Campus News

The accidental professor: Education faculty member answers call to teach

Cory Buxton

Cory Buxton planned to be a geologist until teaching knocked on his door.


He was doing volunteer work with the Peace Corps in Guatemala when his landlady, who was also the local elementary and middle school principal, asked for his help.

“When she found out I was a science guy, she said, ‘You’ve got to do some science stuff for the kids because we don’t teach science, and I think we should.’ I started teaching and fell in love with it,” said Buxton, an associate professor in the College of Education’s department of elementary and social studies education.

After teaching for three years in Guatemala, Buxton returned to the U.S. to pursue a teaching degree. He taught for three more years in K-12 schools and then earned a Ph.D. and switched his focus to higher education.

He was a faculty member for five years at the University of Miami before coming to UGA in 2008.

“I liked that the College of Education is a high-profile, major player at UGA,” he said. “The history and the quality of the college also led me here.”

It also ranks as one of the top research education colleges in the nation, and Buxton has been immersed in school-based research since arriving.

Buxton, and colleagues Martha Allexsaht-Snider and Allan Cohen, director of the Georgia Center for Assessment, are currently using a three-year, $515,756 grant from the National Science Foundation to work with middle school teachers, English language learners and their families to improve student achievement.

“ELL students are often pulled out of class to learn conversational English and miss their grade-level content classes, or they are left to sink or swim with immersion in all-English instruction,” said Buxton. “We are using a co-teaching model, often used with special education students, that has an English as a second language teacher collaborating with a content-area teacher.”

The researchers will conduct workshops for teachers, as well as family workshops in which the teachers learn alongside their students and those students’ parents.

“Traditionally, the teacher is in the power position relative to parents and students. With this model of family workshops, everyone is on equal footing, and the relationships develop differently,” he said.

Buxton and Allexsaht-Snider also are in the second year of a Teacher Quality grant that he said helped them acquire the NSF grant.

“Teacher Quality grants are a great way to get your research up and running, gather your initial data and get your ideas together that you can then use to apply for larger federal grants,” he said.

As part of his research, Buxton visits schools regularly and brings the K-12 experiences into the UGA classroom. His UGA teacher students have the option to join him for Saturday workshops at Clarke County’s Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School to complete field-based class requirements.

“I think I have credibility with our undergraduate students because they know I spend a lot of time in schools,” he said. “I bring lessons from the field into the classroom and then bring students from the classroom into my research.”

In addition to his teaching and research, Buxton serves as middle school education program coordinator for his department. He has published two books this year (see Weekly Reader).

Buxton recently completed work on his second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Summer Academy, hosted by the education college. He co-directs the program with Doug Griffin and Joe Long from the department of mathematics and science education. Forty Athens-area high school students come to campus to learn about advanced mathematics and science and careers in those fields. The free, three-week program is funded by a state STEM Initiative grant.

Cory Buxton

Associate Professor
Elementary and Social Studies
College of Education
B.S., Geology, University of Maryland, College Park, 1989
M.A.T., Earth Science Education, Tulane University, 1994
Ph.D., Instruction and Curriculum: Science Education, University of Colorado, 2000
At UGA: Two years