Master of Arts in Teaching Degree Awarded to 23 Candidates - Southern Maryland Headline News

Master of Arts in Teaching Degree Awarded to 23 Candidates

Eight of 23 SMCM MAT Recipients are Southern Marylanders

ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (July 17, 2008) Twenty-three newly minted teachers ready to bring fresh ideas to schools in Southern Maryland and other areas graduated June 28 with St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degrees. Four of the teachers are residents of St. Mary's County, one hails from Charles County, and three are based in Calvert County.

President Jane Margaret O'Brien made opening remarks and presented the graduates with their degrees at the commencement ceremony in St. Mary's Hall.

Dr. Lawrence Leak gave the commencement address. Leak is a College trustee and recently retired chief academic officer of University of Maryland University College. He is also vice chairman of the Historic St. Mary's City Commission.

In noting that this is the second class of M.A.T. candidates to graduate, O'Brien applauded the 2008 class, saying, "I know you admire the faculty deeply. I know the expectations are very high, as is the academic rigor asked of you." She cited "the commitment to service each of you have…" and praised those students "who took the initiative to teach in a different environment in The Gambia and Australia."

Leak opened his remarks by commenting that earning a graduate degree has been called "one of the most significant life-changing milestones." He said of the graduates, "As teachers you have a profound impact on one of America's greatest resources, elementary and secondary students in our schools. What you say and how you behave will leave lasting impressions on the students you teach. I know you've been trained well by an outstanding faculty."

Leak also noted the benefits of holding a graduate degree in teaching in the state of Maryland, including eligibility for the state's highest teaching license after only three years and six additional credits. According to Leak, focus on teaching at the state level has never been sharper, with the federal "No Child Left Behind" program calling needed attention to teacher credentials and student achievement, with renewed attention paid to elementary and secondary education. He emphasized that it is crucial that teachers set high academic expectations for students while providing "multiple opportunities, endless support and genuine encouragement." "Students nurtured under these conditions rarely fall short."

Paul Michael Christian, a resident of Lusby, Maryland, gave the student address. Noting that "none of us got here alone," Christian thanked his professors, in particular Ardith Harle, assistant professor of educational studies, and Teresa Field, associate professor and department chair.

Special appreciation was shown during the ceremony to Dallas Plugge Dean ('60) for her establishment of the Dallas P. Dean Teacher-Education Award. She created the scholarship to encourage students to teach. Dean, who graduated from St. Mary's Junior College and, in 1962, American University, taught fifth grade in the public schools her entire career. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded a M.A.T. student, based on need and meritorious achievement as decided by the College's Educational Studies Department. Christian is the 2008 scholarship recipient. Harle presented Dean with an award certificate and an angel pin in thanks for her long-standing support.

James P. Muldoon, chairman of the St. Mary's College Board of Trustees, introduced Leak, noting that he is "known in the state as a leading expert in secondary education and was appointed to the prestigious position of assistant superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education," with a particular focus on teacher certification and school accreditation.

Leak graduated from SMCM with a degree in social science and education in 1976. He received a master's degree in 1981 and a doctorate in education in 1988 from the University of Maryland. At the University of Maryland University College he specialized in teacher preparation policy, certification policy, and leadership development. Leak was involved with oversight of all the university's academic programs; evaluation, research and grants; instructional support; and worldwide academic scheduling. He was also a member of the university's executive committee.

The following students were awarded the M.A.T. degree:

Amanda Alonso-Valenteen, of Mercersburg, Pa.

Jessica Marie Baker, of Gaithersburg, Md.

Katherine Hemsley Barnes, of Wayne, Pa.

Cali M. Chase, of Myersville, Md.

Paul Christian, of Lusby, Md.

Barry Erb, of Pottstown, Pa.

Ashley Fussell, of Millersville, Md.

Kendra Leigh Hildreth, of New Windsor, Md.

Jessica Erin Jolliffe, of Hughesville, Md.

Michelle Alice Mason, of Tall Timbers, Md.

Clare Dudley McLean, of Arlington, Va.

Melissa Karen Molitor, of Lexington Park, Md.

Jeannie Elizabeth Monico, of Lusby, Md.

Sharlitta Novella Myrick, of Upper Marlboro, Md.

Samantha Elizabeth Parisi, of Island Heights, N.J.

Melissa Autumn Puzak, of Arnold, Md.

Gabrielle Michelle Sivak, of Lexington Park, Md.

Kelly LaRose Rohacek, of Lusby, Md.

Robert B. Schou, of Annapolis, Md.

Jaclyn Michelle Summer, of Hampstead, Md.

Vanessa Lyn Vizcarrondo, of Harwood, Md.

Derek Drew Willard, of Leonardtown, Md.

Shannon A. Williams, of Baltimore, Md.

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