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WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

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WCE Selected as Hattie M. Strong Scholarship Partner

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Since 1928, the Hattie M. Strong Foundation (HMSF) has helped aspiring students achieve a college degree in their chosen field of study by providing interest-free loans with flexible repayment terms. In 2009, recognizing the alarming debt loads of recent graduates, the foundation’s board of directors moved to offer scholarships instead. Today, HMSF’s primary activity is the administration of a scholarship program aimed at college students enrolled in teacher-training programs at partnering institutions. Partner colleges are selected based on demonstrated leadership in preparing outstanding classroom teachers, and the Watson College was thrilled to join a select group of 21 institutions as a Hattie M. Strong Foundation partner in 2013.

The HMSF partnership enables WCE to offer a $5,000 scholarship each semester for three years to an outstanding pre-service teacher. A specific goal of the foundation is to help reduce financial pressure during the student internship semester, when a student’s ability to offset expenses with outside employment is curtailed by the rigor of full-time work in the classroom.

Scholarships will be awarded to students with strong academic performance, who show promise to be outstanding student interns (and classroom teachers), and have financial need. In December, our first scholarship awards were announced.  Please join all of us at the Watson College in extending congratulations to Alexandria Ivey and Elizabeth Tanner!

Alexandria Ivey

Alexandria Ivey, a student in the Adapted Curriculum Special Education Program at the Watson College, is a passionate advocate for students with exceptionalities. In high school, Ivey knew she wanted to become a teacher, but was unsure what she wanted to teach. During senior year, she signed up for a service learning, special needs class to help students with disabilities. The class was known as an “easy A,” but there, Ivey found something more. A young man, confined to a wheel chair and unable to verbally communicate, captured her heart with a grin and a hug, and in that instant, Ivey knew where she wanted to focus her studies and her career.

“I found my purpose that day,” she says.  And she has pursued that purpose with passion ever since.

UNCW professors and in-service teachers describe Ivey as creative, enthusiastic, eager to learn and an inspiration in the classroom. Melissa Quaranto, the supervising teacher at College Park Elementary where Ivey completed a field experience last fall says, “Students flourished under Alexandria’s teaching and guidance. She demonstrated leadership, fostered a respectful environment, knew the content, facilitated learning and reflected on her practice.” Quaranto says Ivey went well above and beyond the requirements of her assignment in the classroom, and exhibited the skills and intuition of an experienced teacher. She added, “We could use many more teachers just like her!”

Linda Mechling, professor of special education at the Watson College, has worked closely with Ivey for the past two years, supervising lab and field placements and research projects. Mechling says Ivey has high standards, exhibits a strong level of academic achievement and is self-motivated. “She possesses a strong commitment to the field of special education and deep desire for making a difference in the lives of persons with disabilities,” Mechling said.

Ivey has a 3.8 grade point average, is on the Dean’s List, and has received Chancellor’s Achievement and Caswell Foundation Scholarship awards for her work. While at UNCW, Ivey completed field placements at Rachel Freeman Elementary, Topsail Elementary, Williston Middle School, New Hanover High School and the New Hanover County Transition Program for Young Adults. She is also working to complete a departmental honors research project under the supervision of Mechling. It is anticipated that the project will be completed and submitted for publication in May with Ivey named first author on a manuscript titled, “Hands Free Operation of Computer-Based Video Prompting.”

Coming into her final internship semester, Ivey asked to be placed in a high school daily living classroom for students with severe disabilities. Mechling says it’s unusual for a student to request such a challenging internship assignment, calling it “a rarity.”

Ivey says the Hattie M. Strong Scholarship has made a huge difference for her this semester. Although she worked several jobs throughout her tenure at the Watson College, she was worried how she could continue to do so during the internship semester. “The scholarship enables me to devote my time and energy to teaching this semester,” she says. “It’s wonderful!”

In May, Ivey will become the first member of her family to graduate from college, and she knows what she wants to do next. “I want to spend my life speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves and educating those who want to learn but have difficulty,” she says, adding that she wants to help students find a purpose in life, just as she has done in hers.

Elizabeth Tanner

Elizabeth Tanner is in the Middle Grades Education Program at the Watson College. An aspiring math and language arts teacher, Tanner says her goal is “to make learning fun and relevant to my students.”

She believes teaching is more than just instilling knowledge into young adolescent’s minds. Tanner says middle school students need a strong support system, and she works hard to help by teaching them “to communicate with others, make connections and be comfortable with exploring the unknown.”

Tanner enjoys working with middle school students, who she describes as “unique.” Field experience has taught her to be positive, flexible and patient every day when she enters the classroom. She uses manipulatives and other hands-on activities to engage students. And, she encourages students to work in groups and learn from one another, which helps build collaboration and problem solving skills.

Kathleen Roney, professor of middle level education, has worked with Tanner since fall 2012. Roney describes her as a wonderful person who shows a strong commitment to teaching middle grades math and language arts. As Tanner’s professor for programs and practices (EDN 318) and middle grades language arts (EDN 355), Roney says, “She was well prepared for classes, her work was consistently of the highest quality, and she has been a pleasure to teach.”

Jeanne Persuit, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and sorority faculty advisor, first met Tanner when she joined Phi Mu as a sophomore in 2011. Persuit says she is an accomplished and involved student at UNCW and a natural leader; one “who leads with quiet poise and is respected by her peers.”

Tanner’s scholastic achievements include Dean’s List for five consecutive semesters, Chancellor’s List in spring 2013 and membership in Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society. She has a cumulative GPA of 3.78.  While at UNCW, she has completed field experiences at Roland-Grise and Holly Shelter Middle Schools. Roney says Tanner takes initiative to maximize her readiness for teaching, noting her work as a tutor at Trask Middle School through the STAE program and participation in UNCW’s summer program for middle grades students from Columbus County.

Through the university, Tanner has traveled to Honduras with Global Medial Brigades, a club on campus.  There, she had an opportunity to help Spanish speaking adults and children, an experience she calls “life-changing.”

Tanner credits her parents with encouraging her to be involved and adventurous from an early age. In high school, Tanner studied hard, participated in cheerleading and track, and at age 15, landed her first job at a local Jersey Mike’s Sub Shop.

Tanner has held jobs ever since and says the experience has helped her learn to be responsible and independent.  Still, she worried how she would manage to work and still succeed during her all-important internship semester. Receiving a Hattie M. Strong Scholarship has made a world of difference. “I have been waiting four years for this internship opportunity and want to do my absolute best during my first full experience in the classroom,” she says. “The scholarship takes the pressure off and lets me focus completely on my students. I can’t wait.”

Tanner will graduate from the Watson College of Education in May and is looking forward to her career as a middle school math and language arts teacher.