Avila Now

March 16, 2021

McCray, Rowland named 2021 MACTE Outstanding Beginning Teachers

Avila Graduates Athena McCray '20 and Ashley Rowland '20 were recently named 2021 Outstanding Beginning Teachers by the Missouri Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (MACTE).

Two alumnae of the Avila University School of Education, Athena McCray ’20 and Ashley Rowland ’20, received the Outstanding Beginning Teachers Award from the Missouri Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (MACTE) this February and were recognized during the MACTE Spring Conference March 8-9.

Created to identify and recognize early-career teachers, the MACTE awards the Outstanding Beginning Teachers Award biennially based on a rubric emphasizing excellence in the classroom and a passion for teaching, but also good relationships with students, peers and administration. In light of the challenges the past year presented, McCray said she concentrated on building bonds with her students despite the obstacles.

“I have over 40 second graders I co-teach, and we’ve been 100 percent virtual the entire year,” she said in a presentation from the MACTE Spring Conference. “I’ve worked hard and had to overcome some barriers to establish relationships with my scholars, but it’s been one of my most prideful things I’ve been able to do this year. Learning might not be what we want it to be, but I know my students will remember the relationships we’ve built and the things we’ve done together in the classroom.”

Graduates of the Avila School of Education who go on to the classroom are very well prepared for what to expect in the initial stages of their careers, according to Sue Ellen McCalley, Ph.D., professor of education.

“Developing strong leaders in the classroom who treat their students and peers with empathy is something that Avila has prided itself on for decades,” McCalley said. “The University’s emphasis on incorporating the latest trends in pedagogy, combined with the CSJ values that stress lifelong learning and right relationships, mean that our graduates are entering the classroom ready to teach, but also learn.”

McCray graduated in May 2020 with her bachelor’s of arts degree in Elementary Education and currently teaches second grade at the Crossroads Academy in Kansas City. Rowland completed her certification in May 2020 in secondary education with an emphasis on English language arts. She is now teaching English Language Arts at Raymore-Peculiar High School in Peculiar.

Both McCray and Rowland currently are enrolled in the Graduate School of Education, completing work toward a Master’s degree in education (M.A.Ed.) degree with a concentration on Curriculum and Instruction. McCalley said both award winners’ love of teaching and their respective strengths in the classroom are exceptional, but hardly atypical for Avila graduates.

“Both Athena and Ashley were wonderful to teach—active participants in class and eager to gain the knowledge they needed in order to be the best teachers possible,” McCalley said. “All of our students have nearly unlimited access to current and former teachers with decades of experience, whether if it’s a professor or an alumnus. That accumulated wisdom is an essential and unique resource to begin your teaching career, and Avila is well suited to provide it.”

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