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Elon holds M.Ed. Commencement ceremony

Former N.C. Teacher of the Year Tyronna Hooker G'09 used wit & wisdom in a keynote address to graduates of Elon's education master's program.

Twenty-five degrees were conferred Aug. 18, 2012, during the Master of Education Commencement ceremony at Elon University.


Calling on those seated before her to take their profession personally and that "the road out of poverty runs by your schools," North Carolina's 2011 Teacher of the Year on Saturday encouraged graduates of Elon University's Master of Education program to do more than be proficient in their jobs. Be accomplished. Be distinguished.

Tyronna M. Hooker G'09, herself an alumnus of Elon's graduate program, served as the Commencement speaker in a ceremony for 25 graduates in the program's Class of 2012. With family and friends in attendance inside Whitley Auditorium, Hooker told stories of her own career experiences, and what she discovered in herself by striving to connect with every child who walked in her classroom.

Tyronna Hooker G'09 addressed graduates on the importance of connecting with students on a personal level.

"You never know when someone might catch a dream from you. You never know when a little word, or something that you might do, may open up a window for the mind that seeks the light," Hooker said. "The way you teach may not matter at all, but you never know. It might. And just in case it could be that another's life through you might change for the better with a broader and brighter view, it seems it might be worth a try to do what you know is right."

Hooker was named North Carolina’s top educator after switching professions nearly a decade ago. Her  career began not in the classroom, but rather the criminal justice system. Hooker originally pursued a career in criminal justice after graduating from North Carolina Central University.

While later serving as a therapeutic foster parent for the Elon Homes for Children, a child described to her the difficulties he faced in school as a result of how the public school system was set up. She vowed to make a difference and earned her teaching certificate in 2005. She was teaching at Graham Middle School in Alamance County when she won the honor.

"Many of you don't know this, but the road out of poverty runs by your schools. Every one of our students needs you," she said. "They need you to show up, and they need you to be prepared. Elon University has given you what you need to be teacher-leaders. It has given you what you're going to need to make sure that each and every one of your students have the full opportunity to be educated, to have choices in life."

David Cooper, dean of Elon's School of Education, hooded each of the graduates with the light blue color of their discipline.

Hooker punctuated her deeper advice with humor that those in the audience could appreciate. The master's program serves working teachers, and Hooker drew laughs by defining what a "real" teacher is.

"You are a real teacher if you repeat everything — and I mean you say everything twice — and then you ask if everyone understands. You are a real teacher if you buy your Excedrin and Advil at Sam's Club," she joked. "And you are a real teacher if you want to slap the next person who says, 'It must be nice to work from eight to three with summers off.'"

Hooker tells every student in her classroom that they will be one of "three E's" when they leave public school: employed, enlisted or enrolled. "Please, take it personally," she instructed the graduates."For every student who has been written off in your building, simply say, 'not on my watch.'"

Graduates and their guests also heard from Elon University President Leo M. Lambert and Elon University Provost Steven House.

"You have earned your degree and advanced licensure without interrupting your teaching schedule. It is difficult to earn a graduate degree, but balancing careers, families, and friends with a demanding academic program added another degree of complexity," House said in his welcoming remarks. "This could not have been accomplished without a lot of support from caring people — family and friends. ... And we trust that Elon has built your character as well as your skills and you are leaving with a sense of integrity and respect that will guide you in your vocation and your life.

President Leo M. Lambert in his charge to graduates: "The influence of your work on other human beings will carry forward in wonderful and unimaginable ways."

In his charge to graduates, Lambert likened teachers to magicians in their abilities to "change dependence into self-reliance" and "transform apathy into inspiration." Prejudice, he added, turns to tolerance and respect 

"The results of your life’s labors in education will continue to have influence decades from now and will echo into the generations ahead. Class periods end. Marking periods end. Schools years end," Lambert said. "But the influence of your work on other human beings will carry forward in wonderful and unimaginable ways."

Lambert thanked the graduates for choosing Elon and encouraged them to actively seek out ways to remain connected to each other, to faculty and staff, and to the life of the university.

"May God bless each of you in your important life's work. Long live Elon!"

Graduates in the Class of 2012:

Angelique Nicole Austin
B.S., Western Carolina University

Carissa June Berglund
A.B., Elon University

Daniel Lee Boone
B.M., Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

Crystal Jane Charles
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Sara Alice Ellington
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Family and friends of the Class of 2012 filled Whitley Auditorium for the morning program.

Lauren Ashley Fields
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Elizabeth Blair Dowling Hawley
A.B., Elon University

Amy Lynn Hewitt
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Paula Jean Payne Hornaday
B.S., North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Traci Elizabeth Horton
B.S., Appalachian State University

Elon Provost Steven House, in welcoming remarks to graduates, thanked the families whose time and support made it possible for graduates to earn their degrees.

Mellissa Ann Laster
B.A., North Carolina Central University

Samantha Brooke Lawrence
B.S., Appalachian State University

Christine Kay Layton
B.S., Appalachian State University

Andrew Murdock Marshall
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Mitzi Ray Knight McLaurin
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Amy Elizabeth Freeman McMullen
A.B., Elon University

A reception was held on the patio of Long Building after the ceremony.

Elizabeth Ann Moffitt
A.B., Elon University

Monica Michelle Ball Noa
B.S., Winston-Salem State University

Michelle Denise Quinn
B.S., Bloomsburg University

Bobby G. Samples II
B.A., Fayetteville State University

Samantha Nicole Scott
B.S., Nova Southeastern University

Lauren Brown Shannahan
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ryan Neal Suttles
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Christina Lynne Coble Ulander
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Kristen Carver Womack
B.S., North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Eric Townsend,
8/19/2012 9:08 AM