Principal Investigators

Delinda van Garderen

Dr. Delinda van Garderen

Delinda van Garderen, PhD, is a Professor of special education. She is currently the Chair in the Department of Special Education at the University of Missouri. Her research interests focus on students with learning disabilities, struggling learners, visual representations in mathematics word problem solving, STEM literacy, argumentation, and teacher practice and development. Recent or current research projects include teacher professional development to integrate STEM literacy in instruction, how students and teachers use representations to solve mathematics word problems, student development and intervention in number (e.g., conservation of quantity, numerical magnitude), and use of Universal Design for Learning to plan instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in science. She has mentored doctoral graduate students in educational research training and has prepared many graduate and undergraduate students to be teachers in both general and special education. She has written approximately 50 peer-reviewed articles, one co-authored book, and ten book chapters and has received over 6.5 million dollars on federally funded grants.

Dr. William Folk

William Folk, PhD., Prof. of Biochemistry, University of Missouri, co-PI, served on the faculties of the University of Michigan Medical School and the University of Texas-Austin before joining the University of Missouri as chair of the Department of Biochemistry. There he was responsible for 25 regular faculty, over 150 staff, and the education of over 300 undergraduate majors, 45 graduate students and 90 medical students. By the end of his tenure, the Department’s external grant support increased five-fold to become MU’s strongest biomedical science department. Dr. Folk initiated efforts that strengthened collaborative research and outreach education with College of Education faculty. When serving as Senior Associate Dean for Research in the School of Medicine, he was responsible for facilitating research and training of medical and graduate students, fellows and junior faculty, and directed the Office of Medical Research. Dr. Folk also served as associate director of MU Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, directed an NIH-funded Center for International Phytotherapy Research (TICIPS) and an NIH-funded Center for Botanical Interaction Studies (MU-CBIS). He has extensive experience with cross-cultural science research and education/learning as a result of collaborations in over a dozen countries, including the implementation of communities of learning and practice. Dr. Folk has mentored 25 PhD students, 20 postdoctoral fellows, and numerous undergraduates and medical students in research training. He leads research programs focusing upon viruses, medicinal plants and botanical supplements and science education. Dr. Folk led an NIH postdoctoral training program at the University of Michigan, a DOD-funded breast cancer research training program for undergraduates at MU, an HHMI science education program (Maps in Medicine), and the ShowMe InABox science enrichment program for middle schools.

Dr. William Folk
Amy Lannin

Dr. Amy Lannin

Amy Lannin, PhD., Associate Professor, English Education; Director of Campus Writing Program, University of Missouri, co-I, also directs the Missouri Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project.  Other funded grant projects include the STEM Literacy Project (National Science Foundation grant: “Anchoring Students in Real-life Issues that Integrate STEM Content and Literacy”) and Show Me Literacies Collaborative (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grant: “Comprehensive Literacy Development”).  Lannin has published in Science Scope, WPA Journal, Writing & Pedagogy, The English Journal, and has a chapter in the edited collection Writing Program Architecture: Thirty Cases for Reference and Research. Her research focus includes writing instruction and assessment across the curriculum.

Dr. John Lannin

John K. Lannin, PhD, is a Professor of mathematics education. His research interests focus on developing students’ understanding of generalization and justification in grades K-12. Recent research projects student development and intervention in number (e.g., change and invariance, numerical magnitude) and the use of middle & high school algebraic reasoning. He has mentored doctoral graduate students has developed learning activities for many graduate and undergraduate students to be teachers in mathematics education. Prior to earning his PhD, he taught middle and high school mathematics for 10 years. 

Dr. Jessica Rodrigues

Jessica Rodrigues, PhD, is an assistant professor in Special Education at MU and the director of the Mathematics Potential Lab, a research team with undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty that seeks to support each child’s mathematics understanding. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She has over six years of experience conducting research in local schools and teaching evidence-based mathematics interventions to diverse learners at risk for mathematics difficulties. Her research interests include mathematics screening for the identification of struggling learners, developing and testing mathematics interventions, and investigating novel research communication strategies to mitigate the research-practice gap. 


Dr. Renee Stites Kruep

Renee Stites Kruep, PhD, is an assistant teaching professor in Literacy Education at the University of Missouri. She draws on over a decade of teaching middle and high school English as well as leading curriculum redesign and professional development. Her academic interests, publications, and national conference presentations include topics such as sustaining teachers through quality professional learning, integrated literacy instruction, and inclusive young adult literature to inspire adolescent readers.  

Program Manager

Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill


phone 573-882-8758

As program manager, Sarah Hill is a member of the management team and responsible for oversight of day-to-day activities, coordination and implementation of the project timeline, communication with participants and their districts, facilitating collaboration among campus departments and other tasks that often materialize.  In addition, she acts as manager for another program, also in the MU College of Education. Ms Hill, formerly the project director for A TIME for Physics First, an extensive professional development program for 9th grade science teachers in Missouri and hosted by MU Physics, began her 20-year experience in teacher professional development with a six-year stint as coordinator of the Show-Me Science Center, hosted by Columbia Public Schools and affiliated with the Science Teachers of Missouri. She can be reached at or (573) 882-8758.

Evaluation Team

Dr. Soo-Yeon Cho

Soo-Yeon Cho, PhD., is a Senior Researcher at the Assessment Resource Center, University of Missouri. She has been an evaluator on programs and projects funded at the federal, state, and county levels. She has led and conducted all stages of the evaluation: designing, collecting data, analyzing data, and submitting reports to government and foundation agencies, with a recent focus on STEM educational programs. She conducted performance evaluation of teacher training programs for the national accreditation of the MU College of Education. She also served as an evaluator for a SAMHSA-PBHCI Integrated Care Project on quality improvements to monitor intervention effectiveness.

