Liberty University’s School of Education Students Honoured with ‘Teachers of Promise’

Liberty University
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In the previous month, the Liberty University School of Education sent seven students to the Teachers of Promise (TOP) Institute in Midlothian, Virginia. These students were recognized for their academic achievements and had the opportunity to engage with experienced educators. The event, held from March 22 to March 23, commenced with a celebratory banquet on Friday evening, honoring this year’s “Teachers of Promise.” The following day featured workshops and collaborative sessions between teacher candidates and seasoned mentors.

The TOP Institute, established in 2004 by Wade Whitehead, a distinguished recipient of the Milken Educator Award and McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence, as well as a member of the National Teacher Hall of Fame, aims to provide mentorship to promising teacher candidates in Virginia. Liberty University has been a longstanding partner of TOP since its inception and has consistently participated in the conference, with the exception of 2020 when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students selected to attend the institute were nominated by faculty members based on various criteria, including their contributions to the department, participation in school clubs, collaboration with classmates, and other relevant factors. Liberty’s 2024 TOP candidates included Hannah Agostino, Jessica Chiereghio, Ciera Demorier, Aubrey Kransberger, Allison Fueger, Diamon Gipson, Madelyn Junker, and Shea O’Brien.

“This recognition shows them that our profession is important,” said School of Education Professor Dr. Michelle Goodwin, who serves as one of Liberty’s two faculty sponsors for TOP. “Sometimes, I feel like other professions seem elevated compared with teaching, but it is important. We always say that teachers pave the way for all other professions. It’s a good affirmation for them because they see excellent teachers who are effective and making a big difference. This difference is being embodied in this award that they won, so other people have taken notice of their hard work and their effectiveness. It’s good for their learning and their morale.”

Goodwin also highlighted that numerous former students who were selected have subsequently assumed leadership positions in education within the local community, including roles such as school principal.

“We’re always so incredibly proud of our students,” she added. “It’s a testament to how well they’ve done in the program and what we perceive their potential to be as an excellent educator.”

During the banquet, students were paired with their respective mentors and given the chance to pose questions and seek advice, which will prove invaluable as they embark on their careers in education. Additionally, students received a TOP pin from their mentors, which they can wear during their degree ceremonies at Commencement, along with a TOP medallion that will be presented at a School of Education awards assembly on April 29.

On March 23, students engaged in various workshop sessions covering a range of topics, including different instructional strategies, the integration of technology in the classroom, teaching students at various cognitive levels, and navigating the challenges of the first year as a full-time teacher.

Reflecting on the experience, Junker, who is currently serving as a student teacher in Closter County, Virginia, remarked, “It was truly an incredible and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because we only transition into becoming future teachers once. Meeting numerous professionals who excel in their craft — including National Teachers of the Year and State Teachers of the Year — and establishing connections with them while learning from their expertise was truly inspiring.”

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