Educational Leadership Grad Finds Game Plan for Success

Educational Leadership Grad Finds Game Plan for Success

by Gail Allyn Short


E.-J.-BrophyUAB educational leadership alumnus E. J. Brophy, Ed.D., says that during his freshman and sophomore years of college, he cared more about improving his skills on the baseball field than in the classroom.

The Montgomery native first came to UAB in 1988 as a freshman on a baseball scholarship. He chose physical education as his major, was a catcher for the team, and dreamed of becoming a head coach, he says.

“I didn’t get the importance of academics until it was almost too late,” Brophy says. “I picked P.E. because I wanted to get into coaching. When I got into my junior year, my grades were not very impressive, but that’s when I realized that I could actually get a degree. It finally dawned on me in my early 20s that I could graduate and get the degree that my grandfather, a World War II veteran who graduated from the sixth grade, kept telling me was so important.”

Today, Brophy has maintained his interest in both sports and academics as the athletic director for the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He says it is his doctorate in educational leadership from UAB that has helped prepare him for the demands of the job.

Following his epiphany in his junior year, Brophy says he became a more serious student. He took classes in health and skills development and studied methods for teaching children with disabilities. In addition, he says his professors taught him important life lessons.

“One thing that I will always remember about going to school at UAB was how professional and prepared and good all of the instructors were,” he says. “They led by example. They expected you to study. They expected you to dress appropriately and to be punctual.”

Brophy’s athletic career also flourished. He became an all-conference player. Then, during his senior year, the Philadelphia Phillies organization recruited him to play for its minor league team. Even with spring training and a heavy game schedule, Brophy says he managed to balance both school and professional baseball by taking one class at a time until he finished his undergraduate degree at UAB in 1995.

After four years in the minor leagues, Brophy says he once again aspired to become a college baseball coach. So in 1996, he worked as an assistant baseball coach at Samford University and at Wallace Community College. Two years later, in 1998, he landed an assistant coaching position at the University of Montevallo and completed the UAB Department of Human Studies’ master’s degree program in physical education.

“I felt that by getting the master’s degree, it would give me the best chance of becoming a head coach,” he says.
Then in 2003, the UAB Athletic Department hired him as the assistant director of athletic development. Eventually, the department promoted him to assistant athletic director for external affairs with responsibilities that included fund raising, managing the Blazer Club Scholarship Fund and donor affairs.

By then, with years of experience in coaching and sports administration behind him, Brophy set a new goal to become an athletic director. He knew, however, that he needed more education, he says. So, in 2004, he enrolled in the School of Education’s Educational Leadership doctoral program.

“It really fine tunes and hones your skills,” he says. “Things like planning, organizing, staffing and budgeting are extremely important when you’re in a position of leadership. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants. It just doesn’t work. For every moment you plan, it saves you 10 minutes when you’re getting ready to perform.

“Those are the things our instructors were so good at conveying to us,” he says, “the importance of preparation, our reporting structure, knowing the law, knowing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), knowing what you can and cannot do. All of those are tremendously important things.”

While studying in UAB’s Educational Leadership Program, Brophy’s career took off. In 2006, the University of West Alabama tapped him as its athletic director. Three years later, in 2009, he completed his doctorate at UAB. Then in 2011, he accepted the job as athletic director at UAH.

Today, Brophy is married to the former Cindy Wooten, who is a UAB early childhood education alumna. The couple has two children, Brooks, 15, and Bailey, 12.

As UAH’s athletic director, he is involved in everything from hiring coaches, fund raising and marketing to overseeing the construction of sports facilities, and says he is putting what he learned in his educational leadership courses into practice. But the part of the job he enjoys most, he says, is seeing young athletes winning not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.

“Without question, the most fun for me as athletic director is getting to see young people come to a school and trade their athletic prowess for a scholarship that puts them in a position where they can get their schooling paid for, graduate and see it change their lives forever,” he says, “where it puts them in a situation where they can get a good job, feed their families, enjoy life and become quality citizens.”

