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Michelle Szpara, PhD

Professor, Education
Educational Leadership Department

Michelle Yvonne Szpara, PhD, chose Cabrini University for its specific focus on social justice advocacy and action in educating teacher leaders.

Szpara brings to Cabrini decades of experience in teaching and research on multicultural education, differentiated instruction and supporting diverse populations in schools.

“Combining an intentional focus on social justice with the practice of multicultural education is crucial if we are going to achieve systemic change in our schools,” she says.

Upon arriving at Cabrini University in 2012, Szpara launched an initiative to showcase the research and scholarship of Cabrini’s graduate students, through the Annual Arts, Research, and Scholarship Symposium, held in the spring of each academic year.

She has also brought a research showcase to the annual Cabrini Day celebrations each fall semester, to highlight the work of Cabrini’s doctoral students.

Szpara has been supporting doctoral students in research development and dissertation writing since the 1990s, at Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Long Island University, and now Cabrini University. She helped to launch the EdD program at Long Island University, and is currently supporting Cabrini students in the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program.

Previously, Szpara served as associate professor of curriculum and instruction in New York for 10 years, working with both pre-service teachers and in-service teacher leaders, to enhance their skills in supporting diverse student populations. Prior to this, she taught English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) for more than a decade, working with teens, college students and adult English language learners.

Szpara is certified to teach chemistry at the secondary level, and she completed her student-teaching in the Reading School District, teaching in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

She has lived in Argentina, Spain, and the former Soviet Union, and taught in Mexico through the Rotary Exchange program.

Szpara earned two bachelor’s degrees from Pennsylvania State University, in the physical sciences and in secondary education/chemistry, and a doctorate of philosophy in educational linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania.



Szpara, M. Y. (2017). Injustice for English Language Learners – Common Core Raises Academic Standards without Increasing Supports: A Descriptive Case Study of a Philadelphia Teacher Cohort. Literacy Practice & Research, 43(1), 26–33.

Francis, D., Colbry, S., Gratch Hoyle, A., Ratmansky, L., & Szpara, M.Y. (2017, September). Opting into a Faculty Scholarship Community: Benefiting productivity and personal well-being. The Journal of Faculty Development, 31 (3).

Szpara, M. Y. (2017, Spring). Changing staff attitudes through leadership development and equity teams. In A. Esmail (Ed.), Diversity, equity, and social justice handbook for practicing educators: Leadership. Rowman and Littlefield Education.

Kamler, E., Szpara, M., Dornisch, M., Goubeaud, K., Levine, G., & Bretchel, S. (2009). Realities of a school/university partnership: Focus on leadership. Journal of School Leadership, 19 (1), p.81-117.

Szpara, M. Y., & Ahmad, I. (2007). Supporting English-language learners in social studies class: Results from a study of high school teachers. The Social Studies, September/October, (189-195).

Szpara, M. Y., & Wylie, E. C. (2007). Writing differences in teacher performance assessments: An investigation of African American Language and Edited American English. Applied Linguistics, Advance Access published on May 10, 2007, DOI 10.1093/applin/amm003.

Szpara, M. Y., Ahmad, I., & Pederson, P. V. (2007). Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus: A banker who believes credit is a human right. Social Education, 71(1), 9-14.

Szpara, M. Y. (2006). Talk among student teachers in an urban high school: Questioning dimensions of difference. The Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching and Research, 2, 207-220.

Ahmad, I., & Szpara, M. Y. (2005). Education for democratic citizenship and peace: Proposal for a cosmopolitan model. Educational Studies, 38(2), 8-23.

Szpara, M. Y., & Wylie, E. C. (2005). National Board for Professional Teaching Standards assessor training: Impact of bias reduction exercises. Teachers College Record, 107(4), 803-841.

Ahmad, I., & Szpara, M. Y. (2003). Muslim children in urban America: The New York City schools experience. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA), 23(2), 295-301.

Wylie, E. C., & Szpara, M. Y. (2003). National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) bias-reduction training: Impact on assessors’ awareness (Research Report Series RR-04-12). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Wylie, E. C., & Szpara, M. Y. (2003). Writing differences in teacher performance assessments: Use of African American Language (Research Report Series RR-03-26). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Szpara, M. Y. (1994). Cross-cultural communication in the Writing Center and in the tutoring session: A process of sensitization (Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, WPEL). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.


Szpara, M., Sheety, A., Gratch Hoyle, A., Ratmansky, L. & Francis, D. (2020, February). Partnering to Establish a Sustainable Profession: How a Scholarship Community can Contribute to Pedagogy, Productivity, and Well-being. American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.

Szpara, M. Y. (2019, October). Teaching Latino/a/x and Hispanic Cultures Through Kid-Friendly Snack Preparation. Pennsylvania Early Childhood Education Summit, State College, PA

Szpara, M. Y. (2019, March). Culturally Responsive Meal Preparation and Planning in Early Childhood Centers and Elementary Schools. Capital Area Chapter, Pennsylvania Association of the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC), Messiah College, PA.

Gratch Hoyle, A., Sheety, A., Francis, D., Ratmansky, L. & Szpara, M. (2019). How a Faculty Scholarship Community Can Contribute to Your Productivity and Personal Well-Being. Textbook & Academic Authoring (TAA) Conference, Philadelphia, PA.

Szpara, M. Y., Pencheff, C., & Harrison, S. (2016, April). Teacher Action Research with a Social Justice Focus: A Path to Community Change. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.

Colbry, S., Gratch Hoyle, A., Francis, D., Ratmansky, L., Sheety, A. & Szpara, M. Y. (2016, February). How a Faculty Scholarship Community (FSC) Can Contribute to Your Pedagogy, Productivity, and Personal Well-being. Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy (CHEP), Blacksburg, VA.

Szpara, M. Y. (2015, Sept.). Calling Teachers to Social Justice Action, through Teacher Research. World Education Research Association (WERA), in conjunction with the European Educational Research Association (EERA) Conference, Budapest, Hungary.

Szpara, M. Y. (2015, April). Defining social justice in teacher action research. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Szpara, M. Y. (2015). Outcomes Assessment for Social Justice in Teacher Action Research. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), Atlanta, Georgia.

Szpara, M. Y. (2014, November). Training the trainer: Creating safer spaces for early childhood educators and children in the LGBTQ community. 24th Annual National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) International Conference, Tucson, AZ.