Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education hosts celebration of excellence

On May 13, the annual celebration brought together faculty, staff, and graduating seniors, marking a special occasion. Notably, this year’s festivities introduced a new tradition by incorporating awards for both students and faculty members in one event.

Faculty, staff and graduating seniors in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education gathered together on Monday, May 13, to celebrate the Class of 2024, and to recognize outstanding seniors and faculty who demonstrate exceptional contributions both inside and outside of the classroom.

Janie P. Brown Emerging Professional Award

Mandi Jaffe ’24, Outdoor Leadership and Education

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, Carol Smith, professor of wellness, stated, “what truly sets Mandi apart is her remarkable ability to foster community. This skill is essential in any professional setting, but especially valuable in the field of outdoor leadership and education. She brings authentic enthusiasm and incredible knowledge about this field to any space she occupies.”

student award recipients L to R: Brothers, Malone, McKinney, Jaffe, Strouse, Hayes, Stapleford

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.

Josie Brothers ’24, Elementary Education

Elementary education faculty describe Josie’s progress through the elementary education program and in schools as “deeply reflective, thoughtful, equity-minded, consistent, and relationship-focused.” Her capacity for connecting across experiences is also true of Brothers’ undergraduate research, where her coursework, research focus, and field experience came together in a comprehensive content analysis of the U.S. civil rights movement in children’s picture books.

Meghan Malone ’24, Elementary Education

In her nomination, faculty noted Malone’s attitude, work ethic, initiative, commitment to cultivating a culture of care, and her “pursuit of relationships over standards always”. One elementary education faculty member described Malone as “a highly engaged leader in Elon’s Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education.” A recent example of her equity-minded lens towards teaching is her SURF presentation examining LGBTQ Education and Inclusion in Catholic schools. Meghan will begin her graduate studies in Elon’s M.Ed. program this summer, as a Teach for Alamance scholarship recipient.

Claire Stapleford ’24, Special Education

In her nomination, Stapleford’s clinical teacher shared that “she demonstrates a commitment to the learning of every student that steps foot in the classroom and has developed strong relationships with them as she meets their individual needs. She is supportive, kind, and passionate about her instruction and makes learning fun.” In her remarks, Alicia Tate, assistant professor of education said, “what a joy it is to watch her teach. I have to pry myself away from her classroom! Her future students will be so lucky to have her!”

Maggie Hayes ’24, Middle Grades Education, Social Studies concentration

In her remarks, Joan Barnatt, associate professor of education, said, “Maggie approaches her work with enthusiasm and curiosity, inspiring others to think critically about the world they inhabit. She understands that social studies is not just about memorizing facts; it’s about understanding the human experience, grappling with ethical dilemmas, and envisioning a more just and equitable society. Every student will leave her classroom with a deeper understanding of history, a broader perspective on global issues, and a renewed sense of civic responsibility, carrying with them the potential to effect positive change in the world.”

Julia Strouse ’24, Middle Grades Education, Mathematics concentration

Strouse has a talent for making math relevant and engaging all students in meaningful learning,” states Aaron Trocki, associate professor of mathematics. During his observation of Julia in April, he noted there were 37 students in her class. Even in this very large class, “Julia showed great poise and care for all her students and named each one of them whenever they answered a question.” Julia’s clinical teacher said, “it is hard to believe that Ms. Strouse is a student teacher! The way she carries herself and how she handled the hurdles of teaching are nothing short of amazing. She will make an extraordinary teacher!”

Rylee McKinney ’24, Secondary Education

“Rylee McKinney is brilliant, humble, and meticulous; a planner and a problem-solver, a coach and a warm demander,” said Kim Pyne, associate professor of English. Rylee’s clinical teacher shared she sat in awe of her abilities since her first day of student teaching, noting her ability to challenge students to do more than they thought they could. Her students pointed out that Rylee is both hilarious and kind, who “made me come out of my comfort zone,” and noted “this is the most confident I’ve felt in English so far.” The impact she’s had on her students will be felt for years to come.

Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Lisa Thompson, adjunct instructor in education

Lisa Thompson, adjunct instructor in education

This award recognizes an individual in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education who embodies the highest standards of teaching excellence.

Thompson is renowned for her high-quality teaching of literacy courses. Her passion for fostering a love of reading and writing in her students is evident. She is also known for fostering a strong sense of community in her courses, utilizing Responsive Classroom approaches such as morning meetings as a model of relationship-building practices. Thompson plans and facilitates student-centered lessons and intentional assignments from which our students develop a deep understanding and appreciation for literacy. Her teaching practices empower teacher candidates to become confident in engaging their diverse young readers and writers.

One student noted, “Professor Thompson always went above and beyond. My favorite class was when she had a themed football/tailgate literacy class. Our football team was playing Wake Forest and she wanted to celebrate that and tie in literacy. It was so much fun! Aside from class, you will always see Professor Thompson attending events to support us. It means so much to receive a hug and a smile from her no matter where you are!”

In her remarks, Melaine Rickard, adjunct instructor in education, noted, “Thompson’s emphasis goes beyond teaching pedagogical skills; she is invested in building her students’ whole selves.”

“She is known for being a strong supervisor and mentor for student teachers, providing guidance, support, and encouragement every step of the way. Her mentorship has helped shape the next generation of educators, as she holds teacher candidates to a high standard of excellence,” stated Erin Hone, senior lecturer in education, in her remarks.

Thompson has consistently demonstrated exceptional dedication to the field of education and continues to leave a lasting mark on both our students and colleagues.

Faculty Excellence in Scholarship

Rozana Carducci, associate professor of education and graduate director of the Master of Higher Education program

Rozana Carducci, associate professor of education and graduate director of the M.A. in Higher Education program

Since joining Elon in 2018, Rozana Carducci has significantly contributed to the field of higher education. She has published at least three peer-reviewed journal articles, presented two peer-reviewed research papers, and presented at a research symposium. In addition, she has given 13 peer-reviewed professional presentations and 1 invited presentation at national and international conferences, serving as lead presenter/author for most of these accomplishments.

Carducci also served as co-editor for the book “Contested issues for troubled times: Student affairs dialogues on equity, civility, and safety,” published in 2019.

Most recently, Carducci was lead author of the book, “Higher education leadership: Challenging tradition and forging possibilities,” published this year.

In the news article about its release, the book was described as: “a call to action, challenging the status quo and advocating for liberatory systemic change in higher education” with a mission to “resist and dismantle oppressive systems, including neoliberalism and white supremacy, within and beyond the confines of higher education organizations.”

Sydney Freeman Jr. of the University of Idaho, lead editor of a different book, “Advancing higher education as a field of study,” had this to say:

“Carducci, Harper, and Kezar have unapologetically challenged the white supremacist, capitalist and neoliberal assumptions that pervade the current context of research and practice in higher education leadership. The authors balance providing dense theoretical and conceptual ideas with practical applications.”

Carducci’s scholarly contributions work to challenge and move the field of higher education forward in more equitable and just directions.

Faculty Excellence in Service

Lynda Butler-Storsved, senior lecturer in education

Lynda Butler-Storsved, senior lecturer in education

In the last five years, Lynda Butler-Storsved has served as the coordinator of no fewer than six programs, five of which she continues to shepherd. Some of these programs have undergone development and revision requiring countless hours of work on her part to bring quality programming to our students.

Joan Barnatt, associate professor of education, states, “Lynda’s work on committees is equally awe-inspiring in scope, and includes service on some of the most influential (and time-consuming) university and school level committees.” Butler-Storsved has served on ten university committees and 4 school committees, currently serving as chair on the curriculum committee in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education. In addition, she chaired one departmental search committee, in addition to serving on three other hiring search committees.

“To say that Lynda demonstrates unwavering devotion to the mission of our institution, school, and the success of our students is a genuine understatement. In this work, Lynda has enriched the academic experience of students, and leaves a lasting impact on her colleagues and the institution itself. Her selfless commitment to the greater good truly distinguishes her as an exemplary member of our academic community,” stated Barnatt in her award remarks.