Creating a Learning Community

Creating a Learning Community

New Collaborative Partners SOE with Birmingham City Schools

cityschoolspartnershipUAB has long been committed to solving the unique educational challenges that exist in urban school systems. To that end, the UAB School of Education has joined with Birmingham City Schools to announce its Innovative Learning Collaborative—a partnership between faculty and students and Birmingham teachers, principals and the school system’s upper administration to form a learning community that improves education and benefits for students and all involved entities.

The participating schools are Glen Iris Elementary and EPIC Elementary. Both are located adjacent to UAB’s campus and, because of existing partnerships and proximity, are ideal for the initial collaboration, says Lynn Kirkland, Ed.D., chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“I am hoping that we are able to create an atmosphere where excellence is the norm for students, teachers and the university,” says Michael Wilson, Ph.D., principal of Glen Iris.

“The collaboration between these entities is not new,” says Vicki Stokes, Ed.D., principal of EPIC. “We have worked together for many years. The difference is that there will be a more defined purpose and planning, such that the relationship and its benefits will last for years to come.”

The components include hands-on, in-classroom training for School of Education students, tools and resources for Birmingham schoolteachers and principals, collaborations among the groups to provide community education that include literacy efforts and partnerships to apply for funding for various initiatives such as innovative after-school programing. The partnership will also generate collaborative research that will provide instructional strategies that can be used in urban education.

Wilson and members of his staff, as well as Stokes and her administration, have been meeting regularly with UAB faculty to create a partnership they hope will make an impact.

“The collaboration between these entities is not new,” says Vicki Stokes, Ed.D., principal of EPIC. “We have worked together for many years. The difference is that there will be a more defined purpose and planning, such that the relationship and its benefits will last for years to come.”

“They are invested as much as we are,” says Deborah Voltz, Ed.D., dean of the School of Education. “We all have skin in the game.”

This past summer, the group acquired a memorandum of understanding signed by the Birmingham Board of Education. Craig Witherspoon, Ed.D., superintendent for Birmingham City Schools, says he hopes this initiative will become a district model.

“For the past few years, we’ve established and nurtured professional learning communities within our schools,” Witherspoon reports. “This partnership allows us to expand that concept and, not only broaden our base of knowledge and professional network, but also create additional opportunities for collaborative learning.”

Ultimately, the goal is to expand into the schools into which Glen Iris and EPIC feed, being there to assist students as they progress throughout their educational careers. “We are spending all the time we need to make this right,” Kirkland says. “Next is middle school, then high school. We want to help them feel as though we are with them every step of the way.”

Another expected outcome is highly trained teachers who have relationships with potential employers, as well as creating a UAB presence in the classrooms that could inspire students to consider attending UAB.

“When you think about recruitment, the students will have seen us all along,” Kirkland said. “Then they will want to come to UAB.”

Voltz is excited about that. “It does take a village to prepare a teacher and train a child,” she says. “We want to help to infuse new energy into the P-12 schools.”

Teacher of the Year

State of Education

UAB SOE Alumni Serve As Alabama’s Top Teachers

By Javacia Harris Bowser

Alabama Teacher of the Year is much more than a title on a plaque. It’s a reward that carries great responsibility for the winning educators, who become the voice of teachers across the state. Here, three UAB School of Education alumni who have received the prestigious honor describe their time as education advocates.

Changing the Conversation

alison grizzle TOY

Since May 2013, when Alison Grizzle, Ed.D., became Alabama Teacher of the Year, she has met with students, fellow teachers, colleges, chambers of commerce, and school officials statewide, speaking at events focusing on everything from leadership to curriculum standards. It’s a demanding schedule for the math teacher at Birmingham’s Jackson-Olin High School, who earned her master’s in education at UAB in 1999. But it’s worth it if she can help change the national conversation about education, Grizzle says.

