2024 Reich College of Education Award Recipients Named

Nine faculty and staff members of Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education (RCOE), along with the Academy at Elkin, were recently honored with the 2024 RCOE awards.

  • Dr. Pamela Fitzpatrick: Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty Award
  • Dr. Morgan Blanton ’03: Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award
  • Dr. Ashley Carpenter: Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award
  • Dr. Jason Lynch: Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award
  • Dr. Rachel Wilson: Outstanding Leadership Award
  • Dr. Aftynne Cheek: Outstanding Mentoring Award
  • Dr. Kelly Clark: Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement Award
  • Jeff Goodman ’93: Outstanding Service Award
  • Michelle Hoag: Outstanding Staff Award
  • Academy at Elkin: Community of Practice Award

RCOE faculty, staff, and students were invited to submit nominations in ten categories: Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty, Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, Outstanding Graduate Teaching, Inclusive Excellence, Outstanding Leadership, Outstanding Mentoring, Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement, Outstanding Service, Outstanding Staff, and Community of Practice. 

Nominated individuals or groups were then asked to provide supporting portfolios, which were reviewed by the RCOE Awards Committee. Recipients were announced at the RCOE Faculty/Staff Closing Meeting on Thursday, May 2. 

Committee co-chair Rebekah Saylors, RCOE’s director of marketing, communications, and engagement, expressed thanks to all who nominated a colleague or submitted a portfolio. 

“The faculty and staff of the RCOE continue to make an impact on education through their innovative and inclusive work in and out of the classroom, and we are honored to recognize them,” said Saylors.

“We would also like to acknowledge and congratulate all the nominees for their outstanding contributions to the college,” she added. 

Saylors also thanked committee members for their time and service on the committee: Dr. Robin Groce, co-chair and Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education; Amanda Gregory, Adjunct/Lecturer Representative and Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education; Dr. Aleica Jackson, Department of Leadership and Educational Studies; Dr. Robin Moeller, Department of Media, Career Studies, and Leadership Development; Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Department of Media, Career Studies, and Leadership Development; Claudia Palta, Staff Representative and Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education; Dr. Candice Peters, Department of Counseling, Family Therapy, and Higher Education; Dr. Dan Poling, Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education; Dr. Christina Rosen, Department of Counseling, Family Therapy, and Higher Education; Dr. Pam Shue, Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education; Dr. Cacey Wells, Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum; and Dr. Rachel Wilson, Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum.

2024 RCOE Awards Recipients

Dr. Pamela Fitzpatrick

2024 Outstanding Adjunct or Instructor/Clinical Faculty Award


Dr. Pamela Fitzpatrick is an adjunct instructor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies, teaching the Social Foundations of Education. 

Fitzpatrick recently retired after 26 years from Orange County Schools as a reading specialist, literacy coach, and English teacher. Additionally, she worked as an educational researcher for Harvard University and taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Mount Olive. 

Her classes center on critical thinking, and her students’ diverse life experiences add immeasurably to discussions and help foster respectful and stirring discourse. She also creates an inviting and empathetic environment with maximum rigor.

“The cerebral explosion of ideas, the engaging back and forth of real thinking -- is learning,” she noted.

"This recognition means a great deal to me because working with future educators and supporting our profession is a privilege I do not take lightly,” said Fitzpatrick. “Inspiring my students to become educators who purposefully navigate the challenges and pleasures of teaching pulls me back full circle to why I teach."

Fitzpatrick received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2013. Her areas of scholarship include literacy as a civil right, “The Best Me” literacy method, and Edith Stein, the educator. In 2013, she co-edited the college textbook The Institution of Education.

Dr. Morgan Blanton

2024 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award


Blanton is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education, teaching in-person and online undergraduate and graduate literacy methods courses.

“One of the best parts of teaching preservice teachers is when they finally get to put what they have learned into practice with their own students during their field experiences,” noted Blanton. “Watching them grow in their knowledge, skills, and confidence is one of my favorite things about teaching. I am thankful for my students and for the ways they help me learn and grow, too.”

“When I think back on my educational career, I can identify countless teachers and colleagues who had a significant impact on my decision to become a teacher and/or my growth as an educator,” she recounted. “I have learned from many amazing educators over the years, some of which I've had the full-circle privilege of working alongside in the RCOE, so receiving this award also serves as recognition for them, too.” 

“I am grateful for the role educators have played in my life and am thrilled to be a small part of our students’ professional journeys as well,” she added.  

Blanton holds an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Gardner-Webb University, an M.Ed in reading education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a B.S. in elementary education from AppState. 

In addition to higher education, Blanton also has teaching and instructional coaching experience in the public school setting as a classroom teacher, reading/intervention specialist (K-5), curriculum coordinator (6-12), and secondary MTSS coordinator (5-9). 

