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  • The I-REECCH Team



    The I-REECCH PI, Dr. Norma Hafenstein and co-PI, Dr. Kristina Hesbol are both professors at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver.

    Contact the I-REECCH team at 


    Dr. Norma Hafenstein

    I-REECCH Principal Investigator

    Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education & Clinical Professor

    Curriculum & Instruction, Teaching and Learning Sciences

    Morgridge College of Education

    University of Denver

    Dr. Kristina Hesbol

    I-REECCH Co-Principal Investigator

    Associate Professor

    Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

    Morgridge College of Education

    University of Denver

    Dr. Robert Reichardt

    I-REECCH Evaluator

    Senior Associate

    APA Consulting



    Norma Lu Hafenstein, Ph.D., is the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education, Department of Teaching and Learning Sciences. A former teacher and administrator, Hafenstein brings decades of experience and expertise in graduate-level and K-12 teaching, teacher preparation, program development and evaluation, supervision, and research. Hafenstein led the development and implementation of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) for the University of Denver’s Education Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Gifted Education. She was a member of the Colorado Department of Education’s Standards Development Team where she helped to design the Gifted Education Core, Specialist, and Director endorsements.

    Hafenstein has secured over $13 million in grants, gifts, and contracts toward Gifted Education at the University of Denver including support through the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act Grant of the US Department of Education, the Bradley Foundation, the Considine Family Foundation, the Sturm Family Foundation, the Buell Foundation, Daniel L. Ritchie, and Alice Collister. Hafenstein is PI for a $2.8 million, U.S. Department of Education, Jacob K. Javits five-year grant from 2020-2025 for I-REECCH: Impacting Rural Education through Expanding Culturally responsive curriculum, Computer science training, and Higher order thinking skills.

    Hafenstein has conducted research in Colorado’s rural school districts since 2014, with the goal of understanding barriers to equitable identification. Her research interests include young gifted children, information-processing styles, social and emotional development, mathematical ability, individualized educational planning, and addressing disproportionality in gifted education. Hafenstein analyzes pre-service teacher training related to the needs of gifted learners and was recently named Chair of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children’s international Teacher Education Position Paper Committee to develop teacher educator standards that support gifted education. Dr. Hafenstein loves music, is a classically trained pianist, currently performs in a women’s choir, is an avid reader, and is interested in art from Impressionist Era to Southwest works.

    Dr. Hesbol received her PhD from Loyola University-Chicago.  In her forty-year career in education, she has taught preK-high school students in public schools, as well as graduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and at Illinois State University.  Dr. Hesbol served as building principal in several culturally and linguistically diverse school districts, as the Coordinator of Literacy and School Improvement in a linguistically and culturally diverse suburban Chicago school district, as an assistant superintendent for human resources for a large unit school district, and has consulted nationally in literacy leadership. As a professor at UIUC, she was named one of twelve Stafford Fellows for the National Institute for Leadership on Disability and Students Placed At-Risk (NILDSPAR).  Dr. Hesbol’s research interests include transformative leadership, learning organizations, and equity.  In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, spending time with her family, traveling back roads, and antiquing.








    Dr. Robert Reichardt started working at APA in 2013. He is a policy researcher with expertise in teacher labor markets, teacher quality, and estimating education program costs. He conducts applied quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation to inform and support education policymaking, strategic planning, decision-making, and non-profit leadership. Recent projects include describing job-embedded professional development, modeling teacher supply and demand, and evaluating the impact of a volunteer tutoring program. Prior to working at APA, Robert ran his own policy research firm, R-Squared Research, LLC.

    He has also led Center for Education Policy Research at the University of Colorado Denver, and The Alliance for Quality Teaching, a non-profit organization working to improve teacher quality. Prior to working in public policy, Robert taught high school science as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa.

    Robert has a PhD in Policy Analysis from the Pardee Rand Graduate School, a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland and he majored in history while at the University of Colorado Boulder as an undergraduate.

    Robert’s main job is working with his wife Amy to raise two girls in Littleton, Colorado.






  • I-REECCH Support Team


    Post-Doctoral Fellow

    Research Project Manager 

    • Lindsey Reinert, EdD

      Lindsey Reinert, EdD, is Post Doctoral Fellow for  I-REECCH as the Project manager and an adjunct faculty at the University of Denver,  Morgridge College of Education, Department of Teaching and Learning Sciences. She also is a Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools, and has her own educational consulting business; Little Red Backpack, LLC. She is a member of the Gifted Education State Advisory Committee (GE-SAC) and is Co-Presiding Governor for the Colorado Academy of Educators for the Gifted, Talented and Creative (CAEGTC). She has actively worked in the field of gifted education for the past 20 years.

