Leadership Team


Executive Committee

Cheryl Ellerbrock Cheryl Ellerbrock, Chair (2020-2022)
University of South Florida

Dr. Cheryl Ellerbrock is an Associate Professor of Middle Grades and General Secondary Education at the University of South Florida. Dr. Ellebrock has over 30 publications that center on ways to promote responsive secondary school experiences for young adolescent learners. In 2014 she co-edited a book published by Teachers College Press entitled, “Talking Diversity with Teachers and Teacher Educators: Exercises and Critical Conversations Across the Curriculum.” At USF, Dr. Ellerbrock teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in middle level and general secondary education. Dr. Ellerbrock is the principal investigator and program coordinator of the Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program funded by a multi-million dollar grant-that created a residency-based undergraduate program for middle grades preservice teachers. In 2016 she won the Paul S. George Award in Recognition of Leadership and Service for the Advancement of Middle School Level Education in the State of Florida and in 2011 she was the recipient of USF’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher of the Year award. focus on middle level education.

Kathleen Brinegar Kathleen Brinegar, Program Chair (2020-2022)
Johnson State College/Northern Vermont University

Dr. Kathleen Brinegar is Associate Professor of Education at Northern Vermont University where she serves as program director of Middle and Secondary Education. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to equity and cultural responsiveness, disciplinary literacy, curriculum development and assessment, and school organization and pedagogy. She currently serves as co-editor of Middle School Journal and program chair of the American Educational Research Association’s Middle Level Education Special Interest Group. She is committed to a research agenda that promotes equity and cultural responsiveness by honoring the experiences of young adolescents with marginalized identities. Her research has been published in venues such as; Teaching & Teacher Education, Middle Grades Review, Research in Middle Level Education Online, Middle Grades Research Journal, and The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education series.

Lisa Harrison Lisa Harrison, Vice Chair (2020-2022)
Ohio University 

Dr. Lisa Harrison is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Ohio University where she serves as the Middle Childhood Education Program Coordinator.  Dr. Harrison is co-editor of Middle School Journal, and is a member of the Association for Middle Level Education Board of Trustees. She also is the chair of the Professional Preparation Advisory Committee for AMLE. Her research interests are in socio-cultural issues relating to young adolescent development, equity-oriented teacher education, and teaching for social justice. Previous to entering higher education, Dr. Harrison taught middle school mathematics in Brooklyn, NY.

Falbe Photo Kristina Falbe, Treasurer (2020-2022), and Newsletter Editor
Illinois State University

Dr. Kristina Falbe is an Assistant Professor of middle level education at Illinois State University. She works with undergraduate middle level teacher candidates in courses on topics like young adolescent development, middle school philosophy, middle school best practices, and special education in the middle school. She also teaches graduate level courses in educational technology.  Her research focuses on academic achievement and middle school philosophy, self-study methodology,  and the Schools to Watch program.  She is currently the advisor for the ISU CMLA chapter, and the co-director of the Horizon Schools to Watch program for the state of Illinois. Kristina has enjoyed working with the SIG for a number of years as a Council Member, Editor of The Chronicle newsletter, and currently serving the role of Treasurer.

Stacie Pettit Stacie Pettit, Secretary (2020-2022)
Augusta University

Dr. Stacie Pettit is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Leading at Augusta University. She serves as the Middle School Program Coordinator and Collegiate Middle Level Association (CMLA) Advisor. Under her leadership, the AU CMLA chapter won the distinction of national host site for 2019-2021. She received the Outstanding Professor of Middle Level Education Award from NAPOMLE at the 2019 AMLE conference. Dr. Pettit received her undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Georgia in Middle School Education and has 18 years of experience teaching middle school (math, language arts, and ESOL) or in higher education (University of Mississippi and AU). Dr. Pettit has taught over 30 different university courses on young adolescent development, active learning, and middle level programs and schools, among others. Her research interests include teaching English Language Learners (ELLs), PDS partnerships, and interdisciplinary initiatives such as Junior Model United Nations. She is an executive board member and AMLE affiliate liaison for the Georgia Association of Middle Level Education (GAMLE).

Penny Bishop Penny Bishop, Executive Advisor (2019-2022)
University of Vermont

Dr. Penny Bishop is Associate Dean and Professor of Middle Level Education at the University of Vermont where she teaches future middle grades educators and conducts research on schooling for young adolescents. As founding director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, Dr. Bishop has served as Principal Investigator on numerous grants, bringing over $13 million dollars to Vermont schools to improve the learning and lives of middle grades students. A former middle level English and Social Studies teacher, Dr. Bishop has served as chair of the American Educational Research Association’s special interest group on Middle Level Education Research (MLER SIG) and as chair of the Association for Middle Level Education’s Research Advisory Board. Dr. Bishop is co-author of six books on effective middle grades practice. She previously served as policy advisor on fellowship to the New Zealand Ministry of Education, providing input and research on effective schooling policies for students in the middle years in that country.

Howell Penny Howell, Immediate Past Chair (2020-2022)
University of Louisville

Dr. Penny B. Howell is an associate professor of middle level education at the University of Louisville where she is the Professor in Residence at the University’s Signature Partnership Middle School. She is currently the Past Chair of the American Education Research Association Middle Level Education Research Special Interest Group and past Chair of the Association for Middle Level Education’s Professional Preparation Advisory Committee. Dr. Howell’s research is focused on middle level teacher education and policies related to certification. She has over 40 publications focused on middle level education and was most recently the co-editor on the 11th volume of the Handbook of Research for Middle Level Education entitled, “Preparing Middle Level Educators for 21st Century Schools: Enduring Beliefs, Changing times, Evolving Practices”.

