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Our Work

 Sol y Agua

A collaboration between El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) and UTEP, this NSF-funded research-practice partnership (RPP) is planning and piloting a linguistically and culturally relevant computer science curriculum (i.e., one that is bilingual and based on the geography of the El Paso region) for middle school. The goals of the project are (1) to increase Latinx students’—and especially bilingual and English learner students’—access to and interest in computer science in middle school by making CS curriculum more relevant to students’ lives and social context; and (2) to do so through an RPP collaboration designed to ensure research best serves schools’ and districts’ goals. Activities include teacher professional development, curriculum development work, and research to assess its effectiveness. Curriculum development work will include the integration of the Sol y Agua game-based learning platform, designed for culturally and linguistically relevant teaching of computational thinking.

The partnership team includes Scott Gray (EPISD Director of New Tech, Office of Innovation), Cynthia Ontiveros (EPISD Principal of Young Women’s STEAM Leadership and Preparatory Academy and Armendariz Middle School), Monica Lyons (EPISD Principal of Guillen Middle School), Sarah Escandon (EPISD Active Learning Leader), Monika Akbar (UTEP Computer Science), and Katherine Mortimer (UTEP Teacher Education).


Paso del Norte Texas Computer Science Teaching Fellows

The Hopper-Dean Center of Excellence for K-12 Computer Science Education partners with El Paso ISD in a grant from the National Science Foundation to recruit computer science degree holders as NSF Teaching Fellows who receive a master’s degree in education while participating in the College of Education’s residency program. Upon completion of their degree, they will receive teacher certification and commit to teaching a minimum of four years. The grant supports Teaching Fellows’ cost of attendance, fellowship stipends, and travel to conference supporting their professional development. In 2023, three NSF Teaching Fellows are in residency at two EPISD high schools: Kevin Sias and Seth Sias at Young Women’s STEAM Leadership and Preparatory Academy under the mentorship of Pedro Delgado; and Leo Zapata Contreras at Irvin High School under the mentorship of Adrian Portillo. Principal Investigators include Elsa Villa (Director, UTEP Education), Salamah Salamah (UTEP Computer Science), and Erika Mein (Associate Dean, UTEP Education). The grant will support up to 10 Teaching Fellows.

Building Capacity in Computer Science Education at The University of Texas at El Paso

The Hopper-Dean Center of Excellence for K-12 Computer Science Education received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2022 to establish a new degree program in the UTEP Department of Computer Science with a concentration in CS education; new courses will be developed, and graduates would receive CS teacher certification. Currently underway, the grant will provide another pathway to CS teacher certification to fill the dire need of qualified CS teachers in our partner school districts. Principal Investigators are Elsa Villa (Director, UTEP Education), Salamah Salamah (UTEP Computer Science), Joyce A. Cashman (Assistant Dean, College of Education), and Justice Walker (Assistant Professor, UTEP Education).

Early Childhood Educator Teacher Well-Being

A collaboration between Clint Independent School District, Canutillo Independent School District, the Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies at New Mexico State University, the Paso del Norte Partnership for Education Research, and the University of Texas at El Paso, this College of Education and National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families funded researcher-practitioner partnership (RPP) is examining the associations between perceived and physiological stress in a sample of early childhood education (ECE) teachers in the El Paso region. The goals of this project are to 1) characterize the stress teachers perceive as affecting their well-being, 2) quantify the stress which gets “under the skin,” and 3) elevate the lived experiences of ECE teachers in this community. As a part of an RPP, outcomes are shared with partners in an effort to advance teacher well-being, interrogating previously under-explored facets of teachers’ professional and personal lives in order to collaboratively work towards solutions that minimize demands and increase resources.

The partnership team includes Ms. M. Jennifer Parker (Assistant Superintendent, Clint ISD), Dr. Debra Kerney (Associate Superintendent, Canutillo ISD), Dr. Angela Owens (Director, Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies, New Mexico State University), and Dr. Cynthia A. Wiltshire (Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, UTEP).

Playful STEM Education

A collaboration between a local community partner, Philosophic Systems Institute (PSI), and the University of Texas at El Paso, this ChangeX United States Community Play Fund, LEGO Foundation, and Playful Learning Landscapes funded research-practitioner partnership (RPP) is planning the creation of the first Fraction Ball court in the El Paso community.

The goals of this project are to 1) elevate the voices and agency of the community of children and families for whom this project is intended, 2) to highlight the community partner’s work in the El Paso region, and 3) to bolster science, technology, engineering, and mathematical content areas for children in the El Paso community in playful and enjoyable ways. Activities include community meetings and share-outs to hear and honor wishes and needs of the community, playful experiences with the community’s children and caregivers in order to learn of their ideas and to learn from their knowledges, and the ultimate experience of this community of children and caregivers refashioning an existing basketball court to be more playful and STEM-focused.

The partnership team includes the children and caregivers who live within the PSI community, PSI leadership (listed alphabetically) Chris Bevins, Messiah Bryant, Mika Cohen, Juan Ferret, Janet Flores, Claudia Saldaña, Child Leaders Amy An (age 6), Gerald An (age 8), and Dalton Fuller (age 13), and UTEP faculty Dr. Robyn K. Pinilla, Dr. Justice T. Walker, Dr. Song An, and Dr. Cynthia A. Wiltshire.

UTEP Mother-Daughter/Father-Son Program

Drs. Song An, Dr. Tillman and Dr. Tinajero are working on two manuscripts based on research collected from MDFS events. School districts participating are Clint ISD, Canutillo ISD and Women Academy in Ysleta ISD. 

Do the Write Thing El Paso Challenge

Dr. Todd in the Dept of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Dr. Sarah Peterson and Dr. Tinajero published a couple of articles based on the work being done with Do the Write Thing El Paso Challenge, a violence prevention program associated with the National Academy to Stop Violence. School districts participating are El Paso, Ysleta, Canutillo, Socorro, Clint, Fabens, San Elizario, and sometimes Anthony, Texas.