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Virginia Journal of Education

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Houck, others honored at VEA Convention

The VEA presented the following awards at its annual convention, held this year in Virginia Beach:

The Friend of Education Award, the association's highest honor, went to State Senator R. Edward Houck, in recognition of his long and tireless efforts on behalf of Virginia's public schools, the students who attend them, and the educators who work in them.

"Because Senator Houck has had a distinguished career in our public schools himself, he is able to see General Assembly issues through the eyes of an educator," says Princess Moss, VEA president. "He's always been willing to speak up for schools and for school employees-he's a man of courage."

Houck, a Democrat who represents the counties of Culpeper, Louisa, Madison, Orange, and parts of Spotsylvania County and the City of Fredericksburg, was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 1983. He currently serves on the Finance, Transportation, Rules, General Laws, and Education and Health committees.

He began his career in education as a middle school science teacher in Spotsylvania County in 1973, and went on to serve as a guidance counselor and assistant principal there, as well as president of the Spotsylvania Education Association. He is currently the Director of Student Services for Fredericksburg City Public Schools.

Some of the key pieces of education legislation that Houck has been instrumental in during his time in the Senate include measures that protect daily planning time for middle and high school teachers, ensure elementary resource teacher and technology positions, and require schools to have a medical emergency response plan in place. He's also fought for improved compensation and benefits for educators and sought ways to make higher education more affordable for more students.

The Award for Teaching Excellence was presented to Douglas Graney, a teacher at Fairfax County's Herndon High School known for his innovative social studies courses. Graney, who teaches U.S. and Virginia government, political science and philosophy, has created a unique internship program for Herndon students. After learning of students' interests and views, he places many of them in Congressional offices to get a first-hand peek at laws and lawmakers. This year, 71 students are participating as interns. In the past, Graney's pupils have interned in the offices of Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Tom DeLay, John Warner and others.

In addition, Graney, who has earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is assisting other teachers to gain this prestigious credential, serving as a trainer and coach for national board certification workshops for the VEA and the Fairfax Education Association.

The Education Support Professional Award went to Doris C. Powell, an instructional assistant at Bucknell Elementary School in Fairfax County since 1988. The Award honors outstanding work in the areas of professional practice, association involvement, community engagement, personal achievement, and the enhancement of the image of support professionals.

At Bucknell Elementary, Powell works with special education teachers, helping to ensure that student needs are met in both self-contained and mainstreamed settings. She also works in the after-school remediation program and during summer school. While accomplishing all this, she is known for her kindness, flexibility and graciousness.

"Doris has written books which incorporate the high-frequency words in kindergarten," says Bucknell teacher Peggy Burkholder. "She has written books for first and second graders to provide practice with decoding skills."

The Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions in Intergroup Relations was presented to Unity in the Community, an acclaimed Manassas group launched to counteract intolerance.

Formed in 1995 following the distribution of hate literature in Manassas, Unity in the Community holds discussion groups, sponsors multicultural celebrations for youth, and educates the public in anti-bias skills, cultural diversity and basic human rights.

A member of the Fitz Turner Commission, which selected the award winner, wrote that the group "unites and draws upon the strengths and talents of community churches and civic organizations to celebrate diversity in their local population and raise awareness to problems faced by minority citizens."


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