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Henrico Va., April 25th, 2012—Byrd Middle School has been recognized nationally as the winner of two 21st Century contests.
On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, thirty-seven states, 10,000 teachers, and more than 1.5 million students participated in the first-ever national Digital Learning Day, a national awareness campaign spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education, celebrating innovative teachers and highlighting instructional practices that strengthen teaching and personalize learning for all students.
While Byrd students and staff already valued the role of technology and digital tools in 21st Century learning and skills, their library team was inspired by this event to facilitate a formal day to encourage innovation and creativity for all students and staff.
"We knew this would be a great way to illustrate how librarians are essential to developing digital literacy as we empower students and staff to be effective curators, evaluators and creators of digital information. These are the skills essential to succeed academically, as lifelong learners and ethical citizens," said Byrd Librarian and Information Specialist Shannon Hyman.
The goal was to provide a forum for Byrd’s learning community to explore how digital learning can level the playing field and provide "opportunities needed to build or become part of a workforce that is ready to succeed in college, a career, and life." After brainstorming a few initial ideas and reaching out to the staff, the librarians developed a promotional blitz to build excitement and participation. As part of that blitz, the library staff collaborated with HCPS TV to cover this day of learning at Byrd and piece together a video.
Byrd’s final video was selected as the best middle school impact video submission in the nation.
"As school librarians, it is our responsibility and mission to integrate our 21st Century Standards with the curriculum in engaging and innovative ways," Hyman said. "Events and contests like these empower our students and staff with emerging skills and tools, and give them a voice to express their learning."
Byrd Middle also participated in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) video contest for students. This contest requires students to use their technical and creative thinking skills to meet a set of requirements and produce a video to promote school libraries. This year’s theme was "You Belong @ Your School Library!" To kick off School Library Month in April, Byrd’s librarians collaborated with 6th grade students in Mrs. Clements’ class as they worked in teams to create their own videos. One of the videos that Byrd submitted was chosen as the National Winner in the Middle School category. The creators of this video were Ajitha Balasubramanian, Mary Caroline Brooks, Alyssa McCandlish, Hailey Reid, Luke McKenney and Tony Suber.
Tracy Aitken M.S. '06, school librarian at Oak Knoll Middle School in Hanover County, is recipient of the 2011 School Librarian of the Year award from the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL).
VAASL, an organization of educational professionals, is the recognized voice for excellence in Virginia's school libraries and the state affiliate of two major national associations - the Association for Educational Communications and Technology and the American Association of School Librarians.
Aitken, a National Board Certified Teacher in library media, served as a classroom teacher for 15 years before becoming a librarian, a position she has held for seven years. Among her initiatives to increase the library's impact on student learning, are the development of research stations to support sixth grade science using books, periodicals, websites and videos; grant proposals to implement a "Guys Read" (father/son) and "Girls Read" (mother/daughter) book clubs; and a grant proposal that helped create an outdoor classroom/library in the school courtyard. Aitken has presented at numerous VAASL conferences, the Governor's Conference on Education, and AdvanceED. She is a certified Internet safety instructor and serves as a technology coach, webmaster and BlackBoard administrator.
Projecting a Twitter feed in the classroom to display student questions and comments in real time.
Having students text their answers to a survey or quickly poll how many people in a class understand a concept.
Identifying biases in an author's Wikipedia biography to explore the concept of public information.
These are all examples of the ways Longwood University is integrating new technologies into face-to-face and distance-learning environments. Through the newly formed Digital Education Collaborative (DEC) unit, which is based in the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS), the university is poised to utilize new technologies to enhance faculty presentation and content delivery while achieving high levels of student interaction.
Jeff Everhart, a graduate student in English who is working with the DEC, said one of the program's goals is to assist faculty in thoughtfully and proactively integrating technology into the classroom in ways that are specific to course content.
"By creating assignments that use technology in meaningful and relevant ways, we are encouraging students to participate in a medium that they already feel comfortable in, and we're reinforcing the skills they need after graduation," Everhart said. "It's not just technology for technology's sake."
