Teaching the teachers

Marna Winter ’98 and Erin Hone ’04 are among the faculty in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education who are dedicated to helping the next generation of teachers make an impact in the classroom.

Most everyone has at least one teacher who inspired, encouraged and empowered them to become who they are today. Marna Winter ’98 is using “the Elon way” to motivate her students into becoming some of those teachers. As a senior lecturer and chair of the Department of Education and Wellness in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education, she feels a responsibility to instill this philosophy into her students.

“‘The Elon way’ is very experiential learning- and engaged learning-based,” Winter says.

Elon has built a national reputation as the premier student-centered environment for hands-on learning. It’s among the many reasons Elon was ranked No. 1 in undergraduate teaching in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guide. In its first two appearances since being designated as a national university in 2020, Elon ranked second in this category.

Related Articles

Winter spent seven years in the public K-12 school system teaching middle school, a multi-age project-based classroom and elementary grades before returning to Elon. It was during those years she fine-tuned her teaching philosophy to be more of a facilitator of learning, rather than a lecturer — a technique she first picked up as a student at Elon. While she learned much by doing in the field, her experiences and professors at Elon provided what she needed to be a successful educator, and it’s what she tries to emulate for her students.

“It was amazing being a student at Elon and then coming full circle to work with teacher candidates as they were going into their practicum,” Winter says.

Erin Hone ’04, senior lecturer in education, echoes that sentiment. When she returned to Elon as a faculty member, she looked at her own former professors almost like celebrities. She saw how they built relationships with teaching candidates and sought one another’s help to grow as instructors. “I could tell that I knew how to do things because I had been taught those things and had been given experiences that others didn’t necessarily have yet,” Hone says. “When I came to Elon as a faculty member, I realized why that was. Our faculty are constantly trying to make things the very best, relevant and cutting edge.”

Hone spent seven years in Guilford County Schools, where she taught elementary grades. She decided to pursue her graduate degree in elementary math because she struggled with the topic as a child and wanted to ensure that future students didn’t resent math, as she had. She was a reserved student, often anxious about her academic performance. The teachers that took the time to make her feel more comfortable in the classroom are the ones who had the biggest impact on her.

“Regardless of the resources, their prior experiences or any access students have, it’s the teacher that makes the biggest difference,” Hone says. “A teacher can make or break a student’s experience.”

Being a teacher requires consistent growth, and that is something Hone works to reinforce to her Elon teaching candidates. The best way to reach as many students as possible, she says, is to be able to take criticism and, more importantly, self-reflect.

Education in the United States is beginning to shift from a teacher-centered approach, in which the teacher is a lecturer and students passively receive the information, to a student-centered environment, where the teacher serves as the authority figure but allows for more active collaboration among the pupils. “It’s great to see them shift and think about becoming a facilitator of learning rather than a director of learning,” Hone says.

Students come to Elon expecting high-quality teaching and engaged learning. The curriculum in the School of Education gives them just that. The students get hands-on experience in classrooms throughout the region to prepare them more than any lecture could. “From the first class as an education major, we got to have practicum hours,” says Meredith Citty ’14, who is now a second-grade teacher at South Mebane Elementary in Alamance County. “I liked that option that Elon offers to its education majors of seeing a variety of schools and different grade levels because kindergarten is different from fifth grade. Elon shows us all the options and then we get to see for ourselves what we feel like would be our best fit without preconceived notions.”

A second-grade teacher, Meredith Citty ’14 has benefited from the dedicated faculty in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education.

Along with the engaging curriculum, the faculty in the School of Education make a profound difference for the teaching candidates. Their unwavering dedication and insight stick with students long after they graduate. “This is my sixth year as department chair for our faculty and hands down, we have the most dedicated faculty who are passionate about ensuring our students are equity-minded and ready to go work with families and students,” Winter says.


Citty has been on the receiving end of that dedication. During her first year of teaching, she reached out to Winter about how to teach a phonics program. In response, Winter spent a day in Citty’s classroom co-teaching the lesson with her.

“All of the faculty for the School of Ed have the mentality that, ‘You’ll always be my student and I want to keep up with you and stay connected,’” Citty says. “And they instill that in us and we put that into our classrooms. That speaks volumes about the type of people who work in the School of Ed.”