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April 2012

Soon-to-be graduate earns state teaching award

Here’s yet another lesson in why students should put forth their best work on every class project.

Alex Smedley, a senior education major set to graduate in May, was tutoring an elementary school student in Kansas City, Mo. as part of a reading and assessment class. Her professor in the class, Wendy Johnson Donnell, Ph.D., took notice of her good work. She nominated Smedley in January to the Missouri State Council-International Reading Association (MSC-IRA) for its annual Outstanding Pre-Service Reading Teacher Award.

In March, Smedley, a native of Belton, Mo. who transferred to Avila University after a year at Northwest Missouri State, learned that she had won the award.

“I was excited to be able to put something like this on my resume,” Smedley said. “The conference is a big deal.”

Smedley said she was presented her award at the Write to Learn conference March 2 in Osage Beach, Mo.

“I learned a lot at the conference and was able to attend many different workshops,” she said. “It was just a great experience all around.”

Donnell, an assistant professor for literacy at Avila, said Smedley was a worthy recipient.

“Alex is an outstanding representative of the future of reading education in Missouri and most deserving of the MSC-IRA Outstanding Pre-Service Reading Teacher honor,” Donnell said. “During a case study in one of her classes, Alex engaged in action research with a striving reader during twice-weekly sessions. She put into practice the strategies and ideas she gained from her literacy and assessment coursework. In an analysis of pre-test/post-test assessments, the student demonstrated significant growth in literacy achievement.”

Winning the award was simply the capper (until she receives her diploma May 12 anyway) of what she considers a great experience in higher education at Avila.

“I love, love, love the professors here and the whole system,” said Smedley, who also serves as president of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honor society’s branch at Avila. “All the professors know your name; all have connections to you. Everyone has extensive experience in education and believe in what they teach.

“Our professors don’t lecture. They have you do the activity that you need to learn to be a good teacher. Every semester, they take you out of the classroom, make sure you’re completely and practically prepared to teach. I heard some schools say they’d prefer Avila student-teachers, because they’re so well prepared.”

Smedley, Outstanding Pre-Service Reading Teacher Award in hand, said she feels fully prepared and is now sending resumes out, searching for that first actual job. She also wants to continue her education by pursuing a master’s in reading education.

“My goal is to start teaching in August,” she said. “I have a true passion for teaching literacy. I believe that learning to read is the foundation for all learning.” AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434