SIG Association Council Members

Miller Nicole Miller (2020-2022), and Webmaster
Mississippi State University

Dr. Nicole C. Miller is an Associate Professor of Middle Level Education  at Mississippi State University in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education. She engages in research activities focused on middle level education, middle level teacher preparation, technology integration, and teaching with primary sources.  Dr. Miller teaches the only middle level education course. She is also currently the SIG’s webmaster and regularly attends and presents at AERA and AMLE. Dr. Miller  has reviewed for the Middle School Journal, for the Middle Grades Research Journal, and AERA conference proposals for the SIG. Previously, she worked as a social studies and educational technology teacher at a Los Angeles middle school.

Mary Beth Shaeffer Mary Beth Shaefer (2020-2022)
St. John’s University

Dr. Mary Beth Schaefer is Associate Professor of Adolescent Education at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She taught English Language Arts and Reading in middle schools in New York City and in Texas before pursuing a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania in Literacy. Much of her research focuses on middle grades students’ literacy activities as well as issues of college and career readiness for underserved populations. Her most recent publication outlets include Middle School Journal, Journal of Adult & Adolescent Literacy, and Urban Education.  She is co-editor of the book Research on Teaching and Learning with the Literacies of Young Adolescents and recently received the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)’s Outstanding Article Award for a co-authored paper titled, “An Historical Overview of the Middle School Movement.” She and two co-authors have an edited book on child-parent research in press with Sense publications.

Smith Kristie Smith (2020-2022)
Gardner-Webb University, GA

Kristie W. Smith, Ph.D. is a long-time middle grades educator and teacher educator. Kristie has rich experiences in the P-12 classroom, serving a broad range of students and across diverse communities, mostly in the Atlanta metro area. Kristie also has a strong background in the leadership of teacher professional development. In her university work, Kristie has served Mercer University, Atlanta as a middle grades/secondary literacy education adjunct and Minnesota State University, Mankato as an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Literature. Kristie’s current academic appointment is as an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Gardner-Webb University. Additionally, Kristie serves as Literacy Instructional Specialist for Gwinnett County Public Schools of Georgia.

Kristie is an active member of AMLE, AERA, and NCTE. Kristie’s professional passions include creative teaching practices, the scholarship of teaching and learning, literacy education as equity, and 21st century teacher development through culturally responsive, socially just frameworks.

Denmon Headshot Jennifer Denmon, Ph.D. (2021-2023)
University of South Florida/Countryside High School

Jennifer M. Denmon, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida in the College of Education. She also teaches English and Advanced Placement Research at Countryside High School in Clearwater, FL. She has been a middle level educator for 17 years. Dr. Denmon received her Bachelor’s degree in English and minor in Secondary Education and Master’s degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Florida. She obtained her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with a cognate in Educational Psychology, from the University of South Florida, where she was a member of the Adolescent Learner Research Lab since 2011, under the guidance of Dr. Cheryl Ellerbrock. Dr. Denmon has been a member of AERA and the MLER SIG for several years, serving as the Graduate Student Representative and Mentoring Initiative Co-Lead from 2014 to 2016. She has been involved in several committees and activities at her high school as well as in her district, including serving as the District Lead for the AP Research Professional Learning Community. She is also a Consultant for the College Board and a Reader and Table Leader for the AP Research Exam. Dr. Denmon earned her former high school’s Kraf-Custer Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in 2014 and 2018, and was honored as their Teacher of the Year and the Top Ten Outstanding Education of the Year in the district for the 2017-2018 school year.

Weiler Headshot Christopher Weiler, Ph.D. (2021-2023)
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Christopher S. Weiler. Ed. D., is a long-time middle grades educator, having begun his education career as a sixth-grade teacher in suburban Philadelphia. He is currently an Associate Professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Elementary, Middle Level, Library, and Technologies Education. He engages in research activities focused on middle level education, middle level teacher preparation, science education, and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Dr. Weiler is an active member of AMLE, on the board of the National Professors of Middle Level Education, and serves as a Council Member for the MLER Sig. He has reviewed for the Middle School Journal, Research in Middle Level Education Online, Current Issues in Middle Level Education, and AERA conference proposals for the SIG.

Katherine Main headshot Katherine Main, Ph.D. (2021-2023)
Griffith University

Katherine Main is an Associate Professor and Program Leader in the School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Australia. She serves on state, national, and international committees involved with young adolescents and has advised national and state government education authorities during the development and implementation of the Australian National Curriculum. Katherine has been a lead or co-lead on the planning and delivery of several large-scale state and national professional development programs (both face-to-face and online) aimed at building the capacity of teachers working with young adolescent learners. Her research areas include middle school/junior secondary reform and the need for targeted professional development. Her most recent work is focused on student and teacher wellbeing including the need for the development of social and emotional competencies.

Sarnoff Kia Sarnoff, Grad Student Rep (2020-2022)
University of South Florida

Ms. Kia Sarnoff is currently a doctoral student in Teacher Education with an emphasis on Middle Grades Mathematics Education at the University of South Florida.  Under the mentorship of Drs. Cheryl Ellerbrock and Eugenia Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, Kia works primarily in the Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program where she teaches middle level coursework and supervises undergraduate preservice teachers during their yearlong residency experience. Kia also teaches classroom management to secondary preservice teachers for the Department of Teaching and Learning. Prior to enrolling in her doctoral program at USF, Kia taught middle school mathematics to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in public, Title I schools in Charleston County School District in Charleston, South Carolina. Kia was an active Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) committee member and a robotics coach.  She held various leadership roles in her time as a classroom teacher such as grade level team leader, Teacher Curriculum Team (TCT) leader, and PBIS data adviser.

Previous Leadership Team Members