Dr. William Romine

William Romine, PhD., Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, Wright State University; internal evaluation, assessment development.  William Romine is an Associate Professor in Wright State University’s Biological Sciences department, with joint appointments in Teacher Education and Computer Science.  He directs the Data Science for Education laboratory at Wright State where he and his students focus on educational measurement using tests and surveys, social media, and sensors.  Dr. Romine and his students use these measures to construct dynamic models for both learning and affective change related to science.

William Romine

Postdoctoral Researcher

Profile of Cassandra Smith

Dr. Cassandra Smith

Cassandra Smith, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Special Education at the University of Missouri. She completed her PhD in Special Education and certificate in Quantitative Methods at the University of Missouri. Cassandra’s research focuses on identifying, developing, and disseminating evidence-based algebra instruction and intervention practices for secondary students with disabilities. This includes supporting pre-service and in-service teachers implement evidence-based mathematics practices. She is also interested in using quantitative methodology to evaluate mathematics instructional programs for students with disabilities. Formerly, Cassandra was a middle and high school mathematics special education teacher in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

Graduate Research Assistants

Profile of Heba Abdelnaby

Heba Abdelnaby

Heba Abdelnaby is a doctoral student in Special Education – Learning Disabilities at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) where she previously earned a Master’s in Special Education. Before coming to MU, Heba taught English and developed academic content for Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the Middle East for nine years. Throughout her career, she worked with diverse learners, including students with learning disabilities and visual impairments at the elementary and middle school levels.Heba’s research interests are curriculum, instruction, and research in the areas of learning disabilities and language and literacy interventions. 

Tara Atchison-Green

Tara Atchison-Green is a first-year doctoral student in Special Education at the University of Missouri – Columbia (MU) and a member of the LSM&L4AL program. She completed her Early Childhood Special Education graduate program at MU under the Behavior, Early Literacy and Language (BELL) Grant (2012). She earned a BA in Elementary & Special Education from Lindenwood University (2005). She brings 16 years of classroom experience as a special education teacher domestically and abroad. Her research interests include early numeracy skills and evidence-based math interventions. 

Faith Shahale

Faith Shahale is a dedicated first- year master’s in special education – Learning Disabilities student at the University of Missouri- Columbia (MU). She brings over a decade of hands-on experience in the field of special needs and education. Faith has demonstrated success as a high school learning support teacher and has a wealth of experience working with diverse students in Kenya, ranging from kindergarten to the 12th grade. She is committed to advancing knowledge in special education through research and practical application and aims to contribute valuable insights to the academic community. Faith’s research interests include curriculum adaptations for inclusive classrooms and access to the general curriculum for learners with disabilities.

Past Contributors

Dr. Meera Chandrasekhar

Meera Chandrasekhar, PhD., Professor of Physics, University of Missouri, will advise on the development of science inquiry and professional development activities. Aligning with her strong interests in the education of young students, Dr. Chandrasekhar received the NSF Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring and the prestigious Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching and is a University Curators’ Teaching Professor.  She has led numerous grant-funded programs in science education, most recently A TIME for Physics First.

Dr. Rachel Juergensen

Rachel Juergensen, PhD, is an assistant professor at Delaware State University and completed her doctorate in special education at the University of Missouri.  She has 15 years of experience in education as an elementary teacher, administrator, and statewide coach for Missouri Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support. Her research interests include equitable instructional opportunities in elementary science for students with learning disabilities and students with learning difficulties.

Profile of Rachel Juergensen
Bridget Murphy

Bridget Murphy

Bridget Murphy, Senior Research Coordinator, Assessment Resource Center (ARC), University of Missouri.  Bridget holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from Kansas State University and has ten years of experience conducting program evaluation at the ARC.  She has worked with multiple programs and organizations to develop evaluation plans and data collection protocols with the end goal of promoting continuous improvement in a variety of organizational settings.

Dr. Torrey Palmer

Torrey Palmer, PhD., Consultant in Literacy, Teaching and Curriculum is committed to strengthening public education locally and nationally and has worked as a classroom teacher, coach and curriculum coordinator. She works for TNTP, a non-profit focused on ending the injustice of educational inequalities, where she leads innovative work to support teachers and leaders in leveraging college and career ready standards to yield improvements in teaching and learning. Prior to joining TNTP, Torrey served as the K-6 Literacy Coordinator in Reno, Nevada, where she co-founded the Core Task Project, a nationally recognized model for Common Core State Standards implementation.  She is a Student Achievement Partners Fellow and a contributor to the Basal Alignment Project. Torrey holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her doctorate in Educational Specialties, with an emphasis in literacy and action research, at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Torrey Palmer

Tracey Kenyon Milarsky

Tracey Kenyon Milarsky is a doctoral candidate in Special Education. Before coming to Mizzou, Tracey taught preschool to primary grade students including students who qualify for special education services. Her research interests include early childhood disability identity formation and qualitative methodology.

Dr. Qingli Lei

Qingli Lei, PhD., is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received her doctoral degree in Special Education from Purdue University and coordinated a multi-year evidence-based problem-solving project funded by the National Science Foundation. Her research is directed toward developing instructional scaffoldings as components of interventions to improve the mathematics and literacy performance of struggling English learners. She is also interested in analyzing teacher-student discourse moves to empower students’ mathematics reasoning and problem solving.

Dr. Gouranga Saha

Gouranga Saha, PhD., professor of education at Lincoln University, has led a multi-year professional development program, “Enduring Understanding of Science via Inquiry & Literacy” (EUSIL) serving five high-need school districts in St. Louis to increase the academic achievement of students in science through inquiry and literacy.