August 4, 2021

Wells and Student’s StoryWalk Project Highlighted in The Free Lance-Star

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Assistant Professor of Education Melissa Wells and her students were interviewed in The Free Lance-Star, along with Callie Brown ’17, Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation Supervisor, about the class’s work on the StoryWalk project along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail.

The StoryWalk débuted on Fredericksburg’s Rappahannock River Heritage Trail last year—but now it features an original story written specially for the local community.

Students in University of Mary Washington education professor Melissa Wells’ “Literature and the Arts in Elementary Classrooms” course penned “Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,” a 20-page storybook about a family discovering local wildlife and learning about river safety while tubing on the river. Read more.

Coffman Featured in WalletHub Story on States with the Best and Worst Schools

Professor of Education Teresa Coffman

Professor of Education Teresa Coffman

College of Education Professor Teresa Coffman was recently featured in WalletHub’s recent piece on States with the Best and Worst School Systems. Dr. Coffman answered a series of questions, including the following:

In evaluating the best and worst school systems, what are the top 5 indicators? 

The following five key indicators tend to be used most often when considering a school system’s performance:

  • Student academic achievement,
  • Instructional quality,
  • School climate,
  • Graduation and attendance rates, and
  • Satisfaction of teachers, administrators, staff, caregivers, and students.

In lower-performing schools, funding has an impact on each of these five indicators. Teachers may be qualified to teach, but many may be first-year teachers with limited mentorship opportunities within the lower performing school resulting in higher turnover. The ability to provide quality resources might be reduced and the connection between home and school might not be as united as it could be thereby limiting communication and support.

Districts with the best school systems typically have higher funding, more experienced teachers and if there are new teachers’ strong mentorship programs, established student supports, multi-faceted resources, and more community and caregiver connectedness between the school and the surrounding neighborhoods. Read more.

College of Education, City Spin New Type of Story

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Each time Melissa Wells has taught “Literature and the Arts in Elementary Classrooms,” her students have partnered with local teachers to create children’s books to use in their classes.

That wasn’t an option after the pandemic hit, said Wells, an assistant professor in University of Mary Washington’s College of Education (COE). But her colleague, Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement, had an idea.

She put Wells in touch with Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department, which recently launched a StoryWalk® project to get kids outdoors and reading. This semester, Wells’ students wrote and designed a 20-page storybook, Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock, about a family discovering wildlife and safety while tubing on the river. Rather than paper, the pages will be printed on panels along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail.

“The arts got many of us through the pandemic,” said Wells, who teaches aspiring educators how to integrate arts and literature into their curriculum. “As human beings, we naturally process our world and experiences through storytelling, which can help teach concepts that lead to deeper learning.” Read more.

Young Alumna Wins County-Wide Elementary Teacher Award

UMW alumna Amelia Carr recently received the 2021 New Elementary Teacher award from Fairfax County Public Schools. Carr earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2019 and a master’s degree in elementary education from UMW’s College of Education last year.

UMW alumna Amelia Carr recently received the 2021 New Elementary Teacher award from Fairfax County Public Schools. Carr earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2019 and a master’s degree in elementary education from UMW’s College of Education last year.

When Amelia Carr taught her kindergartners to recognize words by sight, she got a little help from her siblings. In a YouTube video, the trio belts out Sister Sledge’s ’70s anthem We Are Family, with Carr demonstrating on a whiteboard how to write the word “we.”

For her ingenuity, passion and knack for making learning fun, the University of Mary Washington alumna was recently named Fairfax County Public Schools’ 2021 Outstanding New Elementary Teacher.

In her classroom at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school near her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, Carr puts into practice the lessons she learned at UMW. Navigating a worldwide pandemic and teaching online was challenging, she said, but also a confidence and creativity builder. “I wanted to make my instruction as engaging as possible,” she said of virtual learning, which lasted through late February for most of her students. Read more.

Peck Receives VACTE Student Impact Award

College of Education Associate Dean for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships Kristina Peck

College of Education Associate Dean for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships Kristina Peck

UMW’s College of Education Associate Dean for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships Kristina Peck was recently awarded a 2020-2021 Virginia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (VACTE) Student Impact Award. In her application for VACTE Initial Licensure Scholarship, Glynnis Farleigh ’20 wrote:

“While Mrs. Kristina Peck has only served as the College of Education’s Director of Clinical Experiences for a portion of my time at UMW, I believe that she fully deserves to be honored for her dedication to the students, staff, and faculty of UMW’s COE. Mrs. Peck has been my instructor for both of my Masters seminars during my fifth year. Here, she has demonstrated intense organization, high standards, and high expectations for myself and my peers as preservice teachers. As a former math teacher and Google Educator Instructor, Mrs. Peck held small-group training sessions for myself and a select group of peers so that we could become Google Educators ourselves. Mrs. Peck has never failed to answer the number of challenging and complex administrative questions that we as students may have and is always supportive to students.

