Meet the COE Team
Dr. Karol Schmidt
Associate Professor and Program Division Lead
Dr. Karol Schmidt earned her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Argosy University and her J.D. from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She also received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and B.A. in Communication Arts from Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Schmidt's research efforts focus on topics related to leadership, teacher preparation, and assessments.
She has over 10 years of instructional and leadership experience at the elementary, secondary, post-secondary and graduate levels. Dr. Schmidt also holds Secondary Teaching (7-12) and Principal (K-12) Certificates from the State of Arizona and has served as an educator in K-12 classrooms at public and private schools. Prior to joining Grand Canyon University, Dr. Schmidt served as an Assistant Dean of Student Outcomes at Phoenix School of Law, where she developed and implemented programming as well as serving on the executive leadership team for accreditation.
Dr. Joanna Simpson
Associate Professor and Program Division Lead
After nearly ten years in the classroom, Dr. Joanna Simpson made the move into higher education. She has spent the last several years teaching literacy, reading and gifted education courses to pre-service and continuing teachers. She has extensive experience in writing curriculum for initial certification programs and advanced degrees and served as a director of urban and reading programs. Her areas of research and expertise include gifted education, adolescent literacy and differentiated instruction with a focus on marginalized populations.
Dr. Simpson is an Arizona native who graduated from ASU with her bachelor's degree in secondary education with an English focus. She holds an Arizona teaching certificate for high school English, and is endorsed in Gifted and Structured English Immersion. She began her career as a high school English teacher in inner-city Phoenix, served as the gifted students' coordinator and earned two graduate degrees from Grand Canyon University. Dr. Simpson's doctoral degree is in Instructional Leadership, where she researched curriculum about the socio-emotional needs of gifted adolescents.
Jena Akard has over 10 years of educational experience serving in various capacities in the Phoenix area. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading and Language Arts, and she is a graduate of the prestigious RODEL Aspiring Principal Initiative. Jena earned a Masters in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and Bachelors in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University.
In the public school system, she served as a K-1 grade teacher, Reading Specialist, Instructional Coach, Writing Coach, Curriculum Specialist and an Assistant Principal. Currently, she is a member of the TeacherSolution Team for the AZK12 Center. Serving in K-12 education brought Jena a great sense of fulfillment, because she had the opportunity to directly make a difference in the lives of students everyday. She has found that same sense of fulfillment working with aspiring teachers, knowing that the work she does today, is an investment in future students.
Jena has been married for seven years to her wonderful husband and has two girls. She attends Christ Church of the Valley in Peoria. She enjoys reading, running, gardening and learning.
Lisa Bernier has been an Arizona educator for the past 27 years. During this time, she has served as a teacher and administrator in district, charter, virtual charter, and private Christian schools in regular education, special education, and ESL. Most recently, she developed a unique special education resource and inclusion program at a private Christian high school. For the past four years, she has served as an education adjunct professor at both Arizona Christian University and Grand Canyon University. Currently, Lisa is pursuing her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at Grand Canyon University. Her life goals are to help train, equip and encourage the next generation of education professionals.
Lisa and her husband have four adult children and three grandchildren. They live near South Mountain and enjoy the Arizona outdoors very much. They are currently training for their scuba certification. Lisa and her husband are also active members of their church. Lisa is currently singing on the worship team and in the choir and is part of a teaching team in her adult community class.
Abby Brown is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Education. She completed her Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Middle Level Education at the University of Northern Iowa, and her master's degree in education at Northern Arizona University. She is currently working towards her doctorate in leadership through Creighton University. Abby taught in K-12 education for seven years in a variety of roles, including middle school math and science, math interventionist, and data coach. She spent the last year as the Coordinator of Academic Programs for the College of Education here at GCU. Abby and her husband enjoy watching college football in the fall, traveling, and tackling home improvement projects. They also have two daughters in preschool that make every day a new adventure!
Paul Danuser has taught for 27 years in junior and senior high schools in Wisconsin, Washington, California, and here in Arizona, and has taught the last 11 years at University of Phoenix. Paul received his master's degree in Secondary Education, and his bachelor's is in Elementary Education from Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. Paul is currently working on his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and hopes to use the work done in that program to affect positive change in the motivation of students of higher education.
Outside of the classroom, Paul is married to a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and educator, and they combined have three kids ranging in age from 15 to 22. The Danusers have a cat (Poe) and a Beagle (Buster), so their household never gets too boring! Paul has played competitive baseball his entire life and still plays in the Men's Senior Baseball League, which he absolutely loves. Paul is also a lifelong (and diehard) Green Bay Packer fan and loves the Suns, D'backs, Minnesota Twins, and Cardinals, and now of course the Antelopes of Grand Canyon! Paul is looking to make a positive impact on the lives of the students throughout the College of Education and other disciplines.
Rebekah Dyer graduated from Arizona State University West with a bachelor's degree in special education and a dual certification in both regular and special education. She completed her master's degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. Currently, Mrs. Dyer is pursuing her doctorate degree at Grand Canyon University.
