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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Maryland Teacher of the Year Finalist is Latest SU Education Success Story

Chad PavlekovichSALISBURY, MD---When the Maryland Department of Education announced its 24 county Teachers of the Year for 2011, nine were Salisbury University alumni—more than any other campus represented.

Now, one of those alumni, Chad Pavlekovich, will vie for the top title. The Wicomico County middle school science teacher is among the finalists in the running to be crowned Maryland Teacher of the Year during a ceremony scheduled Friday, October 14, in Baltimore.

In the past decade, three members of the SU community have been honored with the statewide Teacher of the Year title. Two other Salisbury graduates have won the prestigious Milken Educator Award, sometimes called “the Oscars for teaching.” Yet another has been honored with The Washington Post’s Distinguished Educational Leadership Award, and USA Today has named one among the top teachers in the nation.

In neighboring Worcester County, so many good things have resulted from a Board of Education-SU partnership, that the National Association of Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) took notice. It bestowed them with the 2011 Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award—one of only five presented nationwide.

According to Dr. Dennis Pataniczek, dean of the University’s Samuel W. and Marilyn C. Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies, the key to such successes is student-centeredness that takes the form of excellent preparation on campus and intensive clinical placements in schools. The fourth largest producer of teachers in Maryland, SU makes sure its students have the mentoring and exposure to classroom excellence they need to succeed. The 2011 county Teachers of the Year agree.

Valerie Lomax, who teaches eighth-grade social studies in Dorchester County, says she tries to model her classroom style after two of her former SU professors: Dr. John Wolinski of the Teacher Education Department and Don Whaley of History.

Stephanie Harris-Walent, a seventh-grade language arts teacher and team leader in Charles County, 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.”

At SU, teaching excellence is a campuswide commitment. “The administration does not lose sight of our roots as an institution that has prepared teachers for almost a century,” said Dr. Nancy Michelson of the Education Specialties Department. “There is strong support for programs and initiatives that update and improve quality. Needs related to teacher education are important elements of the University’s strategic plan.”

In 2008, SU opened its award-winning state-of-the-art Teacher Education and Technology Center, which has been called a showcase building for education in the mid-Atlantic. Its $5 million investment in new technologies helps prepare students for 21st century classrooms—something Paul Gasior, Seidel School field experiences coordinator, said many of SU’s Professional Development School (PDS) partners have noticed.

Gasior considers the University’s work with these local schools vital to preparing good teachers. “The University has built a strong network of 36 PDS partners … and … they see the advantages for their own students in the partnership. When our well-prepared interns are working full-time with master teachers, good things happen in those schools.”

“The work of the people involved in the award-winning Worcester Cluster has set the bar for SU’s other partnerships and for PDS programs statewide and nationally,” Pataniczek said. “After spending a couple of hours at Snow Hill Elementary School, I was blown away by the seamless collaboration between interns and mentors.”

According to Dr. Jon Andes, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS), “Ultimately, the real advantage is the value added to classroom instruction by [SU students],” he said. “Based on state test results, WCPS is one of the top performing school systems in Maryland. PDS has played a vital role in helping us improve the achievement level of our students.”

“Salisbury University is a state leader in promoting co-teaching in Professional Development Schools,” said Jean Satterfield, assistant superintendent, Maryland State Department of Education, division of certification and accreditation. “This focus on collaborative teaching … to support student achievement has been the foundation of high quality teacher preparation. … Through data-driven analysis, the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies continually refines its programs to meet the needs of local school systems.”

Dr. Joel Jenne of the Education Specialties Department emphasized, “It takes a university-public school partnership to raise excellent teachers.” And, by all accounts, the campus has succeeded. “At the state recognition event (for 2011 Teachers of the Year), we were all so proud to realize so many of us were SU grads,” said Allison Kern, Queen Anne’s County Teacher of the Year, who earned her B.S. in elementary education. “What better way to prove Salisbury has an outstanding education program?”

According to Dr. Patricia Richards, coordinator of the University’s Reading Education Program, it’s often the students themselves who make the difference. “At SU, we are fortunate to attract individuals who pursue excellence,” she said. “They value substance and rigor over ease and convenience.”

Excellent faculty also are key. “The University, historically, has had an extremely strong teacher education program, due in large part to our remarkable faculty and the creative partnerships they build on campus and beyond,” said Dr. Diane Allen, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “Passionately committed to their profession, they really model best practices for our students and provide extensive opportunities for research and hands-on experiences. Faculty are the primary reason our teaching interns and graduates are highly regarded and much in demand.”

In addition to encouraging real classroom exposure for students, Seidel faculty actively partner with colleagues across campus to foster learning. They have established relationships with the Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts and Richard A. Henson School of Science and Technology, for example, to more seamlessly prepare future teachers in fields such as history and science.

“SU students with a track in secondary education leave the University extremely well qualified to teach in their subject areas,” said Dr. Jeanne Whitney, associate professor in the History Department. “Our department has worked closely with Dr. Jenne, who teaches social studies methods to ensure that our students have the knowledge they need.  We now require students in the secondary track to take several specified social science courses to better prepare them both for the classroom and for PRAXIS II, an exam students must pass to receive teacher certification from the state.”

“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. This speaks highly not only of the caliber of our graduates, but of our faculty all across the campus, as well,” said Pataniczek.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.



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