Mrs. Peck demonstrates high standards when modeling the mechanics of teaching – an aspect that is often less discussed as it is less often the subject of intense research, but an aspect that is critical to the smooth, daily functioning of a classroom. This type of daily dedication is critical to the smooth running of a classroom. Mrs. Peck consistently models excellent classroom management, administration, and organization in a way that I hope to mimic in my own classroom and accepts nothing less than the highest standard of performance from us as UMW students. I feel proud to be a graduate of UMW’s Masters of Education program due to Mrs. Peck’s example and support. While I will be beginning my first year as a teacher in my own classroom this August, I will be inspired by Mrs. Peck’s commitment to organization and high standards for years to come.”

VACTE Scholarship Committee Chair Ellen Drogin Rodgers wrote: “It is clear, based on Glynnis’s recommendation that [Peck is] an extraordinary teacher and mentor who has influenced teacher candidates, and in turn, the communities they will serve.”

College of Education Graduates to New State-of-the-Art Home

A student passes by Seacobeck Hall, which is under construction as the new home of UMW’s College of Education and slated for completion early next year. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

A student passes by Seacobeck Hall, which is under construction as the new home of UMW’s College of Education and slated for completion early next year. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Barbara Bishop Mann ’66 remembers making peanut butter and jelly crackers on linen-clad tables. Gayle Petro ’79 pumped pink frozen yogurt from a newfangled machine. Susan Doig ’91, M.Ed. ’06, and friends got creative, making potato skins by topping tubers with salad bar staples and cranking them through a grill-type toaster.

“A lot of bonding happened in this building,” said Doig, one of several alums who studied education at Mary Washington and returned this month to their old dining hall. They came back to add their names to a beam – also signed by COE students, faculty and staff – to be hoisted onto the roof of Seacobeck, the decades-long campus hub for generations of students.

Since meal service moved to the University Center in 2015, a $24 million renovation – in starts and stops – has brought Seacobeck full circle. Its planned re-opening early next year as the new home of the recently accredited College of Education (COE) will reflect UMW’s roots as a school for teachers, with a nod to the future of academia.

The state-of-the-art facilities will be “transformational” for students, said COE Dean Pete Kelly. Read more.

Walker’s Co-Authored Paper Featured on University of Colorado News Site

Assistant Professor of Education Jennifer Walker

Assistant Professor of Education Jennifer Walker

College of Education Assistant Professor Jennifer Walker was featured in an article in Communique, the official news publication of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, about an article she co-authored with Colorado faculty member Kathy Randolph entitled, “Teacher Self-Advocacy for the Shared Responsibility of Classroom and Behavior Management.”

With more than 40 percent of new teachers leaving the profession after five years, teacher burnout is among the highest for all professions in the United States – and special education teachers can face even greater challenges. But with the right tools, special educators can lighten the load, writes Kathy Randolph, assistant professor of teaching and learning, in new research published in SAGE Journals. Read more.

World Lessons Inspire Sophomore to Pen Children’s Book

Sophomore Helen Dhue is about to publish a children’s book based on a story that she wrote as a child. Inspired by courses on immigration history and racism that she’s taken at UMW, Dhue hopes her book will help parents and educators have conversations with children about discrimination and inclusion.

Sophomore Helen Dhue is about to publish a children’s book based on a story that she wrote as a child. Inspired by courses on immigration history and racism that she’s taken at UMW, Dhue hopes her book will help parents and educators have conversations with children about discrimination and inclusion.

Home during quarantine, University of Mary Washington sophomore Helen Dhue found herself rifling through childhood belongings. Among old papers and artwork, she discovered a book she wrote as a kindergartner.

As she turned the pages, inspiration struck. Influenced by classes she’d taken at Mary Washington as part of her history major, Dhue put pen to paper. She’ll soon release her self-published children’s book, The Cats Who Like Bats, based on the story she dictated to her mother all those years ago. Dhue, who is also enrolled in UMW’s education program and aspires to teach high school history, hopes the tale will help parents and educators broach with young children complex topics like racism, discrimination, diversity and inclusion. Read more.

 “I appreciated that classes I’ve taken at UMW have allowed us to have open discussions so we could better understand one another and be more sensitive to other people’s experiences,” said Dhue, who was influenced by history courses she took focusing on immigration and Latin America. Illustration by Julia Lopresti.


