Dr. Nancy Ruppert has taught middle school math for 18 years. She helped design the middle school at PK Yonge Laboratory School at University of Florida and instituted one of the first middle school teams in Duval County Schools, Jacksonville, Florida. Her dissertation was on what makes effective teams and Dr. Paul George was the chair of her committee. Over the course of the last three decades she has served as the president of the Association for MIddle Level Education Board of Trustees and the National Professors of Middle Level Education. Additionally she has chaired or co-chaired all of the Southeast Professors of Middle Level Symposia designed to bring middle level professors together for research and sharing of best practices. Currently she is the Chair of the Department of Education at University of North Carolina Asheville and serves on the outreach committees for North Carolina Professors of Education and the North Carolina Association of Colleges of Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialty Interest Group. The current work of her department is to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion intentionally in college classes via individual exploration and teaching students CRT and restorative practices.
Dr. Tracy W. Smith is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Appalachian State University (ASU). She is also the Faculty Fellow for Mentoring Initiatives for the College of Education. Though she has been at the university for two decades, she still joyfully recalls her years teaching middle school language arts and social studies and is grateful that social media allows her to stay connected to her former middle school students who are now interesting and beautiful adults. Smith enjoys life with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, including the musical traditions and hiking the region offers. She and her husband are currently parenting two adolescent daughters. In 2017, Smith was awarded the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. She has also received the College of Education Outstanding Teaching, Mentoring, and Community of Practice Awards as well as the Appalachian Student Government Association Outstanding Teacher Award. In 2001, she received the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Her research interests include mentoring and educational development in higher education, middle level education and teacher preparation, the relationship between teaching expertise and student learning, and evaluating the depth of student understanding. She has had articles published in journals such as the To Improve the Academy: A Journal of Educational Development, Journal of Teacher Education, Middle School Journal, Clearing House, and Teacher Education and Practice.