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EHE professor wins highest national honor for research

Anthony Rodriguez
January 13, 2017

Shayne Piasta, associate professor of teaching and learning, is one of two U.S. education researchers, and the only professor from Ohio State, honored by President Barack Obama with the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The award is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers, according to a statement from The White House.

“I am really grateful for the recognition,” Piasta said. “It speaks to the growing attention and recognition of how important the early education research is that I and many others have been doing.”

Piasta is one of 102 scientists nationwide who received the presidential award. Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the awards highlight the key role that American innovation plays to grow the economy and tackle the greatest challenges facing the country.

Piasta focuses her research on two main areas: she studies how children acquire alphabet knowledge and develops techniques to guide alphabet instruction; and she identifies and validates educational practices to support children’s academic development.

Her alphabet knowledge research suggests children should know at least 18 uppercase and 15 lowercase letters by the end of preschool to be set for success in formal education.

Piasta’s current research explores how effective one supplemental curriculum is at helping kids reduce achievement gaps in preschool programs before entering kindergarten. The study tracks the progress of nearly 400 students from kindergarten through the third grade - where the gap typically appears.

Being recognized with this award has been Piasta’s vision for several years. While in graduate school at Florida State University, she was selected for an Institute of Education Sciences panel in 2008 that included Laura Justice, EHE Distinguished Professor, and her mentor Carol Connor – both of whom have been honored with the PECASE award.

“These women achieved at a high level in academia, and that was impressive,” Piasta said. “Even then, I thought this would be an amazing achievement for me someday.”

The congratulations for Piasta have been pouring in since the announcement of the award.

“This is an outstanding honor for Dr. Piasta,” Dean Cheryl Achterberg said. “Her research on early childhood education is discovering important distinctions in how children learn, and how getting it right at these crucial development periods is critical to their long-term educational success. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

“Shayne’s scholarship deserves the extraordinary recognition and distinction from the President’s Office,” said Christian Faltis, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning. “Her research and teaching stand out in our department. We are so proud that she represents our T&L faculty with the Presidential Award.”

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” President Obama said. “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that Federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”


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