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Education department presents Teaching Excellence Awards

Childers Awards 12-10-14 025
Dr. Nelly Hecker with award winners Alison Williams, Amy McGreevy, and Alyssa Cameron

Furman University’s Education Department recently honored three outstanding first-year teachers with the Childers Foundation Teaching Excellence Awards.

Alyssa Cameron, a fourth grade teacher at Roebuck Elementary in Spartanburg District 6, Amy McGreevy, a second grade teacher at Welcome Elementary in Greenville, and Alison Williams, an English teacher at Carolina High School in Greenville, were selected as this year’s award recipients.

Education Department Chair Nelly Hecker, Ph.D., presented the awards during a special reception December 10 attended by family, friends, teachers, and administrators.

A committee of Furman faculty, along with school administrators and mentor teachers who worked closely with award nominees, used three main criteria in selecting the winners: love of content, love of teaching, and love of student.

“Having met the recipients of these awards in the past, know that you join a very elite corps of exceptional teachers. You have risen above your classmates in distinguishing yourselves and thus earning these citations,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty John Beckford wrote to the award recipients. “You are products of an exceptional teacher education program and we look forward to the positive impact you’ll have on the critical mission of educating our citizens of tomorrow.”

Alyssa Cameron ’14

Dawn Mitchell, who has worked as Cameron’s supervisor for the past two years, described Cameron as a person with a “real balance of passion and poise that belies her few months of experience… She works extremely hard to ensure that her students are engaged and that what she plans is authentic and rigorous in both process and product.”

Cameron said she tries to leave her 20 fourth-graders better each day. “When I think back on the teachers that made the biggest difference in my life and my education, the ones that instantly come to mind are the ones that knew me as a person, cared about me as an individual and were invested in my life,” said Cameron, who is pursuing her master’s degree in literacy from Furman. “This is the kind of teacher that I strive to be.”

Amy McGreevy ’14

McGreevy is a teacher who is committed to her second-graders, providing engaging learning opportunities using iPads during the day and also taking the time to attend students’ afterschool activities, such as football games and cheerleading events, said Wendy Thrailkill, McGreevy’s mentor in Furman’s Teacher-to-Teacher program. “She is the type of teacher that always is researching ways to make learning meaningful to her students,” Thrailkill said. “Amy always has something new to share with me; I have learned many new strategies from her.”

Students walking into her classroom each morning are guaranteed a hug, handshake or high five. “I let them know when I am proud of things that they are doing, whether it is a great grade on a math test or being a great friend on the playground,” McGreevy said, who often writes notes in her students’ agendas or leaves them positive messages in their mailboxes.

Alison Williams ’14

Empowering her students’ voices and forming relationships with them is key for Williams. “I have found that one of the wonderful things about students is that they will always ask questions that challenge us to think critically about the nature of our content and why it should matter to them,” she said.

One of Williams’ role models was her English teacher in high school, a big, burly wrestling coach, a thoughtful man who really took the time to converse with and get to know his students. She was impressed, and eventually ended up changing her career plans from biology to English.

Now, “it’s not unusual for a student to approach (Williams)… with a story of some hurt or concern,” said Ramona White, university supervisor. “Oftentimes, the student is not in her class. It’s someone who’s heard about a young Carolina High School English teacher who listens and cares and thinks young people are special.”

The $1,500 award was established in 2009 by Dr. Alfred G. Childers ’80, a member of Furman’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Marybeth Bunting Childers ’80, an accomplished student and teacher who majored in Education and certified to teach in the elementary and early childhood grades. Previous award winners include teachers Caroline Lambert Barrington and Julie Jarriel in 2013, Alison Harwood and Matt Casella in 2012, Lara Savitz and Carol Ann Denyer in 2011, Katharine Hsu and Megan Schonhar in 2010, and Laura Jill Johnson and Phillippa Marion Maroney in 2009.

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