The Union Recorder

April 10, 2008

GCSU celebrates national recognition, new scholarships

Scott Teague

Georgia College & State University educators and administrators celebrated two new endowed scholarships and its having received a prestigious education award Thursday.

Education dean Linda Irwin-DeVitis attended a March reception to accept this year’s Wisniewski Award. The award, given by the nation’s oldest professional organization for teacher educators, Society of Professors of Education (SPE), recognizes an institution that has contributed greatly to teacher education and education theory.

“The John H. Lounsbury School of Education is honored to receive this award for our Architects of Change Model of educator preparation,” Irwin-DeVitis said. “The hard work and dedication of so many faculty and teacher candidates at [GCSU] shaped the program.”

The Wisniewski Award is named for former SPE president and treasurer and education dean at University of Tennessee, Richard Wisniewski.

The university’s Architects of Change program revolves around small, tight-knit learning groups of about 20 education students who work closely with a professor, Irwin-DeVitis said.

“They become a professional learning community. They do an awful lot of activities that aren’t always classroom-based [like student professional organizations and community service],” the dean said. “Another component is that they’re engaged in major work in the schools from the time they begin our program. Our undergraduate students have about 1,000 hours of student teaching experience before they graduate.”

Students share their in-class experiences with their cohort and as a group they determine what teaching methods or lessons need improvement and how to improve them, she said.

The cohort learning concept was hatched more than a decade ago under then-dean Janet Fields who developed the program in Dublin.

One of the professors who today acts as a mentor leader is Nancy B. Mizelle, chair of the university’s Early Childhood and Middle Grades Education.

Mizelle said the hard work she and other professors have put forth has paid off for their students and their university.

“[This award] tells people that what everyone is doing in the school of education is unique and that we’re preparing teachers in ways so they can see themselves as professionals rather than educators, so they see themselves as leaders committed to the profession,” Mizelle said.

Another feather in the education school’s cap is the retention rate of its students in their chosen profession, Irwin-DeVitis said.

“[About] 91 percent of our teachers are still teaching three to eight years after they’ve graduated, and that’s about double the state and national average,” she said. “We’re frequently told by principals and human resources staff that our students are more like second year teachers when they graduate than they are first year teachers. They’re just ready, they know what they’re doing.”

Thursday’s reception in University Ballroom also celebrated the announcement of two new scholarships for deserving students. The Emily Myrtice Lynch and Mary Rose Turner Baugh Bacon are named for a former student and former professor who contributed to the field of education.

The Lynch scholarship will give special consideration to students who passed through public schools in Jasper and Putnam counties, while the Baugh Bacon scholarship will go to students who have been out of high school for at least five years and are declared education-degree seekers in the university’s undergraduate or graduate programs.

The amount of the scholarships won’t be disclosed, but Irwin-DeVitis said the endowments are significant.