PhD Alumna MiIsha Reid Receives 2023 CEC Dissertation Award

MiIsha Reid, a 2022 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s PhD in Special Education and Teaching program, recently received the 2023 Dissertation Award from the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

CEC is the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to improving the success of children and youth with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. Each year, CEC’s Division for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners (DDEL) acknowledges an outstanding dissertation focused on the education and quality of life for individuals with “exceptionalities” from diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic communities.

“I was truly honored to receive this award from an organization that is renowned for its leadership, expertise, and advocacy,” says Reid. “When I received the notification, I felt instantly motivated to stay engaged and to continue doing this type of work.”

Now an assistant professor of special education at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Reid’s award-winning dissertation is titled “Forming Positive Classroom Environments Through the Use of a Culturally Responsive Sustaining Mixed Reality Intervention Package.” It examines the critical need and methodology for teachers to build and manage positive, supportive, and culturally responsive classroom environments.

“My dissertation research has many implications for the education of culturally and linguistically diverse exceptional learners,” says Reid. “Teachers who understand culturally responsive teaching, understand that it is connected to the science of learning. They need to minimize social threats so that students can feel that they are safe, belong, and have a sense of trust.”

Much of Reid’s dissertation was inspired from her experiences across various educational spaces and schools. As a former elementary school teacher, she often observed exclusionary practices being implemented that had detrimental effects on the students.

“Special education was consistently used as a place or tool to further remove students from the general education classroom rather than as a program to assist students in becoming successful,” says Reid. “As our K-12 student population becomes more diverse while the teaching force remains predominantly white, middle class, and monolingual, it was imperative that the implications of culturally responsive teaching to classroom management not only be described, but also explored.”

Reid says her time with Pitt Education provided foundational tools for her dissertation.

“My courses helped me reimagine educational spaces and develop analytical writing skills to identify and address gaps within my field,” says Reid. “I also appreciated being exposed to various research methods throughout my courses and having the flexibility to dive deeper into certain research methods that applied to the questions I was generating in my own research.”

Reid also credited several faculty for playing an integral role in her dissertation process.

“The faculty I encountered during my time at Pitt Education were amazing,” says Reid. “My dissertation committee, chaired by Douglas Kostewicz, was comprised of individuals (Sheila Conway, Lori Delale-O’Connor, and Rachel Robertson) who have expertise in a variety of fields such as culturally responsive teaching, teacher preparation, and positive behavior interventions and supports. They were all relevant to the work that I was engaging in with my dissertation. “

Reid’s experience at Pitt Education has contributed to her success as a new faculty member at Carlow University.

“When I think about my post-secondary education, there is no other school that I can think of that could have supported me more,” says Reid. “Attending the Pitt School of Education allowed me to grow my local network, think critically about issues of educational equity that are happening globally or locally, and to always think about the ‘so what’ or implications of my research endeavors.”

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