College names outstanding students in degree programs

The Augusta University College of Education is proud to announce the 2020 Outstanding Student Awards recipients who are being honored for their work during the 2019-2020 academic year.

The outstanding student awards are presented to recognize students who have excelled in their programs and exhibit high academic achievement, career readiness, and character. They are a diverse group of students, from seniors about to take their first professional position, to veteran teachers with more than 20 years of experience. They are teachers, counselors, kinesiologists, and aspire to great things in their classrooms, clinics, and careers.

Outstanding Student Award recipients for 2020 are:

  • Josh Adee, Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education
  • Jenna Ansley, Outstanding Graduate Student in Kinesiology
  • Zayeira A. Declet Rivera, Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Special Education
  • Macy Gentile, Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Middle Grades Education
  • Tevin Middleton, Outstanding Graduate Student in School Counseling
  • Allie Morgan, Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Kinesiology
  • Jasmine Payne, Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Elementary Education
  • Jennifer Robertson, Outstanding Educational Specialist in Advanced Educational Studies
  • Jessica Smith, Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education
  • Blake Stitcher, Outstanding Graduate Student in Educational Leadership
  • Mary Katherine Strickland, Outstanding Graduate Student in Instruction
  • John Talman, Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Secondary Education
  • Ari-Elle West, Outstanding Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

We are so proud of everything these students have accomplished, and we wish all of our 2020 graduates the best as they take their next steps.

Josh Adee, from Amarillo, Texas, was awarded the Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education honor for Spring 2020

Josh Adee, from Amarillo, Texas, was awarded the Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education honor for Spring 2020. An active duty service member during his student experience, Adee nonetheless found time to excel in his academic coursework.

“The support of my professors and my military chain of command is the reason I was able to complete my MAT when I did,” Adee said.

As a new graduate, Adee has already volunteered as an Alumni Ambassador, and presented at the 2020 Impacting Student Learning (ISL) Conference. He teaches at Hephzibah Middle School. Adee is the son of Lynda Adee and Doug Adee.

Macy Gentile, from Powder Springs, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Middle Grades Education honor for Spring 2020

Macy Gentile, from Powder Springs, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Middle Grades Education honor for Spring 2020. While a student in the College of Education, Gentile was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, Collegiate Middle Level Association, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and Kappa Delta Epsilon Honor Society.

“I loved the Middle Grades Program at AU. The program offered me so much!! Not only was I able to obtain an education, I also gained lifelong friendships, an amazing mentor/friend, and opportunities that I will forever be grateful for. My favorite times would have to be the memories, laughs, and experiences made at National AMLE Conferences,” Gentile said.

Gentile is moving back to her hometown with her Yorkie, Max, and living close to her parents, Lorena and Anthony Gentile. She is getting married in December and hopes to attend graduate school for her master’s in education next year. But she says Augusta will always have a place in her heart.

Tevin Middleton, from North Augusta, S.C.,  was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student in School Counseling honor for Spring 2020

While a graduate student at Augusta University, Middleton served as a graduate assistant for the AU Literacy Center, as president of the AU Student Georgia Association of Educators, and was a member of the Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society.

Middleton also contributed to and published original research as well as presented research, including “Applying an Existential Lens When Teaching Today’s Students about the Holocaust,” published in the National Social Science Journal; “On Being Black, Gay, and Scholarly: The Impact of African American Males as Gay on their Academic Achievement in Secondary and Post-Secondary Contexts,” presented at the Black Male Leadership Conference facilitated by the African American Male Initiative at Augusta University; and “Using a Psychiatrist’s Path to from Concentration Camp to Existentialism for Understanding and Addressing Experiences of Teachers and Students of Today,” presented at the Critical Questions in Education National Conference Academy of Educational Studies.

“Mentorship has been powerful. The faculty from the Counselor Education program has been very supportive from journey start to finish,” Middleton said. “I also must share that working with Dr. Paulette Harris in the AU Literacy Center has been an experience to cherish. The guidance, support, experiences, and opportunities she has provided has impacted me tremendously. All of this support lends to me become better equipped to serve my future students and I am grateful.”

Middleton has accepted a position as a Graduation Coach at Grovetown High School in Columbia County, Ga.

Jasmine Payne, from Augusta, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Elementary Education honor for Spring 2020.

Payne, who knew she wanted to work with children since she began babysitting at 13 years old, volunteered as a speaker for Future Georgia Educators Day, to encourage high school students to pursue a career in education. In addition to volunteering and babysitting, she is a member of Alpha Mu Gamma national honor society for foreign language.