Her research interests fixate on literacy instruction, children's literature, and reflective practices. These interests are tightly aligned and embedded within all of her courses.

Dr. Ashley Carpenter

2024 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award


Carpenter is an assistant professor of higher education in the Department of Counseling, Family Therapy, and Higher Education. She specializes in interdisciplinary scholarship focused on advancing equity and accessibility in K-12 and Higher Education. Her research explores higher education's historical and policy dimensions, examines the climate crisis through a social and racial justice lens, and uses arts-based methodologies to (re)humanize education through the joy of Black students. 

Receiving this graduate teaching award means so much to Carpenter. “I am genuinely grateful to be recognized by some of my outstanding graduate students and the exceptional community I have in the RCOE.” 

“I see my students more as colleagues (often as friends), making my classroom space a reciprocal place for learning,” she noted. “I strive hard to make a classroom environment that is honest and vulnerable, so winning the graduate teaching award is meaningful because it represents my dedication to students' success and well-being.” 

“It reflects the relationships built and the transformative experiences shared within the classroom,” she added. “And it motivates me to continue exploring new methodologies, integrating accessible technologies, and engaging teaching strategies that inspire curiosity and critical thinking.” 

For Carpenter, her graduate students are “at the heart of everything she does and are a constant source of joy and inspiration.” 

“Their curiosity, enthusiasm, and growth fuel my passion for teaching, and I am motivated by the opportunity to positively impact their lives, nurturing their intellects and fostering their personal development,” she shared.

Carpenter earned her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, M.A. in American culture studies from Washington University, St. Louis, and B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of Missouri at Columbia. 

Dr. Jason Lynch

2024 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award


Lynch is an assistant professor of higher education in the Department of Counseling, Family Therapy, and Higher Education, as well as the founding executive editor of the Journal of Trauma Studies in Education. 

Through his teaching, research, and service he aims to create more humanized college and university communities through advancing trauma-informed policy and practice. His award-winning scholarship has been featured in numerous outlets including the American Council on Education (ACE), the Review of Higher Education, and the Journal of American College Health. 

“I am honored to have received this year's RCOE Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award,” said Lynch. 

“I consider my teaching practice to be the representation of all those who have taught me, and continue to teach me,” he noted. “Through them, I aim to pay forward the wisdom and empathy I received.” 

“It has been a privilege to be able to shape current and future leaders in higher education that will, in turn, also have a profound impact on the next generation of college students,” he added. 

He earned bachelor's degrees in biology an psychology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a master's in higher education administration from North Carolina State University, and a doctorate in Higher Education from Old Dominion University.  

Dr. Rachel Wilson

2024 Outstanding Leadership Award


Wilson is a professor and the interim assistant chair for the Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum as well as the Faculty Fellow for Mentoring Initiatives.

When she thinks about leadership, the following definition resonates with Wilson: “Leadership is a relational and ethical process of people together attempting to accomplish positive change” (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2013, p. vii).

“I value making connections, learning with and alongside colleagues, and serving others,” Wilson noted. “These values of connections, growth, and service all drive how I approach my leadership roles within the college and our community. I am grateful to work with wonderful colleagues in our department, college, university, and in the public schools.” 

Wilson earned her Ph.D. in science education from the University of Georgia and A.B. in biology from Bryn Mawr College. Her research and service work has focused on co-designing and planning integrated science and language arts units with classroom teachers to incorporate multiple modes of representation in science teaching and learning. 

She also has other research interests including the identity development of teacher candidates and in-service teachers related to science learning and teaching.

Dr. Aftynne Cheek

2024 Outstanding Mentoring Award


Cheek is an associate professor of special education and serves as graduate and undergraduate program director for the special education program in the Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education. She is also a member of the college’s mentoring guild

“Nothing in academia should be a mystery,” said Cheek. “My goal is to help those who come after me adjust quickly and seamlessly into their new roles.” 

“Whether it's chatting about work-life harmony or navigating course overloads, I'm always happy to share my experience,” she added. “I truly believe that everyone who comes after me should be better and to do this, we have to share our experiences with others.”

Cheek earned her B.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; M.S. at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Her research focuses on students with extensive support needs, specifically literacy instruction, teacher preparation, eCoaching, and teacher mentoring. Her years of experience as a special education teacher for children with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, multiple disabilities, autism, traumatic brain injury, mental illness, and emotional and behavioral disorders provide the foundation for her commitment to teacher education. 

She teaches introductory and methods courses in special education at the undergraduate and graduate levels that emphasize instruction, curriculum design, and individualized assessment for students with extensive support needs.

