There is no better indication of the quality of an academic program or institution than the success of its graduates.
With that said, there is no question of the quality of the Teacher Education Program at Bluefield College, which this year alone is celebrating four Teacher of the Year honors for its graduates.
Tiffany Carter, Beth Ann McMillion Craig, April Reed Halsey, and Leslie Bratton Lambert, all graduates of BC’s Teacher Education Program, were all honored this academic year as Teacher of the Year for their respective schools or district.
Carter, a 2001 Bluefield College graduate from Bastian, Virginia, won the 2011 Teacher of the Year award at Bland Elementary School in Bland, Virginia, and the 2011 Teacher of the Year award for Bland County.
A fifth grade teacher at Bland Elementary, Carter was nominated and selected for the school award by her colleagues. After winning at that level, she became eligible for the countywide honor, and through an interview selection process she outshined four other Bland County teachers to earn Bland County Teacher of the Year.
“Teaching should be less about instruction and more about changing lives,” said Carter about her approach to her profession. “When you work to change lives, then learning just follows. My goal as a teacher is to change the lives of my students, and that I do.”
As County Teacher of the Year, Carter is now eligible for Regional Teacher of the Year and State Teacher of the Year. She is in her ninth year teaching at Bland Elementary, where she teaches math, science, and U.S. history. She gave special thanks to her grade level teaching partner, Sherry Rhodes Havens, also a BC grad (’98), but above all she said the awards are all about her students.
“I love my kids,” said Carter. “I try to be a real person to them. So often teachers seem to be removed from their students, never truly engaging in their lives. They engage in their schoolwork, but not their lives. I let my kids see that I have the same hurts, struggles, laughs, dreams, and disappointments as they do. If they can be very comfortable with me, then they will receive from me, whether instruction, advice, or whatever they need at the time.”
Craig, a 1992 BC graduate from Chester, Virginia, won the 2011 Teacher of the Year award at Ecoff Elementary School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Selected by her peers for the award, Craig was acknowledged for her “attention to detail” and “patience with children.”
“Beth is one of the most naturally gifted teachers I have ever worked with,” said one co-worker. “Students in her classroom believe they can achieve anything, because their teacher believes this. Beth makes learning fun. Structure and excellent teaching combined with a loving and supportive approach make her a master teacher.”
A first grade teacher at Ecoff, Craig is also a recent recipient of an REB Grant for Teacher Excellence. The award, presented to just seven teachers out of more than 300 from Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond public schools, allows grant recipients to travel and participate in learning opportunities and experiences that they can bring back to students in the classroom.
“Beth gets so excited about student learning,” said a second colleague. “Her kids adore her, and everyone who has taught with her gets how special she is. Her passion for teaching is seen everyday, and I am thankful to work with her.”
A Bluefield, Virginia, native and Graham (VA) High School graduate, Craig began her teaching career at Dudley Elementary School in Bluefield. She will be recognized by the state during a banquet in October, where she also will be eligible for the Virginia Teacher of the Year honor.
Halsey, a 2004 BC graduate from Princeton, West Virginia, won this year’s Teacher of the Year honor at Rocky Gap Elementary School in Rocky Gap, Virginia.
“Mrs. Halsey works tirelessly as a kindergarten teacher,” said Dr. Gary Williams, principal at Rocky Gap Elementary. “She is adept at working with students of varying abilities and constantly strives to help each student reach their highest level of performance. She has a special ability to motivate students to work to their potential. Rocky Gap Elementary School, Bland County Public Schools, and the Rocky Gap community are blessed to have such an upstanding individual providing guidance and opportunity to the children attending this school.”
Halsey teaches kindergarten at Rocky Gap Elementary, where she has worked since graduating from BC seven years ago. She was nominated and selected for the Teacher of the Year award by her colleagues.
“April demonstrates the highest standards of teaching with her professionalism and passion for teaching,” said second grade Rocky Gap Elementary teacher Karen McCardle. “Her students are certainly fortunate to be in her classroom, as she has touched every child she has ever taught with her warmth, kindness, and understanding. April has an amazing gift and it comes naturally. Her love for teaching is evident every time you walk into her classroom and see the smiles on her students’ faces.”
In addition to her teacher licensure from BC, Halsey holds a master’s degree in special education from West Virginia University.
“I am honored to be selected as Teacher of the Year,” she said. “Rocky Gap Elementary School is a wonderful place to teach. My fellow teachers are amazing, and the students and parents are the best.”
Lambert, a 2002 BC graduate from Mount Hope, West Virginia, won the 2011 Teacher of the Year award at Liberty High School in Glen Daniel, West Virginia.
Nominated and selected by her co-workers, she has been teaching English at Liberty High School since 2008. She also teaches college level English at Glenville (WV) State College and has taught English at Bluefield (WV) State College. Her Liberty Teacher of the Year award makes her eligible for Raleigh County Teacher of the Year and West Virginia Teacher of the Year
After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from Bluefield College in 2002 and a master’s degree in English from Radford (VA) University in 2005, Lambert returned to BC for teacher licensure in 2008. Earning the Teacher of the Year award, she said, is a result of the preparation she received at Bluefield and the ways in which she has been able to apply the knowledge and skills she gained as a student in the BC Teacher Education Program.
“It is an honor to be recognized as Liberty High School Teacher of the Year,” Lambert said. “The training and personal attention I received at Bluefield College is what prepared me for a career in education. My success in the classroom can be attributed to instructors like Dr. Donna Watson and Mrs. Phyllis Owens, who took the time to take a personal interest in my success.”
In addition to BC’s four Teachers of the Year, two additional Teacher Education graduates earned professional distinctions this year. Sandra Bowling, a 1989 BC graduate from Wytheville, Virginia, won WVVA-TV’s Teacher of the Month award in February 2011. And, Dr. Rebecca Stevenson Lowry was named superintendent of Westmoreland (VA) County Schools in January 2011, the highest education administration position for a public school system.
“I’m so proud of all the accomplishments of our graduates who impact schools and communities all around the state of Virginia and beyond,” said Dr. Donna Watson, chair of BC’s Division of Education. “Their positive influence and service to their profession is far reaching and inspiring. One of the joys in working with student teachers is to see them blossom into highly qualified professionals. Every year, Phyllis Owens and I work with students whose talents and gifts are extraordinary, and we can see that they will have an outstanding career in teaching.”
Founded in 1977 by Dr. Gerald Clay, who directed the program until his retirement in 2006, the Bluefield College Teacher Education Program strives to “prepare students as outstanding teachers through content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and caring teaching skills.” Nationally accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) and endorsed by the Virginia Department of Education, the program offers teacher licensure in elementary and secondary education, art, health and physical education, music, biology, business, chemistry, English, history, information technology, mathematics, and social sciences.