“My best experiences from this program thus far have always been in the classroom with the students. I enjoy getting to know the students and I enjoy being able to teach them lesson I have created. Additionally, in this program I have learned about the importance of differentiated instruction in the classroom. It is important that all children are able to learn in ways that meet their individual needs,” Payne said.

Payne is completing her studies and looks forward to graduating in 2021, and intends to return to Augusta University for graduate school. She is the daughter of Phillip and Marvalisa Payne.

Jennifer Robertson, from Augusta, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Educational Specialist in Advanced Educational Studies honor for Spring 2020.

Jennifer Robertson has decades of experience as a teacher. But she knows there is always more to learn.

“One of the best things I’ve ever done was to attend the National Writing Project last summer with Dr. Harper. I gained more knowledge of how to teach writing and best practices from that workshop than any professional learning I have attended during my 23-year teaching career,” Robertson said. “I would have to say Dr. Harper was the best part of my experience at Augusta University. She takes a genuine interest in each and every student and provides real world teaching and learning experiences that are practical and creative. I will take with me the ideas and practices I learned from her for the rest of my teaching career.”

Robertson has been a teacher for 23 years. She is the daughter of Bill and Carole Creel.

Blake Stitcher, from Dearing, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student in Educational Leadership honor for Spring 2020.

Stitcher is a double Jag, having also finished his bachelor’s degree at Augusta University.

“Throughout my time in the Educational Leadership Program I have had the wonderful opportunity to build lots of new friendships with fellow colleagues and to work alongside some of the most influential professors at Augusta University. The Leadership Program at Augusta University gave me the knowledge necessary to prepare me for the impactful task of helping lead a school to make the greatest difference possible in the lives of the students, parents, community, and teachers,” Stitcher said.

Stitcher is an Assistant Principal at Grovetown Middle School, and aspires to one day be a Principal, investing in the lives of the students, parents, and teachers for many years and watching the school continue to make such a huge, positive impact on the community. He is married to his wife, Lauren, who is also an educator. Together, they are parents to sons Silas and Emory. He is the son of Melanie Stitcher.

Mary Katherine Strickland, from Augusta, Ga., was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student in Instruction honor for Spring 2020.

While a graduate student at Augusta University, Strickland also taught full-time, presented at the Impacting Student Learning (ISL) Conference, and participated in the AU Writing Project’s Summer Institute, where she now serves as a Teacher Consultant.

Strickland also attained her Reading Endorsement while completing her degree program, and credits Dr. Kim Barker and Dr. Christi Pace for opening her eyes to new and exciting ways of teaching literacy, and broadening her perspectives on diversity in the classroom.

“My favorite part of the program was becoming a part of Augusta University’s Writing Institute, led by Dr. Rebecca Harper. Because of this wonderful opportunity, I was exposed to Dr. Harper’s phenomenal expertise in writing instruction, and I got to work and learn alongside talented and passionate educators with whom I formed fast friendships. To say it was incredible would be an understatement, and I continue to be inspired and amazed by Dr. Harper and all of those awesome educators!” Strickland said.

Strickland is a full-time teacher for Columbia County Schools, and is married to her husband, Scott. Together, they are parents to a son, Luke, and a daughter, Ruby. Strickland plans to return to work on her Ed.S. at AU, and eventually, her doctorate. She is the daughter of Jim and Kathy Newton.

John Talman, from Augusta, Ga., was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Secondary Education honor for Spring 2020.

Talman was very active in both student organizations and academic work, including President Pro Tempore of the AU Student Government Association and Vice President of Alpha Mu Gamma Foreign Language Honors Society. He also presented historical research in two Phi Alpha Theta conferences, including work exploring Asian American immigration correlation to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and an examination of the legal trial of the privateer William Kidd.

“One of the most important lessons that I learned during my time at Augusta University is that education is a doorway to a variety of perspectives and experiences that challenges us to become better individuals that can impact society in a unique way,” Talman said.

Talman will next attend Georgia State University to pursue a masters in history, and aspires to complete a doctorate. He is the son of John and Traci Talman.

Ari-Elle West, Outstanding Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Ari-Elle West, from Greenwood, S.C.,  was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling honor for Spring 2020. While a graduate student at Augusta University, West served as a graduate assistant for the College of Education, and was involved in Chi Sigma Iota honors society for counseling students, serving one year as secretary. Most notably, she presented at AU’s Graduate Research Day and the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (SACES) in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I learned that it is the small victories that count; sometimes we as mental health counselors cannot see the progress we are making with clients but that doesn’t mean we are not making a difference in their lives,” West said.

West is currently working at Family Service League as a mental health counselor with her limited permit in NY state. Her future aspiration is to one day have her own private practice. She is the daughter of Gejuan and Troy West.

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