2014 Teachers College Outstanding Alumni Awards
Megan Allen, '03, and Lynne Weisenbach, MAE '78; EdD '88, were selected as co-recipients of the 2014 Teachers College Outstanding Alumni Award. Both are
graduates from the Department of Elementary Education.
Megan Allen's passion for teaching earned her a Teacher of the Year award (2009), at Sandlapper Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina, where she has been teaching first grade since 2007. Allen always has new ideas to implement in the classroom, such as her "Art from the Heart" service learning project. Her students learn about the differences between needs and wants in a two-week unit about children around the world. "We talk about basic needs: food, water, shelter and how many 6-year-olds in other countries don't have that," explains Allen. "They might only have one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, let alone all the extra things that you want." "It's really cool to watch young kids have such a giving heart," Allen says. Art from the Heart culminates in a silent auction, where first-graders sell the art work they have made. Parents and the community are invited to the event, which features a string quartet. The student decide together which third-world country will benefit from the proceeds of their art auction, and how the money will be used. They might purchase goats or chickens for families to raise, or purchase school books and supplies.
Allen's inspiration for Art from the Heart grew out of her field experiences in Kenya as she was earning her teaching degree.
"I think that it is very important for children, even at 1st grade, to realize they are part of global community. I have the privilege to have these experiences in other countries and bring them back to the first grade classroom to show American first graders how 6-year-olds in another country are living. It shows them how fortunate they are to be here and have what they have," says Allen.
Beginning this fall, Allen will transition to a new position as school counselor at Sandlapper. After teaching first grade for seven years, Allen already knows many of the children she will serve in her school counselor role (Pre-K through 5th grade).
Allen says there has been a switch in the profession from a guidance counselor role dealing with problems or career focus. Now school counselors focus more on prevention and classroom guidance, and work much more directly with the children than before.
In South Carolina, there are three areas that counselors focus on with standards for each grade level:
Lynne Weisenbach, MAE 78; EdD '88, has fulfilled a number of roles as an educator, but never one that she didn't have a passion for. From the elementary school classroom to the dean's office and beyond, Weisenbach has become skilled at leading others to discover the doors education can open for them.
As Vice Chancellor for Educational Access and Success at the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Weisenbach provided leadership for USG's strategic goals on college access and application, teacher preparation, and STEM. She also served as liaison with other state agencies and national partners in those areas. She has played a leadership role in Georgia's overall P-20 initiatives, including overall development and implementation of the Governor's Complete College Georgia initiative. Under her leadership, the Office of Educational Access and Success has supported USG institutions in the design, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives that will define the next generation of educational practices and technologies focused on student access and success.
Weisenbach has also served in leadership roles at the national level for a variety of professional organizations, including: American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), 2002-05; Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration, (2002-present); and numerous task forces and committees of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (State Partnership Board from 1998-2003), and others. She has been directly responsible for securing more than $30 million in grants and contracts from major funding partners over the past 15 years, including $15 million from the Lilly Foundation to fund the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) which she founded; and $11.3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund high school reform efforts in Indianapolis.
Weisenbach began her career as a kindergarten teacher for the Department of Defense at Greenham Common Air Force Base and a comprehensive teacher in Thatcham, England. Her other early teaching experiences included middle school in Union City, Indiana, second grade at St. Mary's School in Muncie, and special education and first grade in the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township.
"I loved teaching young children to read," says Weisenbach. "There was a moment when the light went on—sometimes after much struggle—which was amazing! Literacy is key to success and enjoyment in life, so to play a role in that was a privilege."
Lynne Weisenbach is now Executive Distinguished Fellow at Georgia State University. She currently serves as a consultant with the Lumina Foundation.
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