In all, more than one in three of this year’s honorees are Sea Gulls. They include: Cheri Nier of Caroline County, Stephanie Harris-Walent of Charles County, Valerie Lomax of Dorchester County, Allison Kern of Queen Anne’s County, Dawn Lankford of Somerset County, Angela Asmussen of Talbot County, Katharine Long of Washington County, Chad Pavlekovich of Wicomico County and Jennifer Sills of Worcester County.
“At the state recognition event, we were all so proud to realize so many of us were SU grads,” said Kerns. “What better way to prove Salisbury has such an outstanding Education Department?”
Dr. Dennis Pataniczek, dean of the Samuel W. and Marilyn C. Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies, agreed.
“We are always happy to hear when our graduates are doing well, but to have nine alumni honored at the same time as Teachers of the Year makes us especially proud,” he said. “Our teacher candidates do great things in classrooms while they are preparing to be teachers; and they, in turn, are now doing great things in their own classrooms. Having nine SU grads as teachers of the year speaks highly not only of the caliber of our graduates, but of our faculty all across the campus, as well.”
Many of the honorees said faculty members helped make them the teachers they are today.
Nier, who earned her B.S. in elementary education in 1996 and M.Ed. in 2005, is a first-grade teacher at Greensboro Elementary School. She said Dr. Carolyn Bowden “helped set high expectations for myself as a teacher,” while Dr. Jack Wolfe taught her about reading processes and assessments “that I use to reflect on my students’ progress today.” She praised SU’s “terrific early childhood and elementary education programs.”
Harris-Walent, a seventh-grade language arts teacher and team leader at Milton Somers Middle School, earned her B.S. in elementary education in 1992. She credits the methods classes she took at SU, working with various grade levels, with helping her develop “lessons that meet the needs of all learners.”
Lomax, who received her B.A. in history in 1988 and M.Ed. in 1994, teaches eighth-grade social studies at North Dorchester Middle School. She not only tries to model her classroom style after SU faculty, including professors emeriti Dr. John Wolinski of the Teacher Education Department and Don Whaley of the History Department, but is excited to see SU interns in her classroom: “I am amazed at how well prepared and comfortable these students are. SU continues to teach me through these interns. Each one has shared a skill or resource that has enriched my teaching and classroom.”
Lankford, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Somerset Intermediate School, received her B.A. in English in 2000 and M.Ed. in 2006. She said working with Dr. Nancy Michelson was a highlight of her years at SU, adding that she still turns to her today for advice. She also said SU’s Professional Development School Program helped prepare her for her career: “The experiences I had in the public school classrooms were the most helpful when I began my career after graduation.”
Asmussen, who received her B.S. in elementary education from SU in 1999 and her M.Ed. in 2002, teaches third- through sixth-grade mathematics and sixth-grade language arts at Tilghman Elementary School. She said her biggest influences at SU included Drs. Amy Meekins, Debra Thatcher and Joel Jenne: “They made me realize that teaching any subject can be fun for me and my students. I’ve taken a lot of what they taught me and applied it to my own classroom.”
Kern earned her B.S. in elementary education in 2000 and teaches physical education in kindergarten through second grade at Centreville Elementary School. She called Drs. Meekins, Wayne Ackerson and John Wenke “especially helpful professors who truly influenced the way I approach teaching today.” She also said her involvement in SU’s chapter of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority “taught me leadership and organizational skills that I utilize as a teacher.”
Long, who teaches eighth-grade social studies at Western Heights Middle School, received her B.A. in history in 2006. She said that “a large portion of who I am comes from the strategies that I learned” from Jenne and that Whaley and Dr. Dean Kotlowski of the History Department “inspired me to provide my students with information in a way that is inspiring to them.” Like Kern, she credits her experiences with SU’s Greek and honors organizations—specifically Alpha Sigma Tau and Kappa Delta Pi—with helping to prepare her for life after college.
“Kate is a wonderfully enthusiastic, caring and conscientious person who was destined to be a great teacher,” said Kotlowski. “Those of us at SU who had the privilege of having her in class sensed these qualities in her. I am delighted—but hardly surprised—to learn that she has achieved this honor.”
Pavlekovich received his B.S. in biology in 2001 and M.Ed. in 2008. He said two of his greatest mentors at SU were Drs. Ed Robeck and Starlin Weaver, who have “influenced the way I approach my scientific teaching to my students.” He continues to work with both as a mentor teacher for their current students.
“He is the epitome of excellence in a mentor that I strive to provide for each of my interns,” said Weaver of her one-time student and now colleague. “As a teacher of middle school students he is superb. He is helping them gain skills for high school and beyond.”
Sills, a biology and environmental life science teacher in grades nine and 10 at Snow Hill High School, earned her B.S. in biology from SU in 2002, with a concentration in secondary education. “The education program was exceptional at preparing me for the daily tasks and challenges of teaching,” she said. “Emphasis was placed on meeting the needs of all students and learning styles.”
She, too, received encouragement from Weaver, who provided her with a mantra adopted, in some form, by most great teachers:
“Every student can be successful if you just find a way to connect and make what you teach in your classroom relevant to their personal lives and needs.”
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.