by Collier & Thomas (2014).

Dr. Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola (Co-Principal Investigator)

Dr. Pollard-Durodola is a Professor in the English Language Learning program in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies, in the School of Education at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Her scholarship attends to the prevention/intervention of language and literacy difficulties (Spanish/English) among students at risk of academic difficulties. Central to her scholarship is developing intervention curricula that build on validated instructional design principles, evaluating their impact on the language and reading development of struggling readers, and investigating how to improve the quality of language/literacy practices of teachers and parents of preschool ELLs. She is interested in bridging research and practice by examining the feasibility/usability of research-based practices. She has been the co-principal investigator on an IES development grant titled Words of Oral Reading and Language Development and in a follow-up efficacy grant of the same name. She is the primary architect for the WORLD pedagogical (shared book reading) approach and curriculum. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as Exceptional Children, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, The Elementary School Journal, Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, and Bilingual Research Journal.

Dr. Alain Bengochea 

Dr. Bengochea’s primary goal as a researcher is to explore the ways in which young, emergent bilingual learners’ (i.e., ELLs) language and literacy development are supported across home, community, and school contexts. His contributions to the College of Education will include sharing knowledge of equitable practices and structures that legitimize emergent bilinguals’ languaging and learning opportunities. In his research, he embraces an analytic toolkit that includes statistical, ethnographic, and discourse-analytic approaches in efforts to provide comprehensive accounts of sociocultural influences on bilinguals’ language and literacy development. He integrates diverse epistemologies, paradigms, and methodologies, with the aims of empowering minority learners despite the ideological barriers and contradictions around bilingualism that may exist at the community and school levels. He intends on using my knowledge to influence pre-K through 12th grade teacher education and practice in order to create culturally and linguistically responsive learning contexts for emergent bilingual learners.

Dr. Emorcia Hill (Project Evaluator)

Dr. Hill received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Boston College. She has substantial design, implementation, evaluation and research experience and expertise in the areas of human capital and workforce development, institutional and system change as well as diversity, inclusion and access. Dr. Hill’s evaluation and research work is framed within a multi-level, capacity-building, systems approach. She is involved in research and evaluation activities that span span the educational continuum and employ quantitative and qualitative methodologies. She has been involved in educational evaluations, state-level initiatives, whole school reform, teacher competencies, credentials, and student achievement.

Gloria Carcoba Falomir (Project Coordinator)

Gloria is currently a Graduate Assistant for the English Language Learning program in the Educational and Clinical Studies department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her doctoral studies focus on students with math learning disabilities as well as students who are learning English.

Yunying Xu (Research Assistant)

Yunying Xu is a doctoral student from the Literacy Education program in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Her research focuses on issues related to international children’s literature.