“I appreciated that classes I’ve taken at UMW have allowed us to have open discussions so we could better understand one another and be more sensitive to other people’s experiences,” said Dhue, who was influenced by history courses she took focusing on immigration and Latin America. Illustration by Julia Lopresti.

College of Education Awarded Accreditation

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) recently announced that the University of Mary Washington was awarded accreditation for its College of Education (COE), one of the first institutions to undergo a virtual site visit through this accrediting body.

UMW's College of Education was recently awarded accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

In 2010, the same year UMW’s education program became the College of Education, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) designated CAEP as the official accreditation body for all teacher preparation programs at Virginia institutions. For the last decade, the council has given its seal of approval to schools across the country that provide aspiring teachers with the knowledge, skills and clinical training they need to serve their students and teach effectively in the classroom.

“It’s a great opportunity for our faculty and staff to take a critical look at how we prepare our students to become teachers,” said COE Dean Pete Kelly, citing UMW’s partnerships with local school divisions as one of the college’s greatest strengths. “Collectively, we emerged from the process with a richer and more holistic perspective on our work, and our students will benefit from that.”

CAEP, the only recognized national accreditor for educator preparation, awards accreditation to schools that have demonstrated excellence in the areas of content and pedagogy, clinical experiences, selectivity, program impact and capacity for continuous improvement.

“Achieving this accreditation is a major accomplishment and a testament to the outstanding and extraordinary hard work of COE faculty and staff, and the steady leadership of Dean Pete Kelly and Associate Dean Courtney Clayton,” said UMW Provost Nina Mikhalevsky. Read more.

Faculty Members Receive Emeritus Status

The 2020-21 school year will start with five noticeable voids as long-serving faculty leave the University of Mary Washington with emeritus status. The College of Education will say goodbye to professors George R. Meadows and Leslie Jo Tyler, the Department of Theatre and Dance will do the same with Professor Helen M. Housley, and two Jacks – Kramer and Bales – are departing the College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor of Education Emeritus George Meadows

Professor Emeritus of Education George Meadows

George Meadows came to Mary Washington in 1997 not only with an Ed.D. from West Virginia University, but also with a wealth of teaching experience. After earning degrees in geology – a bachelor’s from Marshall University and a master’s from Emory University – the West Virginia native served more than two years with the Peace Corps as a lecturer in geology at the National University of Malaysia, where he taught in the local language.

Meadows was an early adapter to technology. Known today for his instructional technology skills, he was already teaching online in the 1990s when he was research instructor for a National Science Foundation-funded project to support K-12 science teachers across a large geographic area. At Mary Washington, he was as likely to help faculty as students on use of technology, said longtime colleague Professor of Education Marie Sheckels.

She said that Meadows’ students loved his classes and appreciated the opportunities he gave them to explore new technologies, instructional equipment and hands-on material. She said his career demonstrated “he is a generous person who enjoys sharing his knowledge, expertise and excitement for learning with others.”

Meadows has focused in recent years on community outreach in the development of technology and makerspaces in local schools and libraries. He volunteers to support environmental education and STEM studies for the Fredericksburg area’s diverse, low-income children, and he plans to continue both in retirement.

Professor Emeritus of Education Leslie Jo Tyler

Professor Emeritus of Education Leslie Jo Tyler

Leslie Jo Tyler was hired in 1999 for a new master of education post-baccalaureate program in what was then the Mary Washington College of Graduate and Professional Studies. She “single-handedly directed the development” of UMW’s program to prepare classroom teachers to support English language learners – just when the need was taking off in the Fredericksburg area, according to Professor of Education Jane L. Huffman in a tribute to her colleague.

A linguist with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master of education from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Tyler taught linguistics, sociolinguistics, cross-cultural communication, phonetics, phonology and other courses.

Huffman said that Tyler’s students recognized her demanding standards, just as they recognized her excellence. She became known for hosting annual gatherings so graduates and area professionals could get to know one another and share knowledge and best practices.

“Jo embodies the standards of quality, principles of innovation, and collaboration that are at the core of our programs,” Huffman said.

Professor Emeritus of Theatre Helen Housley

Professor Emeritus of Theatre Helen Housley

In her two decades at Mary Washington, Helen Housley directed 29 productions and was the department’s primary vocal instructor and coach. She taught an impressive variety of theater courses and stepped forward to develop a first-year seminar, which she taught every fall since its inception, according to Gregg Stull, department chair and professor of theater. An example of Housley’s devotion to her craft is that she volunteered over the years to watch thousands of high-schoolers audition for UMW Theatre.

An expert in the Lessac technique of voice, speech and movement training, Housley holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, a master of arts from Western Illinois University, and a bachelor of arts from St. Mary’s College.

