Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education celebrates student excellence at end-of-year ceremony

The Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education hosted its annual Celebration of Student Excellence on May 10 to recognize the Class of 2022 and the students who demonstrate exceptional contributions in and out of the classroom.

Faculty, staff, and graduating seniors in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education gathered together on Tuesday, May 10, to celebrate the Class of 2022.

Following an awards ceremony, celebration ensued with smiles, laughter, memories shared, a photo booth, refreshments and senior gifts.

The following students were recognized for their exceptional contributions in and out of the classroom:

Janie P. Brown Emerging Professional Award

Abigail Martel ’24

The Janie P. Brown Emerging Professional Award is in honor of Janie P. Brown, professor emerita of physical education, who dedicated 39 years to Elon University. Brown served as chair of Elon’s Physical Education Department for 20 years, received the Daniels-Danieley Award in 1995 and the Elon Medallion in 2006, and has often been described as a trailblazer in the advancement of women’s athletics at Elon.

The Janie P. Brown Emerging Professional Award is presented to an adventure, health, and physical education major who has a record of university involvement, service and professionalism, and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

In her remarks, Lynda Butler-Storsved, senior lecturer in wellness, shared that “Abbey has a sincere desire to work closely with children and families. She loves the teaching field and has terrific energy both in class and in the field. She is a fantastic teacher candidate!”

Martel developed a walking program for those with cancer at her previous institution where she earned an associate of science degree in public health. Now majoring in physical education and health with teacher licensure with a minor in exercise science, Martel has been active in service-learning and has presented on the effects of school recess and physical activity on academic performance, and the effects of binge drinking on college-aged students.

“I want to be the change in physical education and health by becoming a physical education and health teacher who accepts and welcomes each and every students, while also wanting them to succeed,” Martel said.

Adventure, Health and Physical Education Major of the Year Award

Genevieve Emerson ’23

This award recognizes outstanding students in the adventure, health and physical education major with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who have distinguished themselves in areas of academic, professional development, service and leadership.

In her remarks, Carol Smith, professor of education, highlighted Emerson’s research as an Honors Fellow, “Comparison of Positive Attitudes between Participants in Adventures in Leadership and Non-Participants Four Years Later: Changes in Grit, Sense of Place, Meaning of Life, Social Engagement, and Self-Efficacy.” Emerson attended international conferences in the field of outdoor experiential education and has submitted her research to SEER through the Association of Experiential Education.

“Genevieve has learned the importance of adapting and being flexible and creative in her teaching, as no one learns in the same way,” Smith said. “She lives her life using tenets of adventure-based experiential education, and Nature Rx.”

Arnold Strauch Award

Six outstanding seniors were honored for their exceptional contributions in and out of the classroom with the Arnold Strauch Award. Those honored meet the highest academic standards, demonstrate superior student teaching performance and high levels of professionalism, and have a great potential for contributing to the field of education.

Elementary Education – Erika Kim ’22

In her remarks, Erin Hone, senior lecturer in education, stated that Kim embodies the mission of the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education and she is proud of the equity-minded leader she has grown into.

Kim’s student teaching supervisor, Lisa Thompson, instructor in education, noted that “Erika is consistently intentional in planning interesting instruction and interactions with her second graders that help them become independent individuals. She makes the most of every minute and captivates her students.”

Kim’s research mentor, Allison Bryan, director of the Curriculum Resources Center, shared that “Erika truly is a scholar. Erika is a perfect example of exploring one’s passion through research, engaging in scholarly conversations, and implementing what she learned into her own practice. Her research was more than just collecting data about how Asian and Asian American characters are represented in picture books; it became a personal journey for her. She has shared with others the power of seeing herself represented in picture books, and through these conversations, others have embraced the importance of sharing diverse literature with their students.”

Special Education – Grace Kennedy ’22

In her remarks, Dani Lane, assistant professor of education, stated that “Grace knows when to use her voice to advocate for her students and when to listen intently. Throughout student teaching, her enthusiasm for teaching and authentic learning experiences was evident in every lesson. She built a community of learners and families as she traveled the East Coast with her students with their trusted guide Flat Stanley. She always sought to see the positives in challenging scenarios. Grace epitomizes what it means to be a teacher who puts her students above all else.”

Secondary History – Caitlin Strickland ’22

Joan Barnatt, associate professor of education, shared that “Caitlin made this journey with her characteristic intentionality and has arrived today as a truly accomplished and mature educator. This semester, I was struck – awed, really – by the positive, collaborative professional partnership she developed with her clinical teacher, in serving their students with a signature dignity and fierce dedication to learning and well-being.”

“Caitlin, you’ve got this. Yes, there is more to learn – and the learning will come with the doing. Tonight, we acknowledge and celebrate your influence on peers, professors, colleagues, and students, and we foresee a powerful legacy of the same, in the future,” said Barnatt before presenting Strickland with the award.

Secondary Mathematics – Kasey Collins ’22 and Maia Tice ’22

In his remarks, Aaron Trocki, associate professor of mathematics, stated that “The example Kasey provided as an ambitious student has encouraged many of her peers to connect and thrive at Elon.” While at Elon, Collins completed research credits, served as a teaching assistant in calculus, thrived as a Teaching Fellow and excelled in her student teaching internship.

Collins’ methods instructor said that “Kasey has an easy rapport with everyone around her, which will take her a long way as a teacher and a colleague. Wherever she decided to go to share her gifts, they will be all the better for it.”

In his remarks, Trocki noted that Tice’s academic strides and leadership accomplishments translated to her student teaching in creating welcoming and engaging math classes. “Maia is a passionate teacher who desires that every student she works with becomes just as passionate about mathematics as she is,” stated Trocki. While at Elon, Tice completed research credits, thrived as a STEM Preservice Teacher Scholar at NASA, a Teaching Fellow, and as President of the Pi Mu Epsilon Chapter at Elon.

Secondary English – Ashley Tatum ’22

“Ashley is brilliant, humble, and meticulous, a planner and a problem-solver. She holds herself to the highest expectations and it shows in everything she does,” said Kim Pyne, associate professor of English.

Prudence Layne, associate professor of English, with whom Tatum completed a teaching and learning internship, shared this insight: “Ashley has worked throughout her academic career to find innovative ways to create democratic classrooms and spaces for her students.”

Tatum’s clinical teacher, wrote, “Tatum’s strengths align with that most indispensable of traits needed from a successful teacher: empathy. From lesson plans that encourage students to find their own voice to individual conferences where she constantly pushes students to reflect, Ashley centers her practice around the student, vying constantly for ways to see the more complete young adult in front of her.”