Our research team is focused on educational supports for students with learning disabilities, particularly in the area of reading. The questions that drive our work center around how best to support students’ reading development. Dr. Toste is specifically interested in methods for intensifying and individualizing interventions for students with reading disabilities (including dyslexia).

Dr. Toste will be accepting new doctoral students for fall 2022. Please reach out for more information or visit the Department of Special Education website.

Current PhD Advisees

Toste Team Alum

Erica Fry

PhD Student

Project EXPERT

Erica received her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University where she studied Special Education. She graduated from New York University with an M.A. in Sociology of Education with a policy concentration. She worked in schools for 23 years as a special education teacher and administrator. Erica is currently a first year doctoral student in the LD/BD program at UT Austin.


She works on Project EXPERT, and her research is focused on professional development for teachers of students with disabilities.

Zainab A. Umar

PhD Candidate

Project EXPERT

Zainab graduated with her B.A. in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She went on to get a post-graduate diploma in education from the Nigerian Teachers institute Kadunam, and her master’s in Early Childhood Special Education at UT Austin. She began her PhD in the LD/BD program at UT Austin in fall 2017. Zainab has worked as an elementary teacher and supervised student teachers.


Zainab's research is focused on effective reading instruction and student outcomes in Africa, particularly Nigeria.

Dr. Marissa Filderman

  • The University of Texas at Austin (2020)

  • Dissertation
    Using Student Data to Improve Response to a Multisyllabic Word reading Intervention: the Effects of Varying Levels of Data Use

  • Recipient of 2021 John Wills Lloyd Doctoral Research Award from CEC Division for Learning Disabilities

Dr. Amanda McClelland

  • The University of Texas at Austin (2020)

  • Dissertation
    Classroom Working Alliance for Students with Disabilities: Differences Between Special Education and General Education Teachers and Association with Student Engagement

Dr. Lisa Didion Johnston

  • The University of Texas at Austin (2019)

  • Dissertation
    Data Mountain: Self-Monitoring, Goal Setting, and Motivation Training to Improve the Oral Reading Fluency of Struggling Readers in the Elementary Grades

  • Recipient of 2020 John Wills Lloyd Doctoral Research Award from CEC Division for Learning Disabilities

Team Members


Beth Feuer

PhD Student

GoKAR! Project

Beth received her B.A. in Education and Child Study from Smith College. She graduated from the University of Washington with an M.Ed. with a concentration in Low Incidence Disabilities. She worked for five years as a secondary special education teacher before embarking on her PhD journey. Beth is currently a first-year doctoral student in the Equity and Diversity in Special Education program at UT Austin. 


She works on GoKAR! and her research is focused on culturally responsive and equitable practices within special education.  


Gabriela Coelho

Research Assistant

Pathways to Resilience Project

Gabriela graduated from UT Austin with a B.S. in Applied Learning and
Development - Special Education. She works as an elementary special education teacher in Texas and plans to pursue graduate studies in educational policy.


She is currently assisting with the Pathways to Resilience Project and is interested in understanding how students with disabilities remain resilient in challenging times.
She hopes to learn how to best assist her own students in setting and reaching their goals.


Check out her teaching website.