In a tribute to Housley, Stull said the department in 2019 scheduled Much Ado About Nothing just so his colleague could direct her favorite Shakespeare comedy before retiring. Rehearsals were under way when the pandemic hit, and the production seemed doomed.

But Housley’s show went on. She innovated and directed the performance via Zoom. More than 1,500 people in 37 states and five countries watched a livestream of the performance, and thousands more saw it on YouTube.

“I never would have imagined when we left campus on March 12 that this semester, in all of its uncertainty, would reveal to me, yet again, Helen’s gifts as a teacher, director and colleague. But it has,” Stull said. “Helen ends her career at UMW in the same way she has lived it for the last 20 years – by giving tirelessly to our department and selflessly to our students, demanding as much from all of us as she does from herself. Such is her hallmark of excellence.”

Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer

Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jack Kramer is retiring with numerous distinctions after half a century at Mary Washington. During his long tenure, Kramer served as visiting professor of strategy and policy at the United States Naval War College, research fellow for the Russian Research Center at Harvard University, senior fellow for the National Defense University, and Fulbright-Hayes Fellow in the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

After earning an undergraduate degree at LaSalle College and a master’s at the University of Virginia, Kramer received a doctorate in political science and Soviet area studies from U.Va., where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a DuPont Fellow and a University Fellow. In 2002, the Virginia Social Science Association named him the “Outstanding Political Scientist of Virginia,” and UMW awarded its 2006 Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching to Kramer. He wrote The Energy Gap in Eastern Europe (D.C. Heath, 1990) and numerous articles and professional papers on political life in Communist and Post-Communist polities in Europe. In addition, he was the longtime co-leader of Mary Washington’s unique study-abroad program called European Capitals.

“I’m a happy camper,” Kramer declared on the eve of his retirement. “I’ve had a good run [having] been blessed with many fine colleagues and wonderful students and been paid to teach and write about a subject I still find fascinating and gripping.”

His colleague and current department chair, Professor Elizabeth Freund Larus, said Kramer, longtime chair, “has been the cornerstone of the department … building a collegial environment in which we all appreciate what each of us contributes to the department and the discipline.”

Kramer added: “I had never heard of Mary Washington – or Fredericksburg, for that matter – before I came here; I took the job because we were dead broke and desperately needed money.”

He used that experience as a life lesson for his students, many of whom have gone on to fill high-ranking government positions. “It’s good to plan,” Kramer said, “but don’t obsess about it.” He added, “Life works in funny ways and much of what happens in it is purely serendipitous so be open and receptive to unanticipated opportunities and seize the moment to exploit them.”

Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales

Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales

After four decades at Mary Washington, Reference and Humanities Librarian Emeritus Jack Bales has retired from the University of Mary Washington. But the meticulous researcher and expert on the history of baseball won’t quit studying and writing about his beloved Chicago Cubs.

“What am I going to do without Jack?” asked University Librarian Rosemary Arneson, his friend and colleague. Bales has led about 100 research sessions for students annually, she said, and his Citing Sources is UMW Libraries’ most popular guide, with over 6,000 hits. Faculty depend on him for support, too, including some of his former students who now teach at their alma mater.

“He is happiest when he is in the library early on a Saturday morning, poring over the microfilm of early Chicago newspapers, and he loves nothing else so much as a good footnote,” Arneson said in a tribute to Bales.

The Positivity Post, a UMW student-led weekly newsletter designed to spread good news during the gloomy COVID-19 days, recently described Bales as a UMW “institution.” The article went on to say that Writing Center director Gwen Hale once hailed Jack Bales as “the Mick Jagger of librarians.” A student countered, according to the article, ‘‘Mick Jagger is the Jack Bales of rock and roll!”

In 2019, Bales released Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team, published by McFarland & Co. A book about the life of Violet Popovich, the woman who shot Cub Billy Jurges, will be published later this year by The History Press. Bales’ books include literary studies on American authors Horatio Alger Jr., Kenneth Roberts (Northwest Passage), and Esther Forbes (Johnny Tremain).

In addition, he’s written extensively about the late Southern author Willie Morris, who is best known for his award-winning North Toward Home and the memoir My Dog Skip, which was made into a popular film. Morris and Bales became friends, leading to Morris’ memorable guest lectures at Mary Washington in 1998, during which he captivated students, faculty and community members.

“Jack is much more than a great teacher and researcher,” Arneson said. “He is a generous colleague, always willing to take an extra shift on the reference desk or to offer words of praise. We will all miss him greatly. And we hope he doesn’t have to wait another 100 years to see the Cubs win the World Series again.”