One of Everhart's tasks has been to research how other universities are integrating technology into the classroom. He said he was surprised to find that many of them do not have a central department leading technology efforts.
"We're really setting Longwood up to be a leader in distance learning by proactively developing innovative uses for instructional technology and cutting-edge ways to deliver course content," Everhart said. "Longwood faculty will be able to streamline and enhance their courses, and students get hands-on experience to prepare them to become 'digital citizens.'"
Everhart assists DEC staff members Nicholas Langlie, director of policy and planning, and Jenny Quarles, director of instruction and training. The team will work closely with Information and Instructional Technology Services, the Greenwood Library and CAFÉ. The DEC expands on the Longwood Online Technology Institute (LOTI), which assisted faculty in the development of online and hybrid classes for nearly 10 years.
Upcoming plans include hiring ten undergraduates to work as instructional technology collaborators for the 2012-13 academic year. The students will provide technical support to on-campus and distance students and faculty members.
Students at Southside Virginia Community College's (SVCC) Southside Virginia Education Center in Emporia and the New College Institute in Martinsville may be more than 150 miles apart in southern Virginia, but they have one big thing in common. They are Longwood University students.
Through a partnership with these locations, students can earn their bachelor's degrees in liberal studies elementary education from LU without ever leaving town.
Offered through the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, the program is an example of the university's blended learning initiatives, which bring the quality of a LU education to off-site locations. Students utilize various technology resources to connect with each other, the faculty teaching their courses and the LU campus in Farmville.
The program offers a combination of in-person, online and virtual courses. Currently, there are 19 students enrolled at both locations, with plans to expand the program in the future.
For Sarah Poarch, a student in the SVCC-based site, the format works perfectly. Having classmates in various locations is beneficial because students are able to share different perspectives and ideas based on their area's unique school systems.
"I'm able to connect with faculty in person, through email, phone, Blackboard and even Skype," Poarch said. "We also use a poly-com system with other classes so we're able to see everyone and talk with our teachers and classmates as if we were all together."
After earning an associate's degree at SVCC, Poarch knew she wanted to continue on to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
"As my graduation day approached, I learned about the new Longwood University program at SVCC, and I felt like everything had fallen into place," she said. "Attending Longwood had always been a dream of mine, and here it was, right in Emporia."
This poster presentation focused on research that produced an understanding of the ratio of breath support and muscle control in producing the consonants S and Z (the S/Z Ratio) through a review of the current research with updates on people between the ages of 19 and 27.
Christian will also present her work at the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia's annual conference in March.
Presentation: The S/Z Ratio: An Analysis of Phonatory Functioning
Communication Sciences & Disorders graduate program
Communication Sciences & Disorders student Christian E. Vaughan shares her work with Dr. Ken Perkins, Vice President of Academic Affairs, at the Seventh Annual Graduate Student Research Forum. Christian worked with Dr. Lissa Power deFur on a poster presentation summarizing research on The S/Z Ratio used as a diagnostic tool by speech pathologists
Christian Vaughan with Dr. Ken Perkins.
Click Here to download poster (Word file)
Preparing to start at Longwood University as a graduate student in education, Gary Shepherd M.S.Ed. '09 decided to explore campus for the first time during the summer when "there was less chance of getting in someone's way."
"I stumbled into the Rotunda, and the very first person I met was Ken Perkins [interim vice president for academic affairs], and I had no idea who he was," Shepherd said. "He started walking me around, telling me about the university's history and asking me questions. Once I found out his position at Longwood, I was really shocked that he took the time to show me around for two hours."
Once Shepherd started classes that fall, he found that the faculty members in his program shared this same commitment to students. As part of the community and college counseling concentration, students must complete an internship in the field. Shepherd recalls Professor Wayne O'Brien pulling him aside to ask about his plans.
"He invited me to his office to discuss the possibility of me completing my internship at the university's Counseling Center," Shepherd said. "They ended up creating a new position for me, and I received financial compensation through a graduate assistantship. The experience really drove home how far Longwood professors and staff go for students."