“There’s been a move over the last few years to paint teachers as part of the problem,” she says. “That’s not helping us recruit the youngest and brightest to the field. If we want our schools to remain competitive globally, we need the best in the classroom. We need people fighting to be teachers.”

Grizzle also would like to see measures of teacher performance that don’t simply rely on test scores. That would help avoid what Grizzle calls “painful” messages. Labeling a school as “failing” because it doesn’t reach particular benchmarks can discourage students and faculty when the school actually is improving, she notes. She also worries about the impact of such messages on the educational aspirations of students in poverty.

“I hear how American schools are failing, but we focus on educating all children,” Grizzle says. “Some countries we praise for education don’t provide it for everyone, so we’re comparing apples to oranges.

“All students can learn, but we don’t always create avenues so that all students can be successful,” she adds. One of her objectives as Teacher of the Year is to speak for disadvantaged students who are often underrepresented in conversations about education, she says.

Great teachers have both “passion and compassion,” Grizzle says. The passion must encompass both the content they teach and the learning process, she notes. “The kids will see the light in your eye and become excited just because of your excitement,” she says. “And you have to be compassionate because today’s youth go through so much. It’s not about letting students use their circumstances as an excuse, but giving them the scaffolding and support to rise above them.”

Champions for Learning

0114 TOY perry lgTonya Perry, Ph.D., won the 2000 Alabama Teacher of the Year Award when she taught eighth-grade English at Hoover’s Berry Middle School. That led to meeting President George W. Bush and seeing the White House Rose Garden, but Perry believes the most significant part of her year was the time she spent visiting Alabama schools, including the day she read to elementary students in rural Russell County. “You would have thought I was Princess Diana,” Perry says with a laugh, recalling her warm welcome. “That reception is a constant reminder of the importance of teachers in the lives of their students.”

"The people who don't do the job as well tend to get the most attention. Teaching should be talked about in the affirmative more often.”
—Tonya Perry

Perry also enjoyed meeting with Miles College students and professors. “It was enlightening to talk with people in teacher education and to get their feedback about teacher preparation,” she says. Today, Perry is in teacher education herself, serving as assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in UAB’s School of Education. Perry earned her master's in 1995 and her doctorate in 2007 in a joint program from UAB and the University of Alabama.

Perry believes there is a misconception about the overall quality of teachers in the education system. “The people who don’t do the job as well tend to get the most attention,” Perry says. “Teaching should be talked about in the affirmative more often.”

Perry is hopeful about the field’s future because of what she learned as Teacher of the Year. “Teachers do have a voice,” Perry says. “When we’re in our classrooms, we don’t always see how many people are championing us and our children.” 

Great Teachers, Great Results

Ann Dominick, Ed.D., who earned her master’s at UAB in 1987, won the 1999 Alabama Teacher of the Year Award while teaching at South Shades Crest Elementary School. She says she enjoyed visiting classrooms across the state to help students and fellow teachers with math education and follow their progress. As a result, she became a math coach for Hoover City Schools. Now, as an assistant professor of elementary and early childhood education at UAB, Dominick still considers herself a math coach. “The age of the learner is different, but the learning is the same,” she says. “And the way I teach is the same. I’m still trying to find out where students are and take them forward.”

0114 TOY dominick lg

While traveling, Dominick also realized that the quality of education for students can vary drastically, even within a school. That’s something she would like to change about the education system, she says. “All kids should be able to have great teachers,” Dominick explains. “Great teachers know how to listen. They have a passion for people and for learning. They know how to find out where students are and help them advance to the next stage. They believe all students can learn.”

Dominick doesn’t believe in quick fixes for education problems, however. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will take care of everything, whether it’s charter schools or anything else,” she says. She also disagrees with attempts to apply business models to education. “When teachers know content well, when they know how children learn, and when they have a passion for helping children learn, you get results,” she says.


