Education and Human Development

Faculty & Staff

*Dr. Tammy Cook, Professor & Program Coordinator-Secondary Education
Tammy Cook Curriculum Vitae

*Dr. Frances Courson, Assistant Professor, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs
Dr. Frances Courson Curriculum Vitae
Frances Flowers Courson received her undergraduate degree in Deaf Education from the University of Montevallo where she was awarded a scholarship award for excellence in teaching Deaf children. She earned her Master of Science in Deaf Education from Texas Woman’s University, and her doctoral degree, Ed.D, in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, from Lamar University. Frances lived among the Deaf of Russia in Moscow with her family for 10 years where she learned Russian and Russian Sign Language. She holds the National Interpreting Certification (NIC) and Educational: K-12 certificate from from Registry of Interpreters of the (RID). Her research interests include teaching writing to deaf and hard of hearing students and higher education pedagogy of pre-service teachers of the deaf. She enjoys spending time with her granddaughter every chance she gets.

*Dr. Jennifer “JiJi” Davis, Associate Professor & Program Coordinator of Elementary
Dr. Jennifer Davis Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Davis is an associate professor that currently teaches elementary methods courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. She serves as the Program Coordinator for Elementary, Elementary/Collaborative, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She also facilitates Montevallo Connection to collaborate with Montevallo Elementary School, Montevallo Middle School, Montevallo High School, and the University of Montevallo.

*Dr. William Harper-Hooper IV, Assistant Professor & Program Coordinator of Early Childhood Education
Dr. William Harper-Hooper IV Curriculum Vitae
Dr. William Harper-Hooper IV is an assistant professor and program coordinator of early childhood education at the University of Montevallo. He earned a B.S. in Early Childhood Education, with a minor in Social Work from the University of Southern Indiana. He earned an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and Administration from Ball State University. He earned a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education, with a concentration in Early Intervention from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Harper-Hooper teaches courses on early childhood and elementary education methods, child development, and literacy development in both undergraduate and graduate programs.  His research interest includes culture and diversity in early childhood, social and emotional development, and supports for improving teacher-child relationships.

*Dr. Lynn Kirkland, Professor of Elementary Programs
Dr. Lynn Kirkland Curriculum Vitae
Lynn Kirkland, Ed.D., is instructor for reading and English Language Arts after 30 years of teaching, scholarship, and service in the discipline. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Literacy Association and tutors on a regular basis. Her research interests include critical literacy and curriculum.

Dr. Cheng Hua Curriculum Vitae
*Dr. Cheng Hua, Assistant Professor of Educational Research
Dr. Cheng Hua is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Alabama. He obtained both his Master’s degree in Educational Psychology and his Doctoral degree in Educational Research. In August 2023, he completed his Ph.D. and was recognized with the Outstanding Graduate Students Award for his academic dedication and prowess. Dr. Hua has been residing in Northport, Alabama, for almost a decade and is a devoted parent to two young boys, aged 4 and 6. His research interests lie at the intersection of artificial intelligence and education, with a keen focus on quantitative research models such as the Rasch model, advanced regression models, other IRT models, and the incorporation of mixed-method approaches. Besides his own research, Dr. Hua enjoys helping fellow professors and students by serving as a methodologist to guide their research endeavors.

*Danielle Parks, Administrative Assistant II
Danielle Parks earned her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Human Relations & Management and her M.Ed. in Couples & Family Counseling from the University of Montevallo. She serves as a student advisor for Best Buddies and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Ms. Parks is also a member of the University of Montevallo Junior Board of Directors, and the previous Professional Development Chair. She is as a member of the UM Staff Senate as well. Ms. Parks enjoys mentoring students and giving back to her community.