    Graduate Assistants


    • Joi Lin, MS
      • Joi Lin is a 3rd year PhD student of Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Gifted Education. Prior, she has worked as a middle and high school math teacher at a charter and public school, Curriculum Trainer with College Preparatory Mathematics, Teaching and Learning Program Assistant and Event Planner with the Colorado Education Association. In 2018-2019, she worked as a Graduate Assistant and AIM-XL Facilitator with several rural school districts in southeastern Colorado to facilitate their development of Comprehensive Health and Wellness Plans through the Morgridge College of Education's Center for Rural School Health and Education (CRSHE). Joi is interested in increasing equitable gifted identification and supporting the career development and well-being of the gifted, talented, and twice-exceptional. In her free time (is there any in grad school?), Joi loves gardening, movies, and spending time with her partner at their home in Littleton.

    • Fayaz Amiri, MA

    Fayaz Amiri is an Afghan Fulbright Scholar. He is a 3rd year Ph.D. student at University of Denver at Education Leadership and Policy Studies department. Amiri has obtained a master’s degree in Comparative and International Education from Lehigh University. His research interest leans in bridging the gap between policies to practice in education setting. In addition, his research agenda include Gender Education, Education Policy Analysis, Curriculum Development and Framework, Role of Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Education sectors. His work with various educational institutions and NGOs, such as Universities of Denver, Lehigh and New York and Education Commission of the States, Creative Associates (Afghan Children Read) focused on strategic program development, policy; research, capacity and institutional development, data management, publishable quality reports, on-site research and so on.

    • Kim Bowers, MA

    Kim Bowers is a third-year doctoral student in the University of Denver’s School Psychology Ph.D. program. Previously, Kim earned a master’s degree in Elementary Education and worked as a first-grade teacher in Nevada. Her bachelor’s degree is in Psychology. While teaching, Kim was able to work with and learn from students from a variety of backgrounds. It was there that she grew a love for individualizing education and understanding student needs. As she continued to hone her interests and skills as a practitioner, Kim developed a passion for working with gifted students and their teachers. Her research experience includes a National Science Foundation grant funded project examining gateway skills in college students and a National Institutes of Health funded project validating the NIH Cognitive Toolbox. Kim joined the I-REECCH team in 2022 in hopes of continuing to align her work with her personal desires to foster appropriate education for the needs of gifted students as well as to support the constellation of adults in these children’s lives in their endeavors for identifying and serving these bright children.

    • Vicki Boley, MEd

    Vicki Boley is a PhD student of Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Gifted Education Leadership at the University of Denver. Vicki holds a MEd specializing in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) education and is completing her Gifted Director K-12 license. Vicki has worked as an 8th grade Spanish and Human Rights Enrichment teacher in Pueblo West, Colorado.



    Research Assistant 

    • Naichen Zhao, MA

    Naichen Zhao is a doctoral student at the Morgridge College of Education, studying Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She is an international student from China. Her research focuses on equitable and inclusive policies and practices for emerging bilingual students and students with immigration backgrounds in the k-12 education context. Before she joined DU, Naichen spent four years teaching English at a university in China and one year as a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her M.A. in Translation and Interpreting in Britain and B.A. in international business in China.

    Evaluators, APA Consulting

    • Dale DeCesare, JD
      • Dale DeCesare joined APA in 2005, and has worked in the field of public policy development and analysis at the local, state and federal levels for over 20 years. Dale’s primary focus is on conducting formative and summative evaluations of education programs, evaluating and understanding the components of quality teacher mentoring programs, analyzing the practices which contribute to schools with high need student populations "beating the odds" in terms of their academic performance, and analyzing working conditions in schools that attract and retain top teachers.

    • Brianna McGagin
      • Brianna is a pursuing her A.M. in Urban Education Policy at Brown University. Prior, she served the state of Georgia as a policy and research analyst for the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement in Atlanta, Georgia and as a high school math teacher in Metro Atlanta. Her professional aspirations include working with a think tank as a policy analyst and potentially as an education consultant on a state or federal level. To pursue her interests in culturally responsive curriculum reform, Brianna wants to study quantitative analysis, developmental economics, research methodology, and policy writing. Outside of working and studying, Brianna enjoys roller skating and instructing indoor cycling classes.


