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Aug. 12, 2022

Back to school: MSU experts discuss

As K-12 students return back to the classroom for the 2022-23 school year, Michigan State University experts discuss a variety of topics such as student mental health, academic success, remote learning, and more.


Patricia A. Edwards is a professor of language and literacy in the Teacher Education Department at Michigan State University. She is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in parent involvement; home, school and community partnerships; multicultural literacy; early literacy; and family/intergenerational literacy, especially among poor and minority children.


Contact:, 517-432-0858


“It is important for caregivers to be involved in the schooling of children because they not only enhance academic performance, but they also have positive influence on a child’s attitude and behavior. A caregiver’s interest and encouragement in a child’s education can affect the child's attitude toward school, classroom conduct, self-esteem, absenteeism and motivation.”


Jungmin Kwon is an assistant professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Her research centers on immigrant children and families, transnational migration, bi/multilingualism and teacher preparation for linguistically and culturally diverse students.


Contact:, 517-355-6549


“Students from immigrant households bring a wealth of linguistic, cultural and experiential knowledge that can connect multiple countries and contexts to the classroom. They learn better and thrive more in their classrooms when their multilingual knowledge and out-of-school experiences are valued and used as resources. It is important for teachers to pay attention to what immigrant students already know and leverage that knowledge for teaching.” 


Katharine O. Strunk is a professor of education policy at Michigan State University. Rooted in the fields of economics and public policy, Strunk's work centers on structures that are central to state and district operations and policy and the ways these structures affect policymakers' decisions and outcomes. Her research examines teacher labor markets, school and district improvement and accountability policies, and efforts to improve student achievement.


Contact:, 517-884-6289


“It is clear that students missed critical opportunities to learn during the pandemic – particularly students who spent more time learning remotely. As we enter the 2022-23 school year, it will be important for educators to continue focusing efforts on meeting students where they are and helping accelerate learning. At the same time, it will be crucial that policymakers continue to provide educators with the necessary resources to support educators’ hard work. Pandemic learning recovery will not be a short-term project; we cannot lose focus on making sure we set our students up for success.”


Chioma Torres is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She specializes in neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD and autism; learning disabilities and challenges with school; elimination disorders; behavioral sleep disorders and developmental outcomes related to prematurity. Her research focuses on the intersection of disability and social determinants of health, infant mental health home visiting, media use and child behavior, parenting and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education, mental health and family stress.


Contact: cell: 517-203-8139, office: 517-884-8600


“The mental health crisis affecting our children is complex and multifactorial owing to our political climate, social injustices, violence and safety concerns in schools, caregiver and family loss from the covid pandemic, financial challenges and social isolation or lack of social connectedness, to name a few. During this time, professionals and researchers have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, poor sleep, tics, mental health emergencies and suicide attempts. It’s important to prioritize school attendance and activities and academic supports, but to also focus on building social skills and offering social supports for all students, specifically those with individualized education plans.”


Charis Lauren Wahman is an assistant professor of special education and a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral. Her research focuses on training early childhood teachers on evidence-based practices within the framework of Positive Behavior Supports to stop suspension and expulsion of preschool children due to real or perceived violations of childcare policies. She also examines the experiences of families whose children have significant social and emotional needs. 


Contact:, 517-355-1837


“Suspension and expulsion practices in childcare environments are a troubling indication of what we value as a society. This nonevidence-based practice reflects a deep disconnect from the children we have pledged to teach and train and harms not only children, but the entire family system. Every child has a right to educational access and opportunity. Every family has a right to be treated with dignity. Childcare policies and practices need to prioritize human connection over fear.”


Kristin Rispoli is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education at Michigan State’s College of Education.Her research interests include mental health promotion in children with or at risk for developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. She primarily focuses on intervention models designed to engage caregivers and service providers, including teachers, in designing and implementing supports provided to children with developmental disabilities across multiple contexts. 


Contact:, 517-432-9629


“Long-term success for students is not unidimensional nor does it occur in a vacuum. Rather, students learn within the complex and interconnected systems of schools, families and communities. Their mental health affects academic success, and schools must work with families and community providers to collaboratively address the critical needs of today’s youth. Parent and teacher engagement in intervention is critical, particularly for students with developmental and learning needs, such as autism.”

By: Kaylie Crowe

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