*Dr. Donna Ploessl, Associate Professor of Elementary Collaborative Programs
Dr. Donna Ploessl Curriculum Vitae

*Dr. Cassie Raulston, Professor of Elementary & Instructional Technology Programs
Professional Website:
Dr. Cassie Raulston Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Cassie Raulston is a Professor of Education in the College of Education at The University of Montevallo. She earned her B.S. degree in Elementary Education/ Early Childhood from The University of Alabama as well as her M.Ed. and Ed.S. in Special Education with an emphasis in Gifted Education. She also obtained her Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership with an emphasis in Instructional Technology from The University of Alabama. At the University of Montevallo, Dr. Raulston teaches in the Elementary, Secondary, and Instructional Technology programs. She has had the privilege of collaborating with colleagues to develop and direct multiple summer Coding Camps for elementary-high school students.  Previously, Dr. Raulston was a Gifted Education Specialist, Instructional Technology Specialist, and developed various training for educators.

*Dr. Jennifer Alexiou-Ray, Professor & Program Coordinator-Advanced Programs
Secondary Education/Instructional Technology
Professional Website:
I am a Professor of Instructional Technology and Leadership in the College of Education and Human Development and the Director of Graduate Students for the University of Montevallo. Before coming to Montevallo, I worked in K-12 education as a teacher and technology specialist. While working in K-12 education, I implemented large-scale technology initiatives and trained teachers in using technology with their students. I worked day-to-day with teachers and students, helping them use technology while learning.

*Dr. Amy Samuels, Associate Professor & Program Coordinator of Instructional Leadership Programs
Dr. Amy J Samuels Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Amy Samuels is an associate professor of instructional leadership and coordinates the instructional leadership and teacher leadership programs at the University of Montevallo. She earned a B.S. in Secondary Education Social Studies, with a minor in Black Studies, from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She earned both an M.Ed. and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida, where she specialized in curriculum policy and development, critical race theory, and practices for fostering equitable schools. Dr. Samuels’ research aligns with educational justice, culturally responsive practices, and implications of race and racism in educational contexts.

*Dr. Gregory Samuels, Associate Professor of Secondary Programs
Dr. Gregory Samuels Curriculum Vitae
Before arriving at UM’s College of Education, he previously taught in Baltimore and Tampa with more than 10 years in the social studies classroom. After earning his M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction/Social Science Education at the University of South Florida, he joined the Department of Teaching, Leadership, and Technology at UM. In addition to teaching courses on classroom management, diversity, literacy, and social justice, he supervises teacher candidates in the Secondary Education Master’s Program and serves as UM’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. His research interests include pedagogical applications in the social studies, teaching and learning for social justice, facilitation of critical pedagogy and working to include marginalized voices throughout the social studies curriculum. He can be contacted at

*Dr. Almir Smajic, Professor of Elementary & Secondary Programs/STEM Coordinator
Dr. Almir Smajic-Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Almir Smajic is a Professor of Education at the College of Education at the University of Montevallo. He obtained his B.S. degree in Mathematics and M.Ed. from Freed-Hardeman University, as well as his Ph. D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Mathematics Education from Texas Tech University.  At the University of Montevallo, he has been teaching mathematics methods, education, and diversity education courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Previously, he taught mathematics methods courses at Texas Tech University, mathematics courses at Gulf Coast Community College, and ESL and mathematics at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels in his home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
B.S., M.Ed., Freed-Hardeman University; Ph.D., Texas Tech University

*Dr. Alvin Taylor, Associate Professor of Instructional Leadership Programs
Dr. Alvin Taylor Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Alvin Taylor is an Associate Professor of Instructional Leadership with over 30 years of experience in both K-12 and Higher Education. Dr. Taylor specializes in school law and finance and has published several works in the area of leadership and literacy. Dr. Taylor spent nearly 20 years as a K-12 administrator in the roles of Middle School Principal, High School Principal and Superintendent. He currently serves as Principal Investigator of the Gear Up Jefferson County Grant for the University of Montevallo.

*Dr. Alisha Wheeler, Assistant Professor of Elementary Programs
Dr. Alisha Wheeler Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Alisha Wheeler is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Montevallo. She earned her B.S. in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and her M.Ed. in Elementary Education with an emphasis on mathematics from Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. She earned her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Wheeler worked as a classroom teacher and interventionist in K-12 schools, prior to joining the faculty at the University of Montevallo.