Since graduating, Shepherd has put his internship and classroom experience to work as an emergency services therapist and outpatient treatment coordinator for Crossroads Community Services Board in Farmville, Va.
As part of his job, Shepherd is responsible for prescreening individuals who are suspected to be a danger to themselves or others. He also conducts emergency and crisis counseling, serves a caseload of therapy clients and performs evaluations for in-home and therapeutic day services.
"The best part of my job is giving hope to individuals who have hit rock bottom," he said. "I get to work with local police departments, social service agencies and hospital staff, and it's great to see various agencies come together to help people."
Shepherd credits his graduate education with providing him with a foundation of theoretical knowledge that he is able to apply in the field.
"The professors do a great job of giving you both textbook and practical knowledge, sharing their own professional experiences, successes and mistakes," he said. "The diversity and depth of knowledge they bring to the classroom, along with the connections they have in the field, really set the program apart."
"I love to learn, and I love to teach," Johnson said. "I'm passionate about teaching the kids."
Johnson earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Longwood University in 1985 and spent more than two decades in the classroom before returning to school in 2006 to earn a master's degree in education with a concentration in literacy and culture and a teaching endorsement as a reading specialist.
"I'd been teaching a long time," Johnson said. "One of my former principals always told me, ‘Invest in your master's degree. You need it for more than just the money. You need it for the kids.' He passed away in the summer of 2006, but his words have stayed with me."
The decision to return to school was not one Johnson took lightly. She worried about what it would be like, having been out of school so long. She worried about keeping pace with the evolution of classroom technology and about juggling her personal and professional obligations with her new academic ones. Finally, a colleague who had enrolled in Longwood's program encouraged her to take just one class and see how she liked it.
"My first class was taught by Dr. Jeannine Perry [now dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies], and Dr. Perry just swept me away," Johnson said. "I was so nervous, but she guided me through that whole first semester. I didn't expect professors to take so much time for their students."
The university also did something else that was out of the ordinary. When early surveys indicated that more than a dozen students in Johnson's program lived and worked in Mecklenburg County, administrators established a regional cohort. Instead of asking each student to drive the 45 minutes to Farmville to attend class, Longwood turned the tables and sent its professors to Mecklenburg. Class was held on Saturdays at South Hill Elementary School-dramatically reducing the time Johnson and her classmates had to spend in their cars. Face-to-face time was complemented with online material.
If Johnson needed any convincing that a master's degree would pay off, she didn't have to wait long. In her own classroom, she soon saw her approach to teaching reading had shifted.
"I started to take a deeper look at a lot of the things that I'd assumed about teaching reading...how students read, what to do to keep them reading, what to do when they're struggling," she said.
Over the course of her career, and particularly since earning her reading specialist endorsement, Johnson has developed a passion for working with struggling readers. (Actually, she prefers to call them "striving" readers instead of "struggling.")
When Johnson completed her master's degree in December 2009, she immediately put it to good use, transitioning from being a full-time classroom teacher at LaCrosse Elementary in LaCrosse, Va., to being a Title I reading and mathematics teacher at the same school. In her new role, she works with second- and third-grade students in small groups, offering them intensive remediation and teaching them strategies to help them become better readers. She also mentors teachers, modeling lessons that reinforce the techniques she honed at Longwood.
In 2011, Johnson was named Mecklenburg County's Teacher of the Year-and later that year, the Region 8 Virginia Teacher of the Year. But the recognition isn't what keeps Johnson going.
"My students are becoming independent readers, and that's the whole goal-to develop independent, lifelong readers," she said. "I could teach reading 24/7. When you love what you do, you cannot stop. You just cannot stop."
Additional Links About Rachel Johnson:
2011 News Release
2012 News Release
Health and Physical Education
"Our program gives teachers the opportunity to earn their master's degrees, expand their sphere of influence and work with students, teachers, administrators and parents," said Audrey Church, associate professor in the Department of Education and Special Education and coordinator of the School Library Media program. "Our graduates help students become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information."
Offered since the early 1990s, Longwood University's School Library Media graduate program is one of only two nationally recognized school librarian programs in Virginia. Students in the program are primarily teachers who want to become school librarians, balancing their graduate education while working full time. On average, 100 students are enrolled in the program, with classes offered online and off campus in partnership with Virginia school divisions.
