College of Education earns three national honors

The Augusta University College of Education earned three national awards honoring excellence in middle grades education at the annual conference for the Association for Middle Level Education from Nov. 7-9 in Nashville, Tennessee.

AU emerged from a national pool of distinguished professionals and educators to capture Outstanding Professor of Middle Grades Education for Dr. Stacie Pettit, professor of education; Outstanding Teacher Candidate for recent alum Amanda Woods, who also presented at the conference; and Outstanding College Middle Level Association Chapter for the hard-working Augusta University student organization. Submissions were reviewed by a panel of experts and judged across the nation.

“I am honored to receive this award from the National Association of Professors of Middle Level Education, and even more so to be given this award alongside two colleagues whom I admire so much. The organization is full of outstanding educators, many of whom have mentored me along the way,” Pettit said.

Pettit was nominated by a colleague at Georgia College & State University who called her “a one-woman show.”

“Taking on the role as the sole advisor of a CMLA chapter, advising and supervising teacher candidates, and earning a grant are tremendous undertakings. The time commitment of that responsibility alone underscores Dr. Pettit’s significant impact to middle level education,” said Dr. Joanne Previts, professor of education at John H. Lounsbury College of Education at GCSU.

In addition to mentoring hundreds of students and coordinating the 800-person Impacting Student Learning Conference, Pettit has also published research and earned a number of awards, including Caught in the Act of Great Teaching at Augusta University in May 2018, the Augusta University’s College of Education Service Award for 2017-18, and the Jag20 Award for recognition as an Emerging Alumni Leader in 2016.

With Pettit as mentor, it’s no wonder Woods was so well prepared for her profession that she was chosen Outstanding Teacher Candidate nationwide. Woods, a 31-year-old first-year Grovetown Middle School teacher from Dallas, wanted to be a teacher as long as she could remember. She spent eight years in the Navy, retiring as a second-class petty officer, as a stepping stone to her current career in education.

“I’m honored, but I also feel like my hard work has paid off. I work really hard to try to be the teacher I wanted when I was a kid, so it’s confirmation that I’m doing the right thing,” Woods said. As a leader at a Title I school, she strives to be the kind of caring and present teacher who makes students forget that they are learning.

“I think I excel in caring about my students and getting to know them, and being relevant,” Woods said. “I love being able to show my students how far they’ve come in a year. It’s a huge mindset changer for a lot of kids.”

Petitt also mentors the College Middle Level Association student organization at Augusta University, chosen for nationwide honors as outstanding chapter. The members hosted this conference, presented several sessions and hosted panels. Macy Gentile, the 23-year-old president of the organization, says she attributes their success to growth, service and academics.

“I would say that our growth in membership numbers, our recruiting efforts, our successful service projects, the work we did on the national conference, and then our grade point average as a whole for the club all worked in our favor,” Gentile said.

The organization has raised money for educational causes, donated supplies to schools with high levels of poverty, and took on a bathroom beautification project at Langford Middle School that included encouraging messages of support for the students.

At the conference they focused on teacher attrition rates, running sessions on transitioning into the profession and helping new teachers survive the transition and maintain their enthusiasm for their careers. They are planning their role at next year’s conference.

“I took away a lot of lessons in professionalism in both teaching and in planning and presenting at a conference,” Gentile said. “I like to say I came away with a growth mindset. I know I have to keep going.”

The Association for Middle Level Education is a membership organization dedicated to helping middle school educators reach every student, grow professionally, and create great schools. Augusta University’s chapter of College Middle Level Association will also serve as the student organization host for the 2020 national conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in November 2020.

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