The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University has awarded $25,000 Ann “Tunky” Riley Excellence in Education Scholarships to Nafees Rasul, a special education teacher at Arnold Mireles Academy in Chicago, Ill., and Mindy Turner, a language arts teacher at Upper Greenwood Lake School in Hewitt, N.J.

Dedicated to the memory of Ann “Tunky” Riley, a teacher and passionate advocate for high-quality public education for all children and the late wife of Richard W. Riley, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, the scholarships are awarded to educators who enroll as new students in the Riley College of Education and Leadership. Rasul is enrolled in the Doctor of Education (EdD) program with a specialization in Teacher Leadership, and Turner is a student in the MS in Education program with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy (Grades PreK–6).

Scholarships were awarded based on applicants’ essays about their contributions to students, colleagues or an economically disadvantaged school or community. Each applicant also submitted a letter of recommendation from a school official discussing how the applicant’s passion for teaching made an impact on his or her students, school or community.

“One of the most important actions that I took to impact positive change at school was to design and initiate a program called Teachers as Mentors,” Rasul wrote in her essay. “Teachers volunteered to be mentors to middle school students who had been identified by their classroom teachers as being at risk of failing. They were to assist them with school performance or related school issues. As a result, the students we mentored felt more confident in their ability to complete schoolwork, were less absent, were more cooperative and improved in their behavior.”

Turner said in her essay, “Three years ago our school took on the challenge of raising the reading proficiency of our students by implementing a reading/writing workshop model of instruction. Where many of my students used to dread reading, they now crave it. They are reading more than ever, sharing informal and formal book reviews with peers and responding to text in conversation and writing. Through daily conferring with students, I am able to assess their degree of mastery of skills and tailor individual instruction to meet their current needs.”