UAB leads statewide GEAR UP program to give low-income students a path to college

UAB leads statewide GEAR UP program to give low-income students a path to college

by Meghan Davis


GUeducation2The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education has been awarded a seven-year, $49 million grant to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program provides funding to states to enhance services for students, parents and teachers at high-poverty middle and high schools.

UAB will be the hub of GEAR UP Alabama, which will impact about 10,448 students from 18 school districts and 53 schools in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Education is the basis for future growth of Alabama’s economy,” said Gov. Robert Bentley. “This grant will help build a solid foundation for our children and will set them up to succeed, by being better prepared for post-secondary education and to join the workforce. The program that this grant funds will be welcome support in our state’s Black Belt region, with some of our most at-need students who attend high-poverty schools. Over the life of this program, we hope to see more of these students being successful in school and in life.”

This is the first time Alabama has been awarded funds from GEAR UP, which began in 1998. UAB’s annual federal award of $3.5 million will be matched by state and project partners, including the Alabama State Department of Education, Alabama State University, Auburn University, the Black Belt Community Foundation, Regions Bank, the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo. Partners outside Alabama include Allied Practice and Kaplan K12 Learning Services. Key letters of support came from Gov. Robert Bentley and Tommy Bice, Ph.D., state superintendent of education.

“Alabama’s educators work hard each day to prepare students for lifelong success,” Bice said. “The focus is to ensure that our students are both college- and career-ready, and fully engaged in the learning process. GEAR UP provides us with another outstanding resource to help achieve these goals. We are proud to be a part of this new statewide partnership to further student academic achievement.”

water bottle refilling2Click to enlarge

GEAR UP’s goals are to increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education, improve high school graduation and college enrollment rates, increase participating student and family knowledge of postsecondary educational options and financing, and increase program teacher preparation to serve GEAR UP students.

The program will begin this fall with a cohort of students in either sixth or seventh grade and follow them through their first year of college. Fifty percent of the grant will fund scholarships for all GEAR UP program students. The remainder will establish or improve programs that will systematically enhance the region’s educational infrastructure to encourage and support students, parents and teachers in students’ pursuit of postsecondary education.

The poverty rate for children in the Black Belt region is 143 percent higher than the Alabama average and 192 percent higher than the U.S. average. Eighty-four percent of students in the participating schools qualify to receive free or reduced-price lunch, and only 46 percent of those who graduate attend college directly after their senior year.

“GEAR UP Alabama provides an opportunity to make a significant impact on the students and families of over 10,000 sixth- and seventh-grade students in the Black Belt region of Alabama,” said Lawrence Tyson, Ph.D., associate professor of counselor education in the Department of Human Studies and principal investigator for the program.

“This impact can result in more students’ receiving the support they need to become better prepared for college and for achieving success once they are admitted into college. This is an effort that could not happen without the many community partners and school superintendents from throughout the Black Belt region who are committed to improving the future for at-risk students.”

Royrickers Cook, Ph.D., assistant vice president for outreach at Auburn University, Tamara Lee of Alabama State University, Joyce Stallworth, Ph.D., associate provost of the University of Alabama, and Felecia Jones, executive director of the Black Belt Community Foundation, will serve as the program’s co-investigators.

The program will help students be ready for college academically and financially by offering tutoring, academic advising and college entrance exam preparation, as well as workshops for parents. Summer programs and college visits will expose students to campus life and guide them as they transition between middle school, high school and college.

GEAR UP will give teachers professional development opportunities that will allow them to develop rigorous academic curricula and introduce students to college-level coursework. The improved curricula are expected to benefit the students in grade levels adjoining the GEAR UP cohort and have a lasting impact on the quality of instruction at participating schools.

Once cohort students enroll in college, GEAR UP-trained advisers will help them meet academic requirements.

