An expert on adolescent brain development, the director of Elon's Teaching Fellows program is lauded as "inspiring" and "innovative."
Since joining the Elon University faculty in 1990, Glenda Crawford has inspired and mentored hundreds of future educators as a professor in the School of Education, where her focus on authentic learning experiences has led to lasting partnerships with regional school systems and the development of forward-thinking 21st century teachers.
At the same time, a passion for understanding the mind of middle school students motivated Crawford to publish five books on how the adolescent brain develops. She infuses that knowledge into classroom lessons to create what former undergraduates have called an “invaluable resource” in their own careers as middle school teachers.
It was for those reasons and more that two of the nation’s most influential higher education groups have named Crawford the 2011 North Carolina Professor of the Year.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education recognized Crawford along with other national and state-level winners during a Nov. 17 luncheon in Washington, D.C. Honorees in the U.S. Professors of the Year Program were also scheduled to meet with lawmakers in an evening congressional reception near the U.S. Capitol.
“Teaching, to me, is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” said Crawford, director of the Teaching Fellows at Elon since 2009 and longtime coordinator of its middle grades education program. “Here at Elon I’ve really had the opportunity to live my beliefs … and I’ve had the opportunity to see the fruits of living those beliefs.”
CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. State winners were identified from top entries resulting from the judging process for national awards in four classifications.
Judges looked for “extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching” as demonstrated by excellence in the impact on and involvement with undergraduate students, the scholarly approach to teaching and learning, contributions to undergraduate education and support from colleagues and former undergraduate students, according to the award website.
“When asked to comment on Professor Crawford’s teaching, colleagues and students use words such as ‘inspiring’ and ‘innovative,’” Elon University President Leo M. Lambert wrote in a letter nominating Crawford for the award. “Among a university faculty that is characterized by great teaching, Professor Crawford stands out.”
Two examples cited by students and colleagues are Crawford’s involvement with The Amigos Club, which she launched in 2006 with April Post in the Department of Foreign Languages, and The Hawbridge School, a charter high school in Saxapahaw, N.C., that turned to Crawford for help in preparation for opening its doors to middle school students.
The Amigos Club pairs Elon students with adolescents who come from families where English is not the first language. The program has demonstrated lasting academic improvements for the teens as well as improved confidence and self-efficacy among the Elon undergraduates learning to work with students and parents where language may be a barrier to instruction.
At The Hawbridge School, a charter school in southern Alamance County, Crawford and her undergraduates in a spring 2010 education course helped develop a transition plan for middle school pupils that Hawbridge hoped to admit within a year. Until then, the school had served only at the high school level. Crawford and her students made presentations to school leaders to help the teachers there use existing resources for making the expansion possible.
“These two detailed examples illustrate my beliefs that learning is (so teaching must be) active, social, knowledge-based, challenging and situated in authentic experiences,” Crawford wrote in a personal statement that accompanied her nomination to CASE and the Carnegie Foundation. “These beliefs are at the core of my research, scholarly publications, consultation and presentations at professional meetings nationally and abroad. Throughout my career as a university professor, I have sustained this manner of engaging, learner-centered endeavor.”
Crawford joined the Elon faculty after receiving her doctorate from UNC Greensboro. The Burlington, N.C., resident has also taught in the Alamance-Burlington School System, working with grades 4 through 12 during her tenure in public education. Her research interests are in adolescent learning and cognitive development, and she has previously served as chair of the education department as well as coordinator of middle grades education.
While at Elon, she has been a visiting professor in China at Southeast University, Nanjing, and at the Elon Study Center in London, England. Crawford has guest lectured at Tbilisi State University in the Republic of Georgia, and served as a seminar leader in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
In 2009, Crawford was named the 37th winner of the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, Elon University’s highest honor for teaching established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley and his wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.
“To have a professor recognized as North Carolina Professor of the Year is a reaffirmation of the fact that faculty here care an enormous amount about the quality of what they do for students. Glenda is a shining example of that,” said David Cooper, dean of the School of Education. “There are many faculty members at Elon who can be recognized for this. Glenda stands out in the degree that she projects a message of caring about students. She really goes the extra mile when it comes to hearing their stories, and she makes a point of becoming familiar with them as individuals, where they’re coming from, and where they’re headed. She is one who sees that each student who comes through here has his or her own dreams and aspirations, and she hears them.”
“She’s one of the most supportive and encouraging professors I’ve ever met,” said Alyssa Brown, a junior elementary education major and North Carolina Teaching Fellow from Apex, N.C. “Because Dr. Crawford is so passionate about education, it makes you want to love it even more than you already do. She values students’ opinions, and she allows us to express those opinions and concerns. … She finds the best in everyone and makes sure they know that she sees it.”
Crawford’s five books address the unique relationship between adolescents and learning. Additionally, she has been a presenter and a participant at more than 50 professional meetings. Her most recent invitation to speak is for the “Emotional Brains, Teens and Learning” conference in April 2012 in New York City co-sponsored by the Emotional Brain Institute at New York University, the Columbia University Neuroscience and Education Program, and the Dana Alliance for Brain Research.
“Dr. Crawford’s work benefits not only her own students and the local community but also, because of the dissemination of her scholarly work, extends to faculty, students, and community members through the country and around the world,” wrote Post and Pam Kiser, the Watts-Thompson Professor of Human Services, in a joint letter to support Crawford’s nomination. “She exemplifies all that we as professors strive to achieve in our careers.”
Crawford is the second professor to have represented Elon University as the North Carolina Professor of the Year. Professor Tom Arcaro in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology received the award in 2006.