Church has coordinated the program since she started at Longwood 12 years ago. During her tenure, she has taught almost every course the program offers, including Collaborative Instructional Processes, Media Selection and Evaluation, and Technology Applications.
In addition to being active in professional and academic organizations, Church's current research interests include principals' perceptions of the instructional role of school librarians, educators' use of 21st century skills and the history of school libraries in Virginia.
Before joining the university, Church was a librarian for Lunenburg County Public Schools for 20 years. Her extensive experience in the field allows her to relate to students in the program and serve as a mentor for alumni.
"I try to be an always-open line of communication and information for our students and alumni while serving as a role model for what being a professional in the field is all about," she said. "I try to be constantly available. I set high expectations but provide scaffolding along the way, and I try to always recognize and celebrate student accomplishments."
Recognizing professional accomplishments and supporting each other is one of the main reasons Longwood faculty, students and alumni from the program can be seen en masse at various professional gatherings.
"Each year at our fall state professional organization conference, our program holds an event for alumni and current students," Church said. "Last year, we had more than 100 people attend. Seeing alumni and students connect and hearing what everyone is doing at their schools is truly rewarding!"
If Church's predictions for the future of her profession come to fruition, Longwood's School Library Media gatherings will continue to grow.
"Many school librarians in Virginia are eligible to retire," she said. "I anticipate that more school divisions will want cohorts in order to have a pool of well-qualified candidates. Longwood's program is ready to meet that need."
As an undergraduate at Longwood University, Beth Feagan '10, M.A. '12, knew she found her niche when she took Professor Jennifer Miskec's class "Literature of Diversity for Young Readers." The course taught her to look for gaps in a text's narrative, reading beyond the appreciatory model taught in high school to find greater meaning.
"I began to see that being a children's literature scholar was a bit like being a detective," said Feagan, who is now a Longwood graduate student in English with a concentration in creative writing. "You have to see what others don't see and put together clues to get at the hidden answers. It's addictive. Once you begin to think critically in this way, the entire world is a text to be read."
In addition to being a full-time graduate student at Longwood, Feagan is pursuing a second master's degree in children's literature from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. A nontraditional student, Feagan commutes to campus each day from her home an hour away. She also works while caring for her teenage son, pets and an old farmhouse. Balancing multiple priorities didn't stop her from accepting a Longwood graduate assistantship that helps fund her education.
As a graduate assistant for Miskec, Feagan assists with research on early readers and guest lectures in literature classes. She also helps grade papers and assignments while keeping regular office hours. Feagan has also been able to build on her scholarly interests by presenting papers at four different academic conferences.
Every September, Feagan co-hosts the annual campus "Banned Book Reading," an event that celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.
"Students, staff, faculty and children gather in Greenwood [Library] Atrium and read banned books as part of National Banned Books Week," Feagan said. "The event gets people thinking and talking about the dangers of book banning, and often people are completely surprised and find it hard to believe that books are banned here in America."
Long a fan of literature and reading, Feagan worked in public libraries for years before returning to school to complete her bachelor's degree.
"When I came to Longwood, I found out my passion for books was even more fulfilled in the university classroom," she said. "In the library, I was happy to talk about books, but it wasn't the biggest part of my job. At Longwood, that's what we do all the time, and teaching has become the most exciting way to continue to have these stimulating conversations."
Feagan's goal is to complete her master's degrees and continue on to earn a doctorate in children's literature, with the hope of teaching both critical and creative classes in a university setting. She's already well on her way to accomplishing that goal.
It was a conversation Benjamin Wright '97, M.S.'07, had years ago with a former correctional center offender that motivates him every day.
"Years after his release, a former offender called to thank me for assisting him in his journey to becoming a productive citizen," said Wright, who is the lead warden at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. "I was able to connect him with educational and vocational programs that ultimately enabled him to get a job immediately upon release. His call made me realize the influence that I could have on the lives of others."
