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University of Central Missouri
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Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
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Thomas Honored with Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 27, 2017) – With a career in education that includes nearly 17 years at the University of Central Missouri, Matt Thomas has a number of achievements that contribute to his recent recognition as an outstanding educator. Ask this seasoned faculty member to tell you about his career highlights, however, and he would prefer to share what he values the most – the opportunity to teach UCM students.

Thomas was publicly recognized March 18 as UCM’s recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, an honor announced by Deborah Curtis, provost-chief learning officer, during a meeting of the Board of Governors. The UCM professor of reading and literacy program coordinator now joins other award recipients from across the state who will be honored during an awards luncheon hosted by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens April 7 in Jefferson City.

Matt Thomas Excellence in Teaching Award

Matt Thomas, third from left, was named the University of Central Missouri’s recipient for the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education. Joining the UCM professor of reading and literacy program coordinator for the award announcement on campus were, from left, Gus Wetzel II, president of the UCM Board of Governors; Deborah Curtis, UCM provost-chief learning officer; and Charles Ambrose, UCM president.

The annual awards program is made possible by the Missouri Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE). Thirteen public universities select Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education recipients on the basis of criteria that include effective teaching at the undergraduate level, effective advising of undergraduate students, service to the college community, and commitment to high standards of excellence. Other qualities include success in nurturing student achievement and the impact nominees have had on the academic and personal lives of their students.

“It is an honor to receive this award, and I do so knowing that many different faculty are deserving of recognition,” Thomas said, “so I’m just standing in as a faculty representative of sorts this year. It is truly a privilege to be able to go to work every day as part of the UCM community, and to join together in our educational mission. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”

Previously an English teacher, coach, and school administrator, Thomas joined UCM’s faculty in 2000 as an assistant professor of reading in the former Department of Curriculum and Instruction (now the Department of Educational Foundations and Literacy) in the College of Education. He climbed the faculty ranks to become a full professor, serving also in positions that have included department chair, 2011-2012, and literacy program coordinator, 2010-2011 and fall 2015- present.

Thomas is an active scholar, authoring or co-authoring numerous conference presentations and articles, a textbook, and three book chapters, and has served as a journal co-editor.  His primary research interests include content area literacy, "reading maturity," and "transformational literacy" or reading, writing, and thinking that not only informs, but also transforms learners toward whole-person growth. He is also interested in the ways that online discussion boards can help facilitate increased cognitive complexity and epistemological development.  He is currently working with colleagues on two reading maturity research studies and a book chapter focused on reading programs for refugee camps. Other contributions related to his research interests include the 2015 launch of KeenReading.org, a research dissemination and literacy outreach initiative which is focused on advancing the reading maturity construct through research, community projects, teacher preparation, and social media.

The longtime university member has been involved with a number of academic, professional and scholarly societies, including the International Literacy Association.

Thomas earned a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was also a graduate research fellow/assistant at the university’s Center for Studies in Higher-Order Literacy.  Prior to that, he earned a Master of Arts in Education degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, Calif., and a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from The Master’s College, Santa Clarita, Calif.

Thomas has earned other forms of recognition from UCM. This includes selection as the faculty recipient of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award in spring 2016; College of Education Faculty Awards for Excellence in Service (2011-2012) and Excellence in Teaching (2014-2015), and College of Education and Human Services Award for Excellence in Scholarship (2003-2004).