Meet Our Faculty
Marcy Singer Gabella is a professor in the practice of education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University, and teaches courses on learning and instruction, assessment, and school turnaround. She has been involved with a variety of research and development efforts focused on educator learning and development, including:
- the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership, a partnership between the Tennessee Governor’s Office, the TN Department of Education, Vanderbilt’s Peabody College and local school districts. In GASL, Marcy focuses on building leaders’ capacity to grow “ambitious teaching.”
- ATLAS, an I3 grant project led by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to design video case materials that support the ongoing learning of prospective and early career teachers in grades 3-6.
- preliminary validation research on edTPA, a performance-based assessment of prospective teachers’ readiness to teach
- an NSF-funded Study of the development of elementary teachers’ understandings of mathematics and science content and pedagogy, from preparation to practice.
In addition, since 2013 Marcy has worked closely with GRAD Academy Memphis, a school in the TN Achievement School District committed to project-based learning and restorative social practices. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Marcy taught social studies in New York, and then worked with the Stanford Schools Collaborative Professional Development Center in the California Bay Area.
Kristen W. Neal, Ph.D.
Kristen Neal is a faculty member in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her interests include how to support the design of school learning environments that leverage our understanding of how students learn. She recognizes that the involvement of families and communities is a crucial part of this learning. She teaches the Advanced Elementary Education Practicum (EDUC 6211), Curriculum Design (EDUC 6080), and Parent, School and Community (EDUC 6050). Through various partnerships, she collaborates with the Metro Nashville Public Schools and community agencies. Kristen is thrilled that Vanderbilt’s teacher candidates will be able to learn in partnership with Cole Elementary and Maxwell Elementary. She is a parent of a middle school and high school daughter who attend the public schools. On an ideal day, you can find Kristen hiking with family and friends.
Emily Pendergrass taught elementary and middle school students for eleven years. While working alongside middle schoolers, she finished her Ph.D. in Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. While at UGA, Emily worked extensively with the Red Clay Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project. Currently, Emily teaches courses in Teaching Reading with secondary students and directs the Reading Education Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University. Additionally, Emily works closely with the local public schools in literacy coaching and facilitating professional development workshops. Her research interests revolve around the complexities of teaching readers who struggle and new literacies in middle school classrooms.
Paul Cobb teaches a masters level class on teaching and learning mathematics to future elementary teachers. He grew up the United Kingdom and came to the U.S. to study mathematics education at the University of Georgia, where he earned masters and doctoral degrees. He subsequently moved to Vanderbilt after a stint at Purdue University, and was attracted by the commitment of faculty to the elementary education programs and to students. His research focuses on improving the quality of mathematics teaching and student learning on a large scale, and on issues of equity in students’ access to significant mathematical ideas.
Peabody College’s resident ‘Guru of Children’s Books’. Professor Neely became a member of the faculty in the Department of Teaching and Learning in 1985, and while teaching a variety of courses in the area of elementary education, began to focus on the field of children's literature. Professor Neely possesses an exceptional volume of knowledge related to the world of children’s books, and is recognized as an expert in her field by both academics and authors alike. Her vigilance in regards to current events in the world of children’s literature, and new and exciting books on the horizon, makes her an amazing resource for teachers and teacher candidates alike. Professor Neely has made it her modus operandi at Peabody College to encourage both diversity and equity in children’s literature, which shows in both her book choices and in-class discourse. Ann teaches introductory courses in the field (undergraduate), as well as an advanced seminar in the study of children's literature for graduate students.
For 16 years, Ann served as the founding faculty director of the Ingram Scholars Program, a University-wide scholarship for undergraduates who are leaders in the world of service. She also served as the Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Scholarships for Peabody College. From 1991-1996, Ann served as Assistant Provost and Director of Academic Affairs in Athletics. She has also headed efforts in the area of undergraduate retention, created the Peabody Scholars Program, and oversaw the Chancellor's Scholarship. From 1987-1991, Ann served as Peabody College's Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs. Her research and scholarly interests are focused on children's literature, language and literacy, and elementary teacher education.
My research focuses on children's mathematical and scientific reasoning in the context of schooling, with a special emphasis on tools and notations for developing thought. There are two major strands to this program. The first focuses on the design of learning environments that foster the growth and development of model-based reasoning about mathematics and science. This research, conducted with Leona Schauble, involves collaboration with teachers in local schools to reform mathematics and science so that students can invent and revise models as forms of mathematical and scientific explanation. We work with teachers to design a cumulative science education centered about modeling practices. In a related reform effort, I collaborate with teachers to redesign elementary-grade mathematics to include systematic investigation of space and geometry. We investigate children's understanding of the mathematics of space when mathematics education is grounded in children's everyday experiences. I also examine the inscriptions and notations children invent as tools for mathematical exploration and argument. My research in mathematics education includes work with teachers and children in urban schools (Phoenix, AZ) and with Yup'ik children and their teachers in Alaska.
