Teacher Education Faculty
Dr. Aldridge is an assistant professor for Lindenwood University’s School of Education Department of Teacher Education, and is the coordinator of secondary student teaching for secondary, middle and K-12 certifications. She holds a B.S. Ed. in secondary social studies education from the University of Missouri, an M.Ed. from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, and an Ed.D. in higher education administration at Lindenwood University. Dr. Aldridge has experience teaching both graduate- and undergraduate-level courses in higher education for over a decade. Before beginning her career in higher education, Dr. Aldridge was a social studies teacher at the Wentzville School District. Dr. Aldridge holds career teacher certifications in middle school social studies education, secondary social studies education, and K-12 mild/moderate special education.
Dr. Ronda Cypret-Mahach is acting assistant dean and associate professor in the School of Education with Lindenwood University. She earned her doctorate in instructional leadership with Lindenwood University, holds a Master of Arts in teaching with Lindenwood University, and received a Bachelor of Arts in education with minor in English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Included in her certifications are early childhood education, elementary education, middle school language arts and middle school social studies. Her professional experience includes working with Title 1 remediation reading and math students, elementary classroom teaching, technology coordinator, and university teaching. Dr. Cypret-Mahach’s doctoral research focused on professional development practices that support teachers as they develop critical-thinking skills with elementary students and the relationship with student achievement. She has been recognized as a teacher of the year and has worked as a host teacher for student teachers and as a mentor teacher to new teachers entering the profession. Dr. Cypret-Mahach is a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society and authored "Transformational Shifts of Pedagogy through Professional Development" in the book Emerging Self-Directed Learning Strategies in the Digital Age (2018), edited by Giuseffi.
Assistant Professor Mary Gismegian joined the Lindenwood University faculty in 1981 as an adjunct instructor. She served as a facilitator for gifted programs, middle school teacher, and an administrator for 26 years in the Missouri public school system. She earned her B.S. in elementary education from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, M.A. in education from Lindenwood, and pursued doctoral coursework from California Coast University. Professor Gismegian is a member of Gifted Association of Missouri (GAM) former vice president/membership, St. Louis Association for Gifted Education (SAGE), National Association for Gifted Education (NAGC), Gifted Resource Council (GRC) former board member, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Gifted Support Network (GSN) and the DSMHW Distinguished Schools of Mental Health and Wellness.
Gismegian is currently serving on three boards (GAM –Higher Education Task Force, GSN Gifted Support Network and the DSMHW – Distinguished Schools of Mental Health and Wellness). The mission of these boards is on building relationships for students experiencing trauma and promoting the education of gifted students. Mary also serves as a personality styles facilitator for the Insight Learning Foundation.
For over 26 years, she coordinated a summer STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Camp at Lindenwood for gifted children entering grades 1-6. This camp serves as a vehicle for Lindenwood students to earn practicum hours toward gifted certification. Professor Gismegian has also served as a presenter and co-chair for gifted conferences, workshops, and speaker series to enhance the professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers of the gifted and talented students in Missouri.
For over 20 years, Dr. Hantak has been involved in the fields of early childhood education and early childhood special education as a teacher and supervisor in nonprofit, inclusive early childhood programs. She is an assistant professor and Lindenwood University School of Education program chair of the Early Childhood and Special Education programs at Lindenwood University as well as an early interventionist for the Missouri First Steps program. Dr. Hantak holds a Bachelor of Science degree in communication disorders and a Master of Education degree in elementary education with a specialization in early childhood education. She holds dual certification in early childhood education and early childhood special education. Dr. Hantak also has a Master of Arts degree in behavior analysis and a Doctorate of Education in instructional leadership with an emphasis in andragogy from Lindenwood University. She has co-authored articles in The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning and Young Children and has presented at several local, state, national, and international conferences. Dr. Hantak is currently the vice-president of the Missouri Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (MAECTE) and an alumni Governing Board member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Jill Hutcheson received her B.S. in elementary education from the University of Missouri. She spent the next 19 years as a P-12 educator followed by 14 years as an elementary building administrator. In 1993, she obtained her M.A. in education including Gifted and Psychological Examiner Certification. She completed her Ed.S. in 2003 in educational administration and in 2008 earned an Ed.D. in educational administration from Lindenwood University. She has 20 years of experience in higher educational as both an adjunct and fulltime faculty member at Lindenwood University.
Dr. Emilie Johnson, professor of education, has been a fulltime faculty member since 1999 and teaches in the graduate School of Education. She earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from St. Louis University in 1997 and brings to Lindenwood 13 years of experience in public school teaching, administration, and teacher training. In addition to teaching, Dr. Johnson is the author of student study guides, teacher resource manuals, instructor test banks, and websites for Educational Psychology, Introduction to Teaching, and Educational Research texts for Pearson. Dr. Johnson was awarded the St. Charles County 40 Under 40 Award, St. Charles County Ring of Excellence in Teaching Award, and The Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is recognized as a Lindenwood Distinguished Mentor and was promoted to the rank of full professor in August 2006. In the fall of 2017, Dr. Johnson established a partnership with CharacterPlus of St. Louis and provides support to local districts through coaching teachers and school leaders as they transform school culture and climate and implement social emotional learning curriculum. She also serves as an evaluator for state and national Schools of Character awarded by Character.org.
