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Walden Magazine // Jan 05, 2006

Six Scholar-Practitioners Awarded Walden Fellowships

Six Walden students were awarded fellowships for their dedication to enhancing the lives of others through social change and public service. Walden University’s Master’s Fellowships were recently awarded to Wendi Brown, Nancy Ojeda, Jennifer Meadows and Tiffany Whitehall, all in the School of Education. Heidi Evans, also in the School of Education, and Susann Getsch, in the School of Psychology, were awarded Presidential Fellowships.

Master’s Fellowships are awarded to applicants who are pursuing a master's degree to enhance their personal development and contribute to the advancement of their fields. Award recipients receive a 20 percent reduction in tuition for two years and a waiver of the graduation processing fee. Applications are reviewed competitively twice a year as fellowships are available.

Presidential Fellowships are for graduates of a Walden master's program who would like to pursue a doctorate at Walden. Three fellowships are available yearly; recipients receive $5,000. To be eligible, students must have completed their master's programs by the fellowship application deadline. Successful applicants demonstrate a personal, continued commitment to public service and indicate how they will apply their learning to practice.

Wendi Brown: Breaking Down Barriers to Learning
“I don’t know if I chose teaching or if teaching chose me,” says Wendi Brown, an MS in Education student who grew up in an education-centered household. Her mother was also a teacher—and her role model. “I observed how teaching could be a mutually rewarding career [for students and teachers].”

Brown, who teaches seventh-grade reading at William Davies Middle School in Hamilton Township, N.J., remembers the rapport her mother had with her students. “I was in awe of the relationship she had with [them]. My mom’s classroom was organized chaos: Students were busy doing different things, all productive. She spoke to them in a respectful way, and they responded with the same,” Brown recalls. “Students wanted to be successful because they liked how they felt in her class.”

Brown says that one of her challenges today is breaking down the invisible barriers some children erect between themselves and their teachers, barriers that inhibit the development of relationships based on mutual respect.

“Maybe [these students’] past school experience showed them that teachers aren’t approachable,” says Brown, who believes that the tools she’s acquired in the Walden master’s program are helping her remove these barriers. “I’m able to present lessons that engage all my students—no matter what their cultural background, learning style or life experiences,” she says. “I’ve created lessons that allow them to be successful.”

Susann Getsch: Becoming a Professional Psychologist
Susann Getsch, who earned an MS in Psychology at Walden in 2005 and is now pursuing a PhD, came to the field after 16 years of being a parent-advocate for her four adopted children with special needs. Her experiences with her children—who have traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and severe sensory deprivation—seemed to naturally point her in the direction of psychology, she says.

“I believed I would be a better advocate for my children with the knowledge I would gain from this degree.” Getsch’s quest for knowledge over the years has improved her children’s access to appropriate diagnosis, treatment and services and has prepared her for earning a doctorate. “My experiences with my children’s challenges have provided clear steppingstones for my doctoral work at Walden,” she says.

She brings her background and experience in the special education arena to her current research, under the tutelage of Dr. Stephanie Cawthon, a professor in the School of Psychology. Getsch is helping develop manuscripts that disseminate the results of a survey conducted by Cawthon’s online research lab. The survey asked about the assessment practices of professionals who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing students.

Getsch says she wants to be a catalyst for positive change within the field of psychology—as both an educator and a colleague. “I continue seeking out fellow researchers with whom I can work to explore myriad topics applicable to children and school-aged students,” she says.

Heidi Evans: Enriching Lives with Language
Heidi Evans, who teaches hearing-impaired students at Cheatham Hill Elementary in Cobb County, Ga., has come to believe that strong, continuous early intervention can help to avert academic and social delays that are often concomitant with hearing loss.

Evans says that addressing the language development needs of youngsters from birth to 3 years of age is a positive way to help these children become successful participants in their worlds. While early intervention is, of course, already in place for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, there is always more that can be done to support language development—and reaching the children’s parents is a crucial step in this process.

Evans, who earned an MS in Education at Walden in 2001, is pursuing her PhD in Education with a specialization in Educational Technology. She used her KAM II to create an early intervention PowerPoint presentation for parents, to help them increase their children’s language development before they start school.

“The presentation, ‘Language-Rich Lives,’ shares research-supported strategies for language interaction that can significantly enhance and increase language development,” says Evans. “[It] is interactive, allowing parents to choose which portions of content to explore. … It also contains digital video segments demonstrating … ways of interacting linguistically with small children who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Evans says her objective is to discover ways that technology might be used to support early intervention’s main goal—to reach out to those who have the power to effect positive change for these children—their parents and caregivers. “If [parents] can be supported in their efforts in ways that are accessible, non-threatening, research-supported, effective and practical, then a real difference can be made in the lives of their children,” she says.

Nancy Ojeda: Learning New Ways to Reach Students
Elementary school mathematics teacher Nancy Ojeda views Walden’s master’s specialization in Mathematics as a way not only to make herself a more competent teacher, but also to help her students be more successful. Ojeda, who has been teaching K–2 mathematics at Morrow Elementary in Morrow, Ga., since 2001, started the master’s program to add to her portfolio of classroom strategies and to enhance her instructional abilities.

“As a high-performing teacher, my vision is to … constantly learn new ways to overcome challenges, to reach out and give my best to my students,” explains Ojeda, who says Walden’s courses exposed her to new research-based practices that have helped her incorporate students’ multiple intelligences into her teaching.

She credits the courses with helping her connect math to students’ real-life situations and other academic subjects, and with helping students “connect what they learn to the outside world.”

Jennifer Meadows: Leading Kindergarteners on a Path of Lifelong Learning
“Children are very special individuals who need a high-performing teacher to enable them to be successful on their educational journey,” says Jennifer Meadows, who is in her third year of teaching kindergarten in the Hamilton City School District in Hamilton, Ohio. “As a kindergarten teacher, I find it to be my responsibility … to prepare my students for a future of success.”

Meadows believes a child’s early education years are steppingstones that can lead to a path of academic achievement—with the right instruction. Yet she acknowledges that some children are less prepared for this journey than others. “Most of my students enter school with no educational background … with different levels of knowledge and learning styles,” she says. To help them meet benchmarks, she has to be prepared to meet their diverse needs.

The courses she’s taken in the MS in Education program, with a specialization in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, have prepared her to create and implement lessons that meet those needs. “I am realizing the importance of having learning models to guide my instructional practices,” she says. “I can help [my students] learn in a way that is fun and interesting.”

Tiffany Whitehall: Enhancing Teaching Efficacy
Tiffany Whitehall, who teaches sixth-grade reading, writing and social studies at North Beach Middle School in Ocean Shores, Wash., is chairing a new committee at her school to align the school’s standards with the district’s sixth-grade curriculum. The committee must ensure that literacy skills are integrated into all content areas.

Whitehall believes the six courses she’s taken in Walden’s MS in Education, with a specialization in Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas, have prepared her for this leadership role outside the classroom.

The teaching veteran is also implementing three new sixth-grade reading programs. “My job is teaching the reading programs while meeting individual literacy needs,” she says. “To challenge students to think for themselves, it is necessary to integrate new and progressive strategies into the classroom.”

Whitehall has employed new techniques during the pre-reading, during-reading and after-reading stages of her students’ reading process and has found them beneficial. So have her students. Says Whitehall: “One student wrote me a letter expressing her gratitude regarding learning to read … in a new and exciting manner.”