Learning Leader

CLI's Tricia Zucker earns Presidential Award for helping at-risk children

Photo Tricia Zucker, PhD

Tricia Zucker, PhD, is helping students at Yellowstone Academy achieve their full potential.
(Photo by Maricruz Kwon/UTHealth)

In school districts across the Lone Star State, programs developed by Tricia Zucker, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) are helping students achieve their full potential.

In recognition of her efforts, Zucker, the associate director of the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, will be presented the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers on July 25 in Washington, D.C. Zucker is the Harriet and Joe Foster Distinguished Professor at UTHealth.

It is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to early career researchers who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology. Zucker was nominated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, which funds part of her research.

“Dr. Zucker has been instrumental in the early childhood successes we have experienced at Yellowstone Academy,” said Ryan Dolibois, executive director of the Third Ward charter school in Houston, which has approximately 120 kindergartners and prekindergartners. “Programs designed by Dr. Zucker have directly impacted our children’s language and literacy. She has also provided our teachers with skills needed to enhance early learning.”

The Children’s Learning Institute gives schools learning solutions that produce proven, effective results through scientific research and evidence-based Interventions.

Susan Landry, PhD, founder and director of the Children’s Learning Institute, attributes Zucker’s success to her inquisitiveness, innovative spirit, and ability to transform research into practice.

Zucker is passionate about understanding how children learn and encouraging their development, said Landry, who is the Albert and Margaret Alkek Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Development and the Michael Matthew Knight Memorial Professor in Pediatrics at UTHealth.

“She also ensures that her work is disseminated where it can be most helpful. Currently, she collaborates with the Children’s Museum of Houston, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, and multiple school districts,” Landry said.

Zucker’s love of teaching began when she signed up for Teach for America in college. Later as a kindergarten teacher for primarily at-risk children, she found herself intrigued and interested in the developmental aspects of children’s learning and literacy.

In 2015, Zucker was awarded a development grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to develop a program to help parents and teachers work together to improve child learning.

In 2018, she received a grant from the National Science Foundation to identify and counter possible barriers to in-home science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning for prekindergartners from primarily low-income neighborhoods by providing families with strategies, materials, and activities to encourage their children’s interest in STEM.

Most recently, she was awarded a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to expand Developing Talkers, a learning program she developed.

“Dr. Zucker’s work on early childhood literacy development and instruction is among the ‘best-in-class’ nationally, if not internationally,” Laura Justice, PhD, one of Zucker’s mentors and the executive director of the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy and the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning at the Schoenbaum Family Center at The Ohio State University.

“Her work is significantly affecting current thinking and best practices on how to help all children meet their potential in reading development. No one is more deserving of this award,” Justice said.


Cahill, Rob. "UTHealth's Tricia Zucker earns Presidential Award for helping at-risk children" UTHealth News, July 16, 2019, https://www.uth.edu/news/story.htm?id=1dee0162-3632-4972-89be-b857285f4337#.XUIVPF0wmec.email.



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