Having started his career with the Department of Corrections after receiving his bachelor's degree in psychology from Longwood University, Wright returned to the university to earn a master of science degree in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. He also earned a certificate in public administration from the university in 2007.
Wright has worked at four different facilities and has been promoted to increasingly responsible positions throughout his career. The Greensville Correctional Center houses approximately 3,000 medium-level security offenders from across Virginia, with sentences ranging from less than a year to multiple life terms.
Under Wright's direction, the center offers a variety of programs aimed at helping rehabilitate offenders and prepare them to successfully re-enter society.
The "Campus within Walls" program allows offenders to earn certificates and associate's degrees from Southside Virginia Community College. Those enrolled in the program are housed together so that they can support each other in their educational endeavors.
Therapy dogs that are specially trained to reduce tension also make regular visits. This program has proven to help build morale and promote good behavior among the inmates.
For offenders approaching their release dates, the center offers a cognitive community program designed to change criminal thinking, introduce offenders to community resources and reunify them with family members.
"Being separated from society is the punishment," Wright said. "We aim to rehabilitate offenders while they are incarcerated, not punish them further. Rehabilitation starts with the individual, and it's my job to put programming in place to motivate them to change."
In addition to giving Wright the opportunity to assist inmates in becoming productive citizens, his position allows him to help others' careers blossom.
"I enjoy sharing the success of my staff and seeing colleagues grow personally and professionally," he said. "No two days are alike, but I try to always make sure I'm involved with my staff and visible around the facility."
The compassion and leadership Wright demonstrates in his position are directly tied to his graduate studies at Longwood. He remembers learning about effective leadership in his Administration and Leadership in Organizations course.
"The course taught me a lot about the importance of communication, networking, leadership and evaluation," he said. "I was also able to understand the importance of inspiring a shared vision for those you work with. My Longwood education greatly enhanced my career and prepared me to be a leader in a very challenging profession."
Wright continues to stay involved with the university by helping current students explore their career options.
"I have given presentations to classes about the field of corrections and invited students to tour our facility," he said. "I will always make room on my schedule for Longwood University. The faculty, staff and students are my extended family."
When asked what his or her favorite part of the school day is, more often than not, this will be an elementary school student's answer. More than just a time to burn off energy and play with friends, recess helps improve classroom attentiveness and fitness levels outside the classroom.
But for students diagnosed with autism, recess can be a confusing, frustrating experience. The challenges children with autism face, including difficulty playing in groups, waiting turns and communicating with others, can often rob them of the positive benefits of this well-intentioned break from the classroom.
Kourtney Nichols, a student in Longwood University's Master of Science in education program, special education concentration (SPED), teamed up with Dr. Matthew Lucas, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Athletic Training, Recreation and Kinesiology, to explore how teachers can adapt recess to benefit students with autism.
"My passion is working with children with autism," said Nichols, who has volunteered for organizations devoted to helping children with autism since she was a child. "I took Dr. Lucas' kinesiology class, and from there we decided to combine our interests and write a paper for an academic journal."
Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals in 2010, their article outlines recommendations that can help make recess positive for children with autism.
They suggest simple modifications to recess activities, including assigning partners for group play, limiting interruptions, including nonverbal methods of communication, giving ample reminders about taking turns, and providing examples and demonstrations.
Encouraged by the success and interdisciplinary nature of their first project, Nichols is partnering with Lucas again to write a second article, this time focusing on the needs of students with cerebral palsy.
In addition to earning her bachelor's and master's degrees through the SPED program, Nichols plans to pursue a certificate in autism spectrum disorders. After graduating, she hopes to move to Richmond, Va., and work at a school for children with autism.
"After gaining a few years of experience, I hope to open my own school for children with autism, offering after-school and summer camp programs," she said. "And I already have a lot of ideas for making recess one of the highlights of my students' day."
For Katy Lernihan M.S.Ed. '08, the workday flies by.
As a special education teacher at Jamestown Elementary School in Arlington, Va., her daily routine involves balancing the needs and abilities of six students with varying degrees of autism.