“UAB is proud to lead this tremendous effort to increase college-readiness in Alabama,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “GEAR UP Alabama will have a lasting impact on the state by laying a pathway to postsecondary education for low-income students. The program will also continue to improve the quality of instruction in Alabama, a goal to which the School of Education is extremely dedicated. We look forward to cultivating our partnerships across the state and continuing our commitment to making world-class knowledge available to all.”

The grant is the largest ever awarded to the UAB School of Education. The school offers nationally accredited programs in counselor education, educator preparation, health education, kinesiology, teacher leadership and educational leadership.

“We are very excited about GEAR UP Alabama,” said School of Education Dean Deborah L. Voltz, Ph.D. “It will provide us the opportunity to work with our district and state partners in delivering innovative supports that will promote high school graduation and college success for over 10,000 students across the Black Belt region of the state. GEAR UP Alabama will make an important difference in many young lives.”

The community partnerships forged through GEAR UP Alabama will remain in place after the program ends.

UAB Launches Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center

Center for family literacy founded to continue work of longtime UAB researcher

by Meghan Davis


maryann manningA center for literacy will honor and continue the work of renowned literacy expert and longtime University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty member Maryann Manning, Ed.D.

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center during its meeting Friday, Nov. 7.

The Manning Family Center, housed in the UAB School of Education, will bring together expertise from many areas of literacy to provide services for children and families in the Birmingham community, Alabama, regionally and globally. It will serve as a coordination point for research and foster initiatives at UAB and through community partners.

“Building on the 40-year enduring legacy of Dr. Maryann Manning’s work in literacy, the Manning Family Center will provide a community hub of services to promote a heightened level of health and literacy for families,” said Lynn Kirkland, Ed.D., chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “The pivotal location and accessibility of resources at UAB position the Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center to better serve families, schools and nonprofit organizations and provide leadership in the region for literacy work.”

Manning began her career at age 19 as a high school English and music teacher. She joined the UAB faculty in 1972 and served 35 years, finishing her UAB career as distinguished professor emerita. She was the inaugural recipient of the Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching in 2002.

Manning wrote more than 10 books and was an active member of the International Reading Association, which has named a volunteer service award in her honor.

“Literacy is key to success in life,” said Dean Deborah L. Voltz, Ed.D., of the UAB School of Education. “The Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center will make an important difference in enhancing literacy outcomes for our community, and in facilitating the national discussion on what works in literacy instruction. It is very fitting that this center be named for Dr. Maryann Manning, who worked tirelessly to advance literacy instruction, thereby earning the love and respect of the literacy professional community, both locally and nationally. Consistent with the vision of the UAB School of Education, the Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center will transform lives to optimize human potential.”

“Building on the 40-year enduring legacy of Dr. Maryann Manning’s work in literacy, the Manning Family Center will provide a community hub of services to promote a heightened level of health and literacy for families. The pivotal location and accessibility of resources at UAB position the Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center to better serve families, schools and nonprofit organizations and provide leadership in the region for literacy work.”

The Manning Family Center structure will provide a streamlined approach to UAB’s current literacy work in the community and create innovative approaches to improving literacy rates. UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D., Alabama State Department of Education Superintendent Tommy Bice, Ph.D., Birmingham City Schools, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama submitted letters of support to the board.

The Manning Family Center’s definition of literacy encompasses comprehension of languages, mathematics, arts and sciences, and finances. Initial goals for the center include addressing literacy and health-related needs for families, researching current issues in literacy, and working to enhance the literacy level of diverse populations.

Several components of the center are currently in place throughout the School of Education, including the Innovative Learning Collaborative partnership between the School and Birmingham City Schools, Children’s Creative Learning Center, the Young Authors’ Conference, the MidSouth Reading/Writing Institute, and the Red Mountain Writing Project.

The Manning Family Center will offer a literacy clinic for children, which will also offer tutoring experience to UAB students, family literacy programs that could offer interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities across UAB schools, and a reading assessment clinic. The Manning Family Center will publish an online literary journal, The MidSouth Literacy Journal, to promote and enhance literary research, and host public events to promote reading.