James Hernandez

James Hernandez

"Freedom to boundlessly serve students."

College: Education
Degree Program: Educational Psychology and Learning Systems
Degree: Doctorate

Award: McKnight Doctoral Fellowship (2019)


Video Credit: Nia Alexander

Why FSU?
The Florida State University Educational Psychology, Learning and Cognition doctoral program was the only graduate program I applied to. FSU has the faculty, research, and opportunities that aligned with my interests. By pursuing a Florida State University graduate degree, I continue to gain valuable research skills and practical educational leadership knowledge that will assist me in becoming a marketable educational entrepreneur.

Motivation to pursue a graduate degree
I am motivated to pursue a graduate degree because I have exhausted all other avenues of growth in the educational field. I have been a fifth grade teacher, private tutor, middle school substitute teacher, and college advisor. Although each of these experiences continued to fuel my commitment to the education profession, they also left me feeling powerless because my scope of assistance was limited to my job description and highest degree earned. I realized that earning a PhD would allow me to limitlessly serve students for the rest of my life. Once I came to this realization and found FSU’s learning and cognition program, I focused all of my efforts on achieving this goal.

Importance of research and work
My program of research involves supporting teachers. I have chosen classroom management because it is an area of practice that many teachers struggle with and an area of research that could use a teacher’s perspective. I have conducted research on culturally responsive classroom management in an effort to identify practical strategies that teachers could use to stop punishing students for their diversity and instead celebrate those students because of their diversity. I am also conducting a longitudinal analysis of prekindergarten teacher classroom management practices across three years with three different groups of students. This study will be the first time that teacher classroom management strategies have been longitudinally analyzed over three years. The findings of this study could begin to help teachers and researchers identify if, how, and why teachers should or should not change their classroom management practices depending on their students’ behavior. My future research will investigate alternative educational environments that support teachers. In an era when teachers are leaving the field en masse, alternative educational environments are quickly sprouting across the country. However, it’s unknown whether these educational environments are any better or worse than the public schools teachers are leaving. This research intends to assist in solving this question.

Advice for anyone considering graduate school
If you are pursuing a PhD, you are not only applying to a program, but you are also applying for an apprenticeship with a professor. Find a fit with a professor who matches your research interests, your passion in the field, and your personality. Find a professor with a lab that has colleagues who will support and collaborate with you. If you cannot find a program that matches all of the above, travel and gain field experience. Trust me: experience will help you find the right graduate school.

Accomplishments during graduate career
I am a proud past participant of the FAMU FSU PURPOSE Fellowship Program (Partners United for Research Pathways Oriented to Social Justice in Education). During my PURPOSE Fellowship, I was selected as the Best Overall Graduate Student at the Florida Educational Research Association Graduate Student Poster Session where I presented research on Culturally Responsive Classroom Management with Makana Craig and Dr. Alysia D. Roehrig. I am also proud of earning second place in the inaugural Florida State University’s Master in Four Competition. I am a recipient of the Florida Education Fund McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, and, most recently, I was awarded the Dr. Linda J. Smith Endowed Scholarship for Lifelong Learning.

Career aspirations
My career aspiration is to build lifespan development centers dedicated to providing an individualized, real-time, research-informed educational experience. The centers would provide a place where anyone, at any age, can come and learn anything in an effort to provide students with practical skills and knowledge to pursue their passions.