Lernihan is well-prepared for the job. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies with a concentration in special education from Longwood University, she continued her studies and earned a master's degree in education with a concentration in special education.
"Special education is certainly not for the faint of heart," she said. "But my students are funny - 10 times funnier than any comedian without even trying - and they're innocent and inquisitive. Seeing them progress over a school year is by far the best part of my job."
Lernihan adapts to her students' needs and utilizes different educational tools and methods to help them excel. She most recently began using iPads in the classroom. Featuring special programs to enhance communication, regulate behavior and maintain attention to academic tasks, the new technology is having a significant impact.
"Prior to using the iPads, it was very difficult to get any of my students to engage in an activity for more than five to 10 minutes," Lernihan said. "Now I can use a program on the iPad to help them learn in an interactive way, without having to micromanage behavior. My students are making an exciting and positive association with learning."
Lernihan's use of iPads in the classroom was recently featured on ABC News Channel 7 in Washington, D.C. Six-year-old Roberto Flores, a nonverbal student who now uses the iPad to communicate, makes requests and participates in small groups with the help of this new technology. His parents were so pleased with their son's progress that they're now using an iPad at home.
Given her success as a teacher, it might be easy to assume that Lernihan always knew she'd pursue a career in education.
"My mother is a teacher, and, growing up, I always said I would not become one," she said. "But I became interested in special education programs and the Special Olympics at my high school. During graduate school, I interned at Autism Outreach, Inc., in Reston, Va., and I really enjoyed working with the children and applying behavior-based approaches."
Special education seemed a natural fit.
"I never think a child should be limited by a disability," Lernihan said. "There are ways to overcome challenges. Sometimes you just have to be creative."
Graduate Student Poster presentations at the Seventh Annual Graduate Student Research Forum hosted by the Virginia Council of Graduate Schools on February 16, 2012 at the University of Virginia.
Presentation: Just Talk is Cheap: Supporting the English Language Learning Community Based on Ten Years of Interviews of ELL Teachers, Students, and Parents
Literacy & Culture graduate program.
The population of English Language Learners is on the rise in the United States, and in certain areas of Virginia the populations are quite extensive. Increasingly in public schools, teachers are working with students whose language is not English. Many educators are unprepared for the challenges this brings, and it can be difficult to learn how to differentiate instruction to best support students in these unique situations in the classroom. The insights obtained by dialoguing with ELL students, teachers and parents can better support educators' work and ensure every student gets the best education possible. This project analyzes years worth of interview data from all three stakeholders and provides some interesting conclusions.
Click Here to download poster (Powerpoint file)
Tucker, who earned her master of science degree in education with a specialization in literacy and culture from Longwood University, devotes considerable classroom time to language arts-a necessity in a school with a high population of students for whom English is a second language.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University and beginning her teaching career in Hopewell city public schools, Tucker decided to pursue a graduate degree to enhance her teaching skills. She also wanted to prepare to make the transition from full-time teacher to reading specialist, focusing on literacy and supporting others in becoming more effective reading teachers.
Continuing to teach full time while balancing her graduate studies and family life, Tucker credits the flexibility of the Longwood program and faculty support for helping her to be successful.
"The program offered a lot of hybrid classes on the weekends and plenty of online interaction so I could complete assignments at my own pace," she said. "Gretchen Braun [associate professor] and my advisor, Jeannine Perry [dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies], did so much to help me and were always just a phone call away. When you feel like you have people supporting you 100 percent, it really helps."
When asked how she's been able to apply her education to her work in the classroom, Tucker points to one course in particular, Teaching the Writing Process. For an assignment, students had to write their own children's books based on important events or aspects of their lives. They presented their stories to the class at the end of the semester.
"I have never laughed and cried more in my entire life," Tucker said. "It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Every day, I try to motivate my students to write using the techniques from that class."
Armed with practical theory that she's able to translate into new teaching strategies, Tucker feels ready to take the next step in her career.
"Longwood really prepares teachers to be leaders in the field of reading education," she said, adding that she feels she has the knowledge and confidence to step into a reading specialist or department chair position. "What is more important than teaching a child to read? It opens the doors to the world."