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Virginia Journal of Education

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VEA Celebrates Award Winners
VEA honored the following individuals and groups during its annual convention, held this year in Virginia Beach in April:

Friend of Education Award. The Association’s highest honor went to Michael Cassidy, executive director of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, for working to expand opportunities for Virginia children and low-income families.

The Commonwealth Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, provides expert analysis on tax and budget issues. In the past year, as Virginia lawmakers faced the state’s worst economic crisis in years, the Institute regularly provided data and analysis on the choices faced by lawmakers and the likely impact of their decisions on the most vulnerable Virginians.

“VEA believes that lawmakers should be held to their constitutional responsibility to fund quality school programs,” VEA President Kitty Boitnott says. “Michael’s analysis ensures that policymakers, the media, and the public know that we have options as we make decisions regarding Virginia children and families. And he has consistently pointed out the costs of decisions that force children and families to bear the brunt of poor budget and tax policy.”

Cassidy’s work also includes publication of “A New Lesson Plan,” a report showing that spending on such initiatives as preschool education, class size reduction, and others more than recoup their initial investments.

Legislator of the Year. State Senator Mamie E. Locke, who represents part of Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and Suffolk, earned this honor for 2010.

Locke, who is the dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Hampton University, was honored for her steadfast support of public education as a member of the Senate Education and Health Committee. During the 2010 session, she introduced Senate Bill 705, the Keep the Promise to Virginia’s Children Act, designed to protect and support public schools during a time of budget-cutting.

Award for Teaching Excellence. Donald Wilms, an English teacher at Manchester High School in Chesterfield County, is this year’s honoree.

A nationally-certified teacher, Wilms is known for his innovative teaching techniques and his ability to connect with both honors and remedial students.

“Don stands apart from nearly all other English teachers that I have met,” says Frank Cardella, president of the Chesterfield Education Association. “For him, English class is about exploring the nuance of language and fostering literary analysis and high-level conceptual discourse. There are few who can match Don in terms of commitment to students and to overall scholarship.”

Wilms also serves as a statewide teacher trainer for VEA and is a former member of the VEA Board of Directors.

Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions to Intergroup Relations. For their courageous efforts in breaking down racial barriers and promoting equal educational opportunity for all, the members of the “Norfolk 17” and one of their teachers, Charles S. Corpew Jr., received this award for 2010.

Partly because of their actions in 1959, students today across the commonwealth and the nation freely attend their neighborhood public schools, no matter their race. The Norfolk 17’s bold desegregation efforts then, and the support they received from Mr. Corpew, continue to make a difference today.

Mr. Corpew went on to become the first black president of the Education Association of Norfolk and also served as principal at Blair Junior High School.

ESP of the Year. This year’s honoree is Rena’ Davis, a special education teacher assistant at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Chesapeake.

In her 26 years of service to the children of Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS), Davis has become known for her warmth and compassion. “She is a truly caring and sincere individual,” said Malia Huddle, president of the Chesapeake Education Association (CEA). “Her love is evident in the way she conducts herself in the classroom and through her daily interactions with anyone who crosses her path.”

Davis has served CPS and CEA in a number of capacities over the years. She mentors new teachers and ESPs and is currently a member of the VEA Board of Directors and the CEA Political Action Committee and Lobby Team. She’s also active for ESPs on the national level as a member of the National Education Association’s ESP Caucus.

President’s Award for Organizing. The VEA recognized the Orange County Education Association, for all its members’ efforts to fight for public schools during the current economic downturn.

OCEA organized a rally on the grounds of the Capitol in Richmond toward the end of the General Assembly session that drew hundreds of educators from all over Virginia and served as a rallying point in the battle over the state budget and public schools.



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