Kristen Levin earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Loyola University in 1996, her Master of Education from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2007, and her Ph.D. in teaching and learning processes from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2018. Her research interests include teacher identity development and the impact of autonomy on novice teachers; and current educational reform efforts. She is excited to use her classroom teaching experience and knowledge of curriculum design to guide pre-service teachers as they prepare to launch into their own careers.
Rebecca Panagos began her career teaching special education, focusing on children with autism and all abilities. Holding a master’s degree in school counseling, she led multidisciplinary school teams that involved interagency collaboration to prepare students for secondary transitions. Panagos discovered an interest in teacher preparation and completed her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Missouri. While at Lindenwood, she led program development for certification in special education mild to moderate and the M.A. degree in early interventions in autism and sensory impairments. Current lines of research and presentations include clinical teaching partnerships on home visits in early interventions and developing and field-testing an empowerment tool for families of young children with developmental disabilities.
Dr. Nancy Schneider, professor of education and coordinator of elementary student teaching, joined the Lindenwood University faculty in 1999. Prior to that, she was a school administrator in the Wentzville R-IV School District. Dr. Schneider began her career in education as an elementary teacher at Sunshine Elementary School in Springfield, Mo. She received her B.S., M.S., and Ed.S. degrees from Missouri State and her Ed.D. in 1993 from the University of Missouri. Her Missouri certifications include elementary education 1-8 and principal K-8. Dr. Schneider is passionate about her family and children, volunteering in the community, and advancing the Trauma Informed Schools initiative. She currently serves as the faculty advisor for Kappa Delta Pi (education honor society) at Lindenwood. She received national recognition in 2019 as a Most Valuable Person In The Life Of A Student.
Dr. Tonya Thompson is an assistant professor in the School of Education at Lindenwood University. She also serves as program chair for the School Library Media and Technology program and teaches courses in library, literature, and research. She earned a B.S. in communications and mass media, an M.A. in education, an M.S. in instructional technology, as well as her doctorate in educational leadership. Before moving into higher education, she worked for 16 years as a library media specialist, professional development leader, and communications manager for a large public school.
Vanessa Vandergraaf is an associate professor of education in the School of Education at Lindenwood University. Vandergraaf’s teaching and learning is motivated by the explosion of digital technologies with a focus on delivering a richer learning experience. She was nominated for the “Outstanding Professor of the Year Award” in 2019 and was a finalist for the “Excellence in Teaching Award” that same year. Vandergraaf’s most recent publication, “The Importance of Sensory Play,” discussed sensory integration and the impact on early development. Another recent presentation, “Perception and Learning,” explored the significance of perceptual awareness and early learning. She is currently working on her Online Teaching Certificate through the Online Learning Consortium to provide students the most effective digital learning environment using the latest methods, tools, and practices. Vandergraaf has an infatuation with developing her mind, spirit, and bones.
Dr. Donna Wagener holds certifications in elementary education 1-8, special reading K-12, secondary social studies 7-12, and elementary administration. She has a B.A. in psychology and a Master Degree in Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as a doctorate in educational administration from Maryville University. Dr. Wagener taught for 13 years in the elementary classroom setting as classroom teacher and then a reading specialist. She also spent 10 years in building administration. Most recently, she devoted six years as a building principal in the Mehlville School District. During that time, she also served as the district principal facilitator for social studies curriculum and district representative for character education. Dr. Wagener joined Lindenwood University full time in August 2014.
Michelle Whitacre is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education. She has a Ph.D. in education (teaching and learning processes) from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She also has an M.A.T. with an emphasis in educational psychology from Webster University, an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame Australia, and a B.A. in English and environmental science from the University of Notre Dame. Whitacre has several years of experience working as a high school science teacher and instructional coach. She has taught a wide range of education courses and has experience supervising teacher candidates in their school-based practicums. During her doctoral studies, she worked as a research assistant on the National Science Foundation-funded project “Science Literacy through Science Journalism” and was an NSF CADRE Fellow. Whitacre’s research interests focus on disciplinary and content literacy and using technology to enhance teacher education. She is passionate about educational equity and seeks to design learning experiences for teacher candidates that nurture innovation and professional creativity.
Kevin Winslow earned a Ph.D. in mathematics instructional methodology with an emphasis in instructional technology from George Mason University. He also earned an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction: secondary mathematics from George Mason, and a B.A. in intercultural studies from Biola University in Los Angeles. He taught middle school math and technology for 12 years before teaching at the college level. He taught at Cedarville University in Ohio and Missouri Baptist University before coming to Lindenwood. Dr. Winslow is currently serving as a professor of education and the program chair for the M.A. in educational technology at Lindenwood University.