The Eleanor and Charles Garrett Center on Transition and Disability Studies was proposed to the Dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in October of 2016. Dr. Stacey Edmonson, Dean of the College of Education, approved the proposal and supported the movement of the approval process through the SHSU Council of Academic Deans, the Office of Provost, and the President. In February of 2017, Dr. Dana Hoyt, President of SHSU, approved the creation of the Eleanor and Charles Garrett Center on Transition and Disability Studies.
Mrs. Eleanor Garrett is an alumna of SHSU from Garland, Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1954 and with a Master of Education in 1955 at what was then Sam Houston State Teachers College. Mrs. Garrett taught in Trinity, Nederland, Vidor, Port Neches, and Garland before she and her husband started the Garrett Metal Detector Company.
Her late husband, Mr. Charles Garrett, was an engineering graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Their company has grown into the world’s largest manufacturer of metal detection equipment for law enforcement, military, security, and hobby equipment.
The generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Garrett has provided for the College of Education undergraduate and graduate scholarships. In addition, they have funded an Endowed Chair Position in Special Education.
In 2008, Mrs. Garrett was named SHSU Distinguished Alumna of the Year. In 2010, she was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree. The Teacher Education Center at SHSU is named after alumna Eleanor Garrett and her husband, Charles.
The Garretts shared a common goal to help improve education services for children, and in particular children with disabilities, in Texas. Several of the graduate and undergraduate scholarships for education majors are dedicated to College of Education majors studying special education. During childhood, one of Garretts' children acquired a disability as a result of a serious childhood illness. The Garretts experienced first hand the joys and challenges of raising and educating a child with a disability while supporting their son to have opportunities for a better life in adulthood. The Garrett Center is dedicated to carrying on their mission by making a difference for all children with disabilities in Texas, their families, and the educators and community partners who serve and support them.
The center is the first of its kind in Texas to have a dedicated focus on the practitioner aspects of transition services. It will serve as a gateway of information for transition team members including educators, students with disabilities, their families, and community partners.
The purpose of the Garrett Center is to provide information, professional development, training, and resources to university preservice teachers, practicing educators from Early Childhood Special Education through 18+ programs, students with disabilities, their families, state agencies, and the community. The Garrett Center facilitates multi-level and wraparound systems change activities through program evaluations and technical assistance to improve post-school results for students with disabilities. Multiple information pathways were created to support the information and training needs of educators, such as the use of technology, Zoom training and social media, as well as face-to-face professional development.
Recently, the Texas Education Agency awarded the Garrett Center a grant to lead the Student Centered Transitions Network, which is responsible for working with the 20 regional Education Service Centers to provide resources, training, and support to the 1,260 school districts and charter schools in the state.
Dr. Vickie J. Mitchell, Executive Director of the Garrett Center
Vickie Mitchell is the Eleanor and Charles Garrett Endowed Chair in Special Education for the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. She is also an associate professor and the Executive Director of the Garrett Center. In 2017, Dr. Mitchell was awarded the Donn Brolin Award for State/Province Leadership and Service at the International Conference of the Council for Exceptional Children, Division of Career Development and Transition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has been a general and special education teacher; special education administrator; Transition Specialist for the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas; and a private consultant working with school districts and regional education service centers. Her teaching and research interests include transition services, self-determination practices, work-based learning, and program evaluations of all areas of transition services.
Dr. Jaime B. Durán, Director of Outreach and Communications
Jaime Betancourt Durán is an assistant professor and the Director of Outreach and Communications for the Garrett Center at SHSU. He has served in south Texas public schools as an elementary special education resource teacher, as a high school special education life skills teacher, and as an educational diagnostician at a middle school. He has also taught and supervised post baccalaureate students seeking special education certification. Dr. Duran's research and teaching interests include transition services, family involvement in the transition process, transition assessment, disability advocacy and legal issues, and culturally and linguistically diverse exceptional learners. Dr. Duran is the President of the Texas Division of Career Development and Transition (TxDCDT).
Dr. Leena Jo Landmark, Director of Research and Grants
Leena Landmark is an associate professor of special education and Director of Research and Grants for the Garrett Center at SHSU. She holds Texas educator certifications in pk-12 generic special education and the principalship, and she taught students with disabilities at the middle school level for seven and a half years. She has worked on the state and federal grant projects at Texas A&M University and Ohio University, and she was an associate professor of teacher education at Ohio University. Her research focuses on the instruction and transition of secondary students with disabilities. She researches topics such as self-determination, transition planning, classroom management, family involvement, leadership experiences, and postsecondary educational practices, all related to individuals with disabilities.
Dr. Corinna V. Cole, Director of Appraisal and Diversity
Corinna Villar Cole is an associate professor; the graduate coordinator and advisor of the master's degree programs in Special Education, and Bilingual Diagnosticians at SHSU. At the Garrett Center, Dr. Cole serves as the Director of Appraisal and Diversity. Her research interests include English learners’ special education assessment practices, special education, bilingual education, early childhood education, and second language acquisition. Her area of teaching expertise includes preparing educational diagnosticians to conduct special education assessment of students with suspected disabilities. She teaches assessment courses that include the administration of achievement, cognitive, and adaptive behavior instruments in English and Spanish, as well as the use of informal assessment instruments, how to determine language dominance and proficiency for English learners, and how to interpret results and make recommendations for learners in school settings. Dr. Cole is the University Advisor for HOUMET, the Houston Chapter for the Texas Educational Diagnostician Association (TEDA) and has been a member of the Houston area Bilingual Assessment Leadership Group (BALG) for over 25 years.
Dr. Christina Gushanas, Garrett Center Research Fellow
Christina Gushanas is a Research Fellow for the Garret Center at SHSU. She holds Texas educator certifications in generalist 4-8 with a 4-8 special education supplemental. Christina has seven years of Texas public school experience, which includes the roles of seconday special education teacher; Admission, Review, and Dismissal meeting facilitator; 18+ program teacher; vocational adjustment coordinator; and district-wide transition program support. She has also worked on state funded grant projects and taught pre-service special education teachers. Christina completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University in the area of special education transition. She researches topics on behavior analytic strategies and positive behavior supports to promote the transition to employment and postsecondary education programs; postsecondary education programs; and the implementation of evidence-based transition practices.
Townsley Tayebianpour, Project Manager
Townsley Tayebianpour is the Project Manager for the Student-Centered Transitions Network (SCTN), which is led by the Garrett Center at SHSU. The Student-Centered Transitions Network is one of ten statewide leadership networks directed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Townsley has over ten years of Texas public school experience, which includes the roles of secondary special education teacher, ARD facilitator, transition specialist, instructional coach, and special education administrator. She has also worked as a transition specialist for a regional education service center (ESC) supporting educators across Texas with secondary transition topics such as state and federal requirements, work-based learning, and 18-22 services for students receiving special education services. Townsley now supports all 20 education service centers, the Texas Education Agency, and local education agencies (LEAs) across the state with transition trainings and resources from the SCTN.
Marilyn S. Adams, Grant Administrative Assistant II
Marilyn is the Grant Administrative Assistant II for the Student Centered Transition Network. She has worked in the private sector at the First National Bank in Livingston and at the Polk County Clerk's Office prior coming to Sam Houston State University in 2003. She had over 17 years of service as an Administrative Assistant at SHSU's KatPost post office before starting with the SCTN. When she is not working, she volunteers at her local SPCA, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Habitat for Humanity. She is also active in the women's ministry at her local church.