      • Coming Soon

    Content Advisors

    • Dr. Brette Garner
      • Dr. Garner’s research and scholarship focuses on mathematics teacher learning. As a middle-school math teacher in Houston, she learned the importance of supporting students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics. At the same time, she saw that there were few opportunities for teachers to learn how to shift their instruction toward more ambitious goals—especially in schools serving historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities. To address this problem, Dr. Garner attended grad school at The University of Texas at Austin and Vanderbilt University. Dr. Garner uses design-based research methodologies to develop partnerships with educators and support their learning goals. She uses qualitative methods, including discourse and interaction analysis, to study teachers’ learning opportunities. In her dissertation research, Dr. Garner analyzed the ways that teachers learn from assessment data in collaborative workgroup settings, particularly in light of the distortive effects of test-based accountability policies. In her current project, Dr. Garner is working with a research team to develop video feedback protocols to support secondary mathematics teacher learning.

    • Dr. Kimberly Schmidt
      • Dr. Schmidt recently received her PhD from University of Colorado Boulder in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in literacy.  Previously, Dr. Schmidt spent 17 years in public and private schools in a variety of contexts as a teacher and professional developer.  Her research interests include multimodal and digital literacies and culturally responsive pedagogy. She is currently working on conference presentations and journal publications from her dissertation work.  Her personal interests include reading, running, tennis, and watching her three children play baseball and soccer.
    Advisory Board

    • Dr. Terrence Blackman
      • Dr. Blackman is Dean of The School of Science, Health Technology at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is an Associate Professor of Mathematics and a former Chair of The Department of Mathematics at Medgar Evers College. He is also a former Assistant Professor in The Department of Education Research Policy and Practice in the Morgridge College of Education at The University of Denver and a former Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT). In his role as Dean of the School of Science, Health and Technology, Dr. Blackman has been a dynamic advocate for innovation in teaching, learning and research. He has committed the institution to developing a scientific culture that will successfully and sustainably recruit, retain, develop and graduate highly competent, motivated students who can advance knowledge in science, health, technology, and other areas of scholarship in a manner that will best serve our community, Central Brooklyn, our state, our nation and our world in the 21st century.

    • Dr. Joy Esquierdo
      • Dr. J. Joy Esquierdo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas-Pan American. She is currently the Bilingual Education Graduate Program Coordinator and an Associate Director for the Center for Bilingual Studies. She received her Ph.D in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University at College Station in 2006; her Bachelor of Arts and her Master of Education in Elementary Education-Bilingual/Bicultural from the University of Texas-Pan American. She taught and worked in Texas public schools for nine years before working in academia. The majority of her teaching experience is from working in elementary schools in the Rio Grande Valley and in the Houston-area. She has provided teacher training in the areas of gifted bilingual education, dual-language education, and various sessions on how to increase the academic rigor in bilingual classrooms.

    • Dr. Muhammad Khalifa
      • Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is the Executive Director of Urban Education Initiatives at Ohio State University and former Robert Beck Endowed Professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His research examines how urban school leaders enact culturally responsive leadership and anti-oppressive schooling practices. He has written extensively on minoritized student identities in school, and how schools can become liberatory spaces for youth. In addition to his previous work as an urban educator in Detroit, he has worked with education ministers in Africa and Asia and has helped them craft educational goals and reforms. He is the author of the highly acclaimed new book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Harvard Education Press, 2018).

    • Dr. Rebecca McKinney
      • Dr. Rebecca McKinney currently serves as the Director of Gifted Education for the Colorado Department of Education. Prior to joining the Colorado Department of Education, she led Denver Public Schools Gifted and Talented Department for 5 years.  Dr. McKinney has a strong focus on equity in gifted education working to increase access and opportunity for culturally, linguistically, economically diverse, and twice exceptional learners. She holds her doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching with a concentration in Gifted Education from the University of Denver and a masters degree in Special Education: Gifted and Talented from the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. McKinney has over 20 years of experience with expertise in curriculum, instruction, early childhood education, educational leadership and gifted education. A Colorado native, Rebecca lives in Denver with her husband, two highly gifted children, and two dogs. 

    • Dr. Alex Red Corn
      • Alex RedCorn (Osage) serves as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at Kansas State University, Dr.Coordinator of Indigenous Partnerships, Co-Chair of the Indigenous Faculty and Staff Alliance, Executive Director of the Kansas Association for Native American Education (KANAE) and Program Coordinator for the Qualitative Methods Graduate Certificate. His scholarship and service is focused on building capacities for Native nations to take on a more prominent role in the education of their citizens.

This portfolio last updated: 27-Jun-2023 10:53 AM