‘Extraordinary’ Educator Chosen for CSU Wang Family Excellence Award

For Ruth H. Yopp-Edwards, teaching has been at the core of her being throughout her 40-year career as an educator.

The Cal State Fullerton professor and former elementary school teacher is a widely recognized role model and mentor to scores of students, as well as future and veteran teachers. Her passion is creating and transforming learning experiences to prepare California’s teachers to meet the needs of all students.

“Teaching is rewarding; it’s meaningful; it deepens my understanding of and appreciation for the human experience in all its diversity,” said the CSUF graduate and Fullerton resident. “It allows me to learn every single day and to share that adventure with others.”

Ruth H. Yopp-Edwards on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, where she studied as an undergrad and is now a full professor of bilingual and elementary education. She is receiving a career honor from the CSU.

Ruth H. Yopp-Edwards on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, where she studied as an undergrad and is now a full professor of bilingual and elementary education. She is receiving a career honor from the CSU.

Because of her dedication and contributions to her academic discipline, Yopp-Edwards has been selected to receive the California State University’s 2017 Wang Family Excellence Award. She is one of five recipients from the CSU’s 23-campus system — four faculty members and one administrator — who will be recognized at the Jan. 31 CSU Board of Trustees meeting.

“I am surrounded by dedicated colleagues who contribute greatly to student learning, to the betterment of society and to the advancement of their disciplines,” said Yopp-Edwards, professor of elementary and bilingual education. She will receive a $20,000 cash award, established through a gift from CSU Trustee Emeritus Stanley T. Wang. “I am grateful to collaborate with them, proud to work beside them and surprised to be honored with this award.”

In her nomination of Yopp-Edwards for the prestigious systemwide honor, Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García emphasized the professor’s “sustained record of the highest levels of achievement in teaching, scholarship and service. Her impact on students, the university, the profession, and the local and broader community has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

Lisa Kirtman, dean of the College of Education, offered additional words of praise: “Through her deep commitment to the education of young learners, she has mentored, equipped and empowered CSUF students to become successful teachers and educational leaders, who, in turn, have touched the lives of thousands of preschool- to 12th-grade students.”

Yopp-Edwards earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree in education-curriculum and instruction at CSUF. She began teaching upper elementary grades in the Brea-Olinda Unified School District in 1977 and was selected as a 1985 Orange County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate in education from UC Riverside, joined CSUF in 1986 as a full-time lecturer, and the next year became a tenure-track faculty member. Over the past three decades, the professor and former chair of elementary and bilingual education has played a significant role in advancing teacher education at CSUF and across the CSU system.

“Dr. Yopp-Edwards has partnered with, and guided campus, community and CSU colleagues in this high calling, and her scholarship has helped to shape education policy and practice throughout California,” noted Kimberly A. Norman, chair and professor of elementary and bilingual education. “She is a dedicated, brilliant and caring professor, who acts with integrity and humility and has earned the high regard of colleagues at CSUF and across the state.”

During her tenure, Yopp-Edwards has secured external grant awards and contracts totaling about $10 million, in addition to about $2 million from the Chancellor’s Office for CSUF’s Teacher Recruitment Project. She has co-authored six books, authored or co-authored 41 articles and presented more than 100 papers or workshops at professional conferences. She serves on several national and international editorial advisory boards for professional journals. In addition, she has received numerous accolades, including inductee to the California Reading Association Hall of Fame and CSUF’s Jewel Plummer Cobb Diversity in Education Award.

Her scholarly research spans literacy development — which she points to as fundamental to success in school — lifelong learning and civic participation: “It’s crucial that we understand how best to support children’s development as readers, writers and language users. Opportunities to explore powerful literature that reflects diverse perspectives and experiences are key to promoting readers’ motivation, engagement and success with text, as well as their understanding of the world.” 

She is most proud of research she conducted on the use of nonfiction books in early childhood classrooms. She engaged in the research with her identical twin sister, Hallie Yopp Slowik, CSUF professor of elementary and bilingual education and a 2002 Wang Family Excellence Award recipient. Their efforts contributed to a growing body of evidence that young children’s opportunities with this type of text were few, both in schools and at home.

“I am pleased our work helped bring attention to this important component of early literacy instruction and to a shift in literacy education in the last decade,” she said.

Yopp-Edwards is the 12th CSUF faculty member to receive the prestigious CSU award. Her accomplishments include:

• Collaborating with local K-12 district partners on such efforts as Project CREATE and preparing experienced teachers to mentor new teachers to ensure successful first years in the classroom;

• Developing CSUF elementary and bilingual education programs and courses;

• Co-leading CSUF's $2.5 million National Science Foundation project to advance the teaching of mathematics in underserved schools;

• Helping to revise the California Standards for the Teaching Profession; and

• Contributing to the CSU Preparing a New Generation of Educators for California Initiative to support the transformation of teacher preparation programs across the system to meet the demands of new math and science standards, and the CSU Transitional Kindergarten Project.

The awards are scheduled for presentation Tuesday, Jan. 31, at CSU headquarters in Long Beach during the CSU Board of Trustees Committee on Education Policy 3:15 p.m. session. A reception will follow.