June 26, 2013 - Lea Ann Atherton, a 2002 Bachelor of Science graduate in Elementary Education, and a 2006 Master of Education (M.Ed.) alumna of Union University’s School of Education, was recently selected to be an inaugural member of Hope Street Group’s Kentucky Teacher Fellows. Atherton was one of 21 educators selected from among highly competitive candidates to offer teacher opinions about educational reform efforts.
Hope Street Group is a national nonprofit organization known for its teacher engagement work. The nonprofit selected Atherton from among 20 Kentucky school districts. As a Fellow, Atherton is charged with being a positive voice for Education, particularly in relation to engaging school communities, informing state policy discussions, and learning from professional development opportunities.
Atherton provides some rationale behind her motivation to apply to become a Fellow by stating, “Sometimes is it easy for a teacher to lose sight of the bigger picture of education outside the four walls of his or her classroom. If we want to make the biggest and best difference in the moments that take place there, we must also commit to – and even celebrate – involvement in the broader spectrum. Having been a part of the development of the new teacher evaluation system in its early stages, I was eager to become a part of something that would enable the tool – a tool that has undergone many changes since those early days - to become more than a form to be completed by administrators and filed in a drawer. I’m excited that this fellowship can positively use that tool and the conversations that surround it to make a positive difference in those moments taking place within classroom walls in Kentucky.”
Atherton was named as Thelma Barker Student Teacher of the Year in 2002, and she currently teaches 6th grade writing at Lone Oak Middle School in Paducah, KY. In 2005, she was selected as West Tennessee Classroom Character Teacher of the Year. She has already demonstrated her abilities as a positive voice for education by serving in partnership with various other educational organizations and entities, including TeachScape, the Tennessee Department of Education, the Kentucky Department of Education, and AdvancED.
Atherton is honored by her nomination and sees teacher evaluation as an important part of improving teacher evaluation systems. To this end, she says, “Sometimes a teacher’s opinion of what constitutes effective teaching and the opinions of the state leaders setting the policies to bring about statewide effectiveness are vastly different. By engaging teachers in the processes of implementation and revision, there will be representation and a more current voice of the people serving and pouring their time and efforts directly into the field each day. In our classrooms, we want our students to be involved in each step of setting their goals and standards and styles of learning and evaluation before their final unit tests are ever given. In the world of evaluating professional educators, the continuous involvement of creative teachers along the way could be just as beneficial to the process and the individual outcomes in classrooms across the state. Moreover, as teachers realize that policy makers are just professional people trying to do what’s best for the children in our state, they can then work together to bring about the most unique and effective teaching in classrooms, and the most efficient modes of evaluating it.”
Union University and its School of Education are proud of the accomplishments of Atherton, feeling blessed that she has put her God-given talents and graduate degree to effective use. For more information about Union University’s M.Ed. Program, including both face-to-face and online degree offerings, please visit: uu.edu/med.