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Curriculum Research, Early Childhood Education, Aesthetics, and Teacher Education

CREATE Graduate Students

Profile of Jay Brennan

Jay Brennan

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

My Ph.D. research focuses on the simultaneous acquisition of two languages from birth, or what is often referred to as bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA). My work avoids comparing bilingual children's development to that of monolingual children acquiring the same languages. By placing the individual language learner at the center of research, we better avoid stigmatizing bilingual development patterns. These stigmata often reinforce myths of BFLA that result in policies guided by myth. By studying the bilingual child on their own merits, my work attempts to describe part of multilingual language development's unique structure. By examining bilingual children on their own merits, this work enriches an image of how BFLA differs from monolingual acquisition and what these differences actually mean. By dispelling myths surrounding BFLA, this research can provide a more equitable basis for decision making about raising and educating children bilingually. My research is in resistance to certain myths surrounding BLFA that guide education policy; myths such as the monolingual brain's superiority, less time-on-task for multilinguals, misdiagnosis of language impairment among multilinguals, and a general irreverence for minority languages and cultures indisputable among majority school curriculums around the world.
Profile of Kutasha Bryan Silva

Kutasha Bryan Silva

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Kutasha Bryan-Silva is an educator, musician and scholar. She focuses her research on aesthetic, foundational and digital literacy development in Latino Communities. Kutasha is from Vieques, Puerto Rico and served as faculty in the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico for over a decade, teaching children cello, orchestra and music theory. She also worked as a Curriculum Consultant for Head Start Teachers on the island, mentoring them on how to teach social values through music to young preschoolers. As a cellist, Kutasha represented the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra for a decade with the Know Your Orchestra program and traveled throughout the island offering lectures to K-12 students on classical music. She remains active as a professional musician playing as a substitute with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony and local musical productions. Kutasha’s studies include a M.A in Cello Performance from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico and a B.A in Women Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently a Doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois and serves as the 5th grade music and art teacher at the University Primary School in Champaign, Illinois.
Profile of Ashley Dawson

Ashley Dawson

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Ashley Dawson began her teaching career in Hong Kong as an ESL teacher. After moving to Shenzhen, China, in 2014, she taught multiple subjects in the international department attached to a local public high school. In 2016, she returned to the U.S., where she began her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. After completing her degree, she entered the doctoral program to pursue her research interests in education.
Profile of Briana Hendrickson

Briana Hendrickson

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Briana Hendrickson, a 2013 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate, has returned to the University of Illinois to complete her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. While receiving her BA at Illinois, Briana studied English and Secondary Education. Briana spent four years teaching high school English full-time and is currently a part-time English teacher at Monticello High School. Briana obtained her Master’s in English at Eastern Illinois University where she taught Composition and co-taught a Young Adult Literature course, which spurred her current research interests: writing instruction, the use of YA literature in the classroom, and culturally relevant pedagogy. In addition to these research interests, Briana also has a passion for teacher education, especially for secondary preservice teachers, which she plans on pursuing during her time here at Illinois.
Profile of Angelica Taylor

Angelica Taylor

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Angelica Taylor is a second-year doctoral student in the CREATE Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction Program. Angelica taught preschool in community-based programming for five years before receiving her Masters and transitioning to an Assistant Director role. Before attending the University of Illinois. Angelica worked in Early Intervention servicing children with special needs ages birth to three years. She also taught at Illinois State University as an Instructional Professor.

Profile of Sylvia Ya-Hsuan Yang

Sylvia Ya-Hsuan Yang

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Sylvia Yang is from Taiwan and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum and Instruction program. She began her carrier as a middle school English teacher in Taiwan and earned her Master of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in 2018. She is currently working as a research assistant and museum educator at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign. She is also a Human-Centered Design Scholar at the Siebel Center for Design. Her current research is focused on using a human-centered design lens to examine program design in art museums.

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