AUGUSTA, Ga. — Karyn Warren has spent nearly 20 years in service to special education students in the Augusta area. A three-time graduate of Augusta University and special education classroom teacher at Greenbrier High School in Columbia County, she has been named the College of Education’s 2018 Distinguished Alumna. Warren will be honored during Alumni Weekend.
“I am deeply honored to be named Distinguished Alumna,” Warren said. “When I applied for college, Augusta University was my only choice. And for every subsequent degree, I did not consider attending anywhere else.”
Warren first graduated from Augusta University in 1998 with a bachelor of science in education. Initially, she planned to teach high school history, but her advisor thought a job in that field might be hard to come by and suggested math, science and special education.
“I decided to take a few months and volunteer in a special education Sunday school class at my church to see if it was something I would enjoy. I absolutely fell in love with the individuals I was working with and the challenges of helping them accomplish a task,” Warren said.
For the last 19 years, Warren has worked with children with disabilities. Currently, she teaches a self-contained class for students with severe autism.
“My students work on a functional curriculum,” Warren said. “I have the opportunity to teach them things like household tasks. We also work on money skills. We do some of these things through role-playing, video modeling and interaction with general education peers, computer learning activities, task boxes, group activities and one-on-one activities.”
Warren also enjoys technology and finding ways to better the lives of her students. She is a Google Certified Educator and works hard incorporating technology into her lesson plans.
“As a Google Certified Educator, my list of uses for technology could be endless,” Warren said. “But…technology is not THE activity. Technology should be the tool that the teacher uses to enhance the activity. Technology is very beneficial because it is engaging and can enhance the activities teachers develop for students.”
But it seems like even after two decades, Warren is still just getting started.
Having finished her bachelor’s degree at AU, she returned to get her Master of Science in education and later to get her educational specialist in educational leadership. And she is a member of the College of Education’s first cohort in the Educational Doctorate in Educational Innovation program.
“The Ed. D. program is collaborative,” said Dr. Molly Quinn, interim chair of the department of Advanced Studies and Innovation. “It takes students who are very committed to their studies and inquiry while demonstrating the skills that are necessary for the doctorate level; but also willing to be challenged by others and collaborate to create something generative and beyond what you could do yourself. Karyn demonstrates all those aspects.”
Warren has presented at several conferences, including the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate Conference, the ISL Conference, the IDEAS Conference and the Columbia County Board of Education summer learning institute. She presented her research for her dissertation in March.
“My dissertation was on teachers’ understandings and perceptions of restorative justice. Restorative practices represent a shift in school culture that focuses on building trust, community and relationships. It’s a component of these practices that is the specific response to handling school discipline. The findings indicated that there was a relationship between the teachers’ understandings and perceptions. However, all of the teachers did not have an adequate understanding of restorative justice,” Warren said.
Quinn and Dr. Megan Buning, assistant professor of research in the department of Advanced Studies and Innovation, are Warren’s advisors for her dissertation. They described her as a hard worker who takes initiative when presented the opportunity.
“She is willing to take the extra steps to seek out additional information to support decisions,” Buning said. “She always comes to me prepared with literature to support the changes she wants to make or support her decisions. She has embraced the responsibility of becoming a scholarly practitioner.”
Before receiving her doctorate, Warren taught as an adjunct faculty member at Augusta University for 11 years, with her favorite class to teach being an introduction to exceptional children.
“I always loved having the opportunity to share not only what I know, but also real-world examples, with my students at Augusta University,” Warren said. “Even on difficult days in my classroom at school, I could come to the University and be re-energized. Many of the students offered me inspiration and new ways to look at things, so it was a learning experience for me as well.”
Overall, Warren said that Augusta University has played a big role in her life.
“I could not have made a better choice than I did 24 years ago when I applied to Augusta College. I not only have earned three – soon to be four – degrees from this university, I also met my husband of almost 20 years while attending my second semester. We have four incredible children, two of whom are currently attending Augusta University.”
Warren, along with other distinguished alumni from the nine colleges of August University, will be honored at the Summerville Alumni Awards Cocktail Reception and Banquet on April 27, during Alumni Weekend.