A second strand of research, connected in principle to the first by its focus on student inquiry and the semiotics of inscription, considers students as software authors and designers. This research has included examination of Logo, Lego Logo, and hypermedia as design tools for students in the elementary and secondary grades. I've been especially interested in the growth of critical standards about design when students are provided prolonged opportunities to author in electronic environments. Current research focuses on design and development of case-based hypermedia tools for teachers, with attention to the role that dynamic tools like these can play in fostering community and continued professional development.
As part of a three-person team in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Lucas is developing a public school based math and science initiative that is concurrently a demonstration classroom, staff development, and research site. She is also a member of a science-math research team investigating various aspects of student-conducted science research meetings, where children present their research program progress to their peers in weekly updates, field questions from class members and others, and then revise their work. She teaches guest classes in elementary science education and a combined math, social studies, and science methods course in early childhood education. Lucas is completing integrated science/math materials for a teacher Web site on inquiry-based science and mathematics, and teaches a course in elementary math methods
Lindsey Nelson, M.Ed.
Lindsey joins the Elem Ed graduate program with 11 years in schools, in both Charlotte, NC and locally in Nashville. She is a graduate of Peabody's Teaching and Learning in Urban Schools (TLUS) graduate program, with a focus in literacy instruction and teacher leadership. She has served grades 1-8 in various roles, including classroom teacher, reading specialist, and dean of academics. She recently joined the team at KIPP Nashville as a Literacy Regional Manager. For the past few years, Lindsey has supervised aspiring teachers and reading specialist students in the field, along with teaching the classroom environment and management course.
Mary Miller, Ph.D. Candidate
Mary Miller studies how digital technologies, such as tablets and digital cameras, can mediate new directions for home to school relationships. Before moving to Nashville to work at Vanderbilt, she worked at a nonprofit mentoring program in St. Louis with children, families, and schools. Mary is especially interested in supporting emergent bilinguals in early childhood and elementary school settings in using their heritage languages as a resource for literacy development. Her research integrates children’s out of school networks of relationships, experiences, learning, literacy practices, interests, and cultural knowledge as part of classroom literacy. She currently teaches the Teaching Writing Theories and Methods course, and she has previously taught the Teaching Reading course. She is blessed with a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, and a crazy dog. Her family enjoys hiking, cooking, and reading. She loves working at Peabody because the faculty and students are both incredibly knowledgeable and supportive.
Cindy Pfister, M.Ed.
Cindy has a passion for both the art and science of education. She is a graduate of Peabody’s Teaching and Learning graduate program with a focus in multicultural education. She is recognized as a big-picture thinker and enjoys equipping the next generation of teachers through her work as a consultant on pedagogy and classroom management and as a practicum supervisor for graduate students at Vanderbilt. In addition to being a University Mentor, Cindy teaches in the Vanderbilt SAVY program for highly gifted youth. She has 10 years of teaching experience in elementary schools in Nashville, and has had various teaching roles while living in Michigan, Ohio and Texas. Cindy has participated in trainings at Harvard University [Project Zero] and Columbia University [Reader's Workshop]. She loves the collaborative thinking and innovative opportunities of working at Peabody.
Kyle Alexander, M.Ed.
Kyle Alexander holds a M.Ed. in secondary social studies education from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Social Studies. In addition to teaching SSED 6250: Advanced Methods of Social Studies Education for Elementary School, Kyle teaches middle school social studies at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School where he has received such honors as being named the 2013 Tom and Stella Mullane Geography Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Geographic Alliance and the 2014 District Middle School Teacher of the Year for Metro Nashville Public Schools. As both a middle school teacher and an adjunct professor, Kyle encourages his students to approach learning as an active process in which they construct new ideas and concepts based upon their own personal knowledge and understanding. In his teaching, Kyle strives to help his students move beyond simply providing the right answers to questions and assignments to a place where they are able to formulate their own questions and are discovering answers to those questions through their own sound judgment and reasoning. He works to help them develop a discerning eye to select and transform information, construct hypotheses, and make decisions through a hands-on, inquiry approach to social studies. He encourages them to think outside the box and constantly refine their techniques. Kyle frequently presents on the topic of active social studies teaching and learning along with his other interests in social emotional learning, formative assessment, and content literacy at local, state, regional, and national conferences.