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Doctoral student Wonkyung ‘Won’ Jang wins NAECTE award

Wonkyung “Won” Jang, a doctoral candidate in the UNC School of Education, has been honored by the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators with its NAECTE Foundation Doctoral Scholarship.

Portrait of Wonkyung Jang
Wonkyung “Won” Jang.

Jang was selected for the award from among nominations across the country.

The award is in support of Jang’s dissertation research, which focuses on early childhood teachers’ characteristics, complex talk, and children’s language and literacy development.

The award, which includes $1,000 and doctoral student membership in NAECTE, is intended to encourage and support doctoral students to conduct research that has implications for early childhood education or early childhood professional development.

Jang’s research interests lie in investigating the linguistic environment of early childhood classrooms and the relation between enhanced language learning and classroom experiences; the effects of teacher- or parent-implemented interventions on children’s learning; and innovative statistical and computational techniques that can better capture individual differences in language development among children with diverse developmental, cultural, linguistic, and educational needs.

Additionally, he has investigated how early care and education stakeholders can embrace the power of “Big Data” to help children overcome developmental challenges, provide the simple joy of play, and tackle pressing social justice challenges.

Jang, in his sixth year as a doctoral student at the UNC School of Education, also won a 2021 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Teaching Assistants earlier this year. He has worked as a teaching assistant in both the Human Development and Family Studies undergraduate program and the Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support specialty area of the Master of Education for Experienced Teachers program.

While pursuing his doctorate, Jang earned a Master of Science degree in statistics and a graduate certificate in computational linguistics. He also has worked as a research assistant in the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and the School of Education for the past five years.

Jang earned a Bachelor of Science degree in child and family studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in applied statistics from Yonsei University in South Korea. As an exchange student, he studied at the University of Oslo in Norway, where he did independent research on cultural models of father involvement in early care and education. For the past decade, he has worked as a preschool teacher and language and literacy intervention specialist.

In his doctoral program, Jang is advised by UNC School of Education faculty member Harriet Able, Ph.D., and Margaret Burchinal, Ph.D., formerly of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and now at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education.

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By Michael Hobbs