Doctoral student's award-winning research to be presented in Qatar
The COVID-19 pandemic that derailed schools for the 2020-21 school year also added huge responsibilities to public school administrators, for which most were not prepared: crisis management, leadership in technical instruction, and communication and mentorship.
Norma Veguilla Martinez, principal at Memorial Parkway Elementary School in Katy Independent School District, is completing her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at University of Houston-Clear Lake. She said she'd seen her own role as an administrator change significantly at her school during the pandemic.
"We were thrown into COVID, and as an administrator, I saw my role change to become lead technology person on my campus," she said. "I wondered if it was because I knew so much about technology, or if all administrators had to take that on — as well as becoming mental health counselors and supporters. I started to research this to see if all types of school leadership were similarly affected."
She presented her research in July 2021 at the Innovative Schools Summit in Las Vegas, and she received positive feedback from administrators who said they needed more information. "They told me, we see what your study has shown, how can we do better? So, with the encouragement of (Professor of Research and Statistics) Michelle Peters, I decided to submit my work to the Southwest Educational Research Association (SERA) in hopes that people in other countries would also be interested in my findings," Veguilla Martinez said.
"The pandemic affected everyone in the world, but I don't know what high tech integration in education looks like in another country. As a graduate researcher, I've been looking for conferences where I could present what I found. I decided to go broader with it," she explained.
She received the SERA Dean's Award for Exceptional Graduate Student Research and got information from Peters and Associate Vice President of Global Learning and Strategy Gigi Do about presenting her research at another conference. She'll be sharing her findings at the 3rd Annual tadTalks Conference at Qatar University in Doha later this month.
Do said that members of the UH-Clear Lake Office of Global Learning and Strategy and the Diplomacy Institute Advisory Committee selected Veguilla Martinez from a field of highly qualified doctoral students. "This is the first year a doctoral student from Texas will represent UHCL and the U.S. at the tadTalks 2022 Conference," she said.
tadTalks is an international graduate student event that is part of the Qatar University Annual Research Forum. The event is modeled after the well-known TED Talks, and speakers provide a 15-minute presentation sharing their perspective on their graduate research to challenge others to conduct their own research to create a lasting impact on the local, regional and international community.
"We know how education was impacted here by the pandemic," Veguilla Martinez said. "I want people to learn as much as possible and avoid the pitfalls. We put so much on the teachers. Let's find ways of supporting them and helping them, and avoiding the levels of teacher attrition we've seen."
She added that there was plenty of research about how the pandemic affected older students in public schools and in higher education, but not much about how online learning had affected kindergartners.
"How do you engage a four-year-old on a computer? High school students know how to use their phones and other devices, but there were many socio-economic implications as well," she said. "In low-income schools, students were given devices, but parents couldn't help or weren't at home. My campus is bilingual, and having that in-person language support is important to students. We couldn't have that during the pandemic, and even though we tried to use technology to substitute and enhance that, they were still missing the language support they would have received from an ESL teacher."
She said that her goal was to influence campus leaders with her research. "I would like to become a superintendent," she said. "I want to be a person who helps principals help teachers help students."
Veguilla Martinez said she would depart for Qatar for a week, beginning March 20. She said graduate researchers from 10 other countries would also be present.
For more information about UHCL's Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, go online.