Dr. Kelly Clark

2024 Outstanding Scholarship/Creative Achievement Award


Clark is an assistant professor in the Department of Child Development, Literacy, and Special Education

After teaching in North Carolina for eight years, she received her Ph.D. in special education with a focus on secondary transition for students with disabilities from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2018. Her research focuses on the development of a curriculum to teach employment soft skills, identifying evidence-based practices for secondary students with disabilities, rural special education teacher preparation and retention, and transition services for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

For Clark, it has always been important to look for innovative ways to solve problems in the area of special education.” I am passionate about addressing the research to practice gap and taking the steps needed to translate research into practical methods for teachers to use in their classroom.” 

“I am thankful to those who partnered with me on this work including individuals with disabilities, graduate and undergraduate students, teachers, my wonderful colleagues at App State and other universities,” said Clark. “It was a team effort on each project and I am grateful to work with and learn from some of the best people.” 

“I am excited to continue to do the work to address needs here in the rural Appalachia region, to support our amazing P-12 educators, and continue efforts to make this world a better, more inclusive place for individuals with disabilities and their families,” she added.

Jeff Goodman

2024 Outstanding Service Award


A connection between the arts and sciences has been a hallmark of Goodman’s academic career and life. 

He received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1986 combining a concentration in biology with extensive work in creative writing. Later he received his M.A. in educational media with a focus on using darkroom photography to bring together art and science. from Appalachian State University in Educational Media. 

Since 1993, Goodman has taught science education and media studies in the Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum. 

His current research and creative interests continue this focus on the intersection of the arts and sciences and find form in his ongoing project Human Wonder Research, which explores teaching, science, human perception, the philosophy of mind, and media arts. 

Goodman is a former middle grades and high school science teacher, and he presents frequently to groups of schoolchildren, both those visiting campus and out in the schools. He also hosts school groups at the Physics Playground he built in the woods near his house. With his wife Margot, he started and continues to run a school garden program in Yancey County, growing vegetables with elementary school students for distribution through the local food bank. 

“Since this is my last year teaching before retirement, I am moved to express my deepest thanks for the wide circle of people who have made my work possible,” said Goodman. “In the context of this award, we often think of service as something we do FOR others, but it is really something we do WITH others in the community.”  

“In that sense, this award, like all awards, is shared among all of us,” he noted. “I share it with my students and colleagues who have supported and amplified my work, with all the teachers who have invited me in to explore with them and their students, and with the kids who, year after year, have seasoned my thinking with their insatiable curiosity.”  

Michelle Hoag

2024 Outstanding Staff Award


Hoag serves as an administrative assistant to the associate dean, Office of Field Experiences, the Public School Partnership, and the North Carolina New Teacher Support program.

Prior to App State, she worked as a housing finance analyst for the North Carolina Housing and Finance Agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

“Receiving this award represents a significant accomplishment in my position at Appalachian State,” said Hoag. “It demonstrates that my dedication, hard work, and perseverance have been recognized and valued.” 

“Receiving this award has also served as a source of inspiration and motivation, not only for me but also for others who strive for excellence and pursue their goals with determination and passion,” she added.

For Hoag, she wishes everyone in an administrative support role could be recognized for their efforts. 

“My colleagues are like the glue that holds everything together, assisting their team and allowing them to focus on their tasks efficiently,” she noted. “Many offices would struggle to function effectively and professionally without the organizational skills and attention to detail given by these individuals.”

Academy at Elkin

2024 Community of Practice Award

Academy at Elkin

The Academy at Elkin was one of nine UNC System lab schools in North Carolina, serving students in grade two through four. The teaching staff included:

  • Emma Hatfield-Sidden, principal
  • Gillian Hill, assistant principal
  • Willow Larson, teacher
  • Jennifer Nelson, teacher
  • Rachel O’Callaghan, teacher
  • Amber Phillips, teacher
  • Holly Russell, teacher
  • Noreen Harrigan Taylor, teacher.

The school opened in 2022 and was a partnership between App State and Elkin City Schools.

Throughout the 2023-2024 school year, the teachers at the App State Academy at Elkin have established a community of practice focusing on student and teacher growth. This approach extends beyond traditional methods, fostering intentional collaboration through co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessing, and co-reflecting. They have implemented an innovative school model to improve student outcomes while working collaboratively with each other, university faculty and staff members, external partners, and community partners to establish an exploration-based learning program. Their contributions have resulted in other schools and districts wanting to replicate the model.

“Receiving the Community of Practice Award from RCOE is so powerful and full of so much meaning for our team,” said Hatfield-Sidden. “Our committment to collaboration, educational change, and innovation has made such an impact on the way we teach students, which has created an environment where both students and staff have grown immensely.” 

“This award affirms our commitment to making a positive difference in the world of education,” she added.