In the eleven years that Mrs. Dyer taught special education, she fulfilled a variety of roles: she spent five years in a 6th-8th grade self-contained special education classroom; she taught special education students for a virtual school for six years; she was the middle school resource teacher as well as a middle school self-contained cross-categorical special education teacher. Furthermore, Mrs. Dyer has taught at Phoenix College, and she has been a college supervisor for teacher candidates at Rio Salado Community College and Grand Canyon University. She is passionate about students with special needs, and she enjoys working with future special educators. Originally from Texas, she has been in Arizona since 1992. She and her husband of 13 years have two boys, ages nine and six. Mrs. Dyer enjoys spending time with family, playing board games, reading, and being outdoors.
Dr. Jennifer Fontenot is a new resident of the State of Arizona and a new member of the faculty of the College of Education at Grand Canyon University. Her first assignment at GCU will be instructing courses in early childhood education and literacy as an Associate Professor of Education.
Dr. Fontenot is a 30-year veteran teacher consultant in public education, a former adjunct faculty member in the Department of Special Education at Eastern Michigan University and has also served as an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She has been given the Michigan Teacher Educator of the Year Award for her work in teacher training programs and development. In addition, she is a Michigan Department of Education Writing Consultant. Dr. Fontenot is a published author and her Blueprint for Exceptional Writing Framework has become a leading writing program for English Language Learners in the State of Michigan and she continues to provide systemic training across the State.
Dr. Fontenot received her Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University with a major in elementary and special education. Next she earned a Master's Degree from Eastern with a focus on special education. She was also awarded a Specialist of Arts Degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern. She completed a doctorate program at Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan) in Supervision and Management with a focus on special education program development.
Dr. Kay Hansen
Dr. Kay Hansen started her career in Education as a Language Arts teacher for 6th, 7th and 8th graders in Kansas.
She received her Master's degree as a Reading Specialist and her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction/ Language and Literacy from Arizona State University. She has worked with pre-service teachers as a Faculty and Chair at Grand Canyon University. Currently, she serves as Associate Professor.
Through her roles at the University she has been a part of studies that investigated boys' attitudes about reading and girls' interpretations of female roles in young adult literature. Currently, she is involved in a research directed at strategies used to increase silent fluent reading and best practices in" reading to learn".
Dr. Hansen has developed curriculum for struggling high school readers as well as contributed as a consultant for high school teachers looking for strategies to increase their students' content area literacy. Her passion is to ensure that all students and adults have access and the tools necessary to become fluent readers.
Dr. Carlyn Ludlow
Dr. Carlyn Ludlow is currently serving as the Associate Professor in the College of Education. Dr. Ludlow received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy from Pepperdine University, her Master's Degree from Chapman University, and her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Arizona. During her tenure in education, she has been a classroom teacher, a curriculum designer, a university faculty member and program chair, and a research/curriculum consultant for schools, businesses, and government agencies.
Dr. Ludlow's research interests include educational policy, curriculum, assessment and evaluation, and teacher quality, education, and certification. She has been recognized by districts, state agencies, and private corporations for her research, publications, and presentations in these areas, including twice being honored as a university faculty member of the year. Her teaching interests include assessment and evaluation, research design and methodology, educational technology, instructional design, and educational policy. She is a member of AASA (American Association of School Administrators) and ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development).
Dr. Jim Mostofo
Dr. Jim Mostofo is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Education. He earned his doctorate from Arizona State University in the area of Educational Leadership and Innovation. His research focused on Lesson Study with Pre-Service Secondary Mathematics Teachers. When pursuing an undergraduate degree in education at GCU, he played on the basketball team. He's proud to be a GCU Alum! Before joining the COE team, he was a clinical instructor for three years at Arizona State University where he taught methods courses. Additionally, he supervised secondary math teachers. Dr. Mostofo also teaches workshops for schools and districts around the state in areas such as strategies for improving students' math scores, aligning curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, questioning strategies, motivating students, classroom engagement and management, and math AEPA preparation.
Before teaching in higher education, Dr. Mostofo taught high school and middle school math and coached high school basketball for seventeen years here in the Valley. He focused mainly on Algebra I and students who struggled to be successful in math. Like everyone, he has many roles in his life. He enjoys attending his church weekly as well as working out daily and living a healthy lifestyle. An avid sports fan, he enjoys watching the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals.
Dr. Nydia L. Palomino-Lee
Dr. Nydia L. Palomino-Lee earned her Ed.D. in Instructional Leadership from Argosy University, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University, a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Ottawa University and is a certified reading specialist. She has served as a subject matter expert for GCU, the Phoenix Union High School District as a Professional Learning Community Leader, testing consultant/coordinator for standardized testing, curriculum specialist, professional development specialist and new teacher mentor. During her tenure in education, she has developed curriculum and specialized in behavioral management for students and teachers in Title I high schools.
Her research interest includes student and parent success, leadership, motivating students and parents, spiritual motivation, self-reflection for higher achievement, classroom and life management and positive environments/relationships.