12th Annual McGlothlin Awards Go to Teachers in Southwest Virginia Schools

A second grade teacher in Montgomery County and a middle school teacher in Washington County were awarded $25,000 each as winners of the 12th annual McGlothlin Excellence in Teaching Award. The April 12 ceremony in Radford University’s Bondurant Auditorium drew 750 guests and featured best-selling novelist and Appalachian icon Homer Hickam Jr. as keynote speaker.

“This event gets bigger and better every year,” RU President Penelope W. Kyle said in her welcoming remarks, noting that Radford’s origin more than a century ago as a teacher’s college makes it the perfect venue for the program, one of the nation’s largest teaching awards. She praised this year’s six finalists for “the passion, the creativity and the commitment it takes to turn books, computers and lesson plans into the keys that open up a world of possibilities for their students.”

Winner Lisa Taylor, who received a master’s degree from RU in 2005, teaches at Belview Elementary School in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Winner Liz Phillips teaches at Wallace Middle School in the Washington County Public Schools. The other finalists, who received $1,000 each, were Lisa James, Narrows Elementary, Giles County; Lisa Walden, High Point Elementary, Washington County; Teresa Brown, Haynesfield Elementary, Bristol, Tennessee; and Susan Stanberry, Heritage School, Lynchburg City Public Schools.

Finalists with President Kyle

President Penelope Kyle and Dean of the College of Education and Human Development Pat Shoemaker pose with the six finalists.

Kyle thanked Tom McGlothlin, president of the McGlothlin Foundation, for sponsoring the awards and recognized Blue Ridge Public Television for its role as a co-sponsor in organizing the competition and celebrating the work that teachers do in classrooms across the Commonwealth. “I know what it means to have excellent teachers in Southwest Virginia,” Kyle said. “That is what this award is all about.”

In his remarks, McGlothlin said, “I can’t even begin to tell you how much this award means to me.” He paid tribute to his mother, RU alumna Sallie Ann Cook McGlothlin. “She believed in education and the future of our youth,” he said. “Her words resonate with me today as I can hear her say that a college education could be earned but never taken away.”

Hickam, retired NASA engineer and author of “Rocket Boys,” his memoir of growing up in a West Virginia mining town while pursuing his passion for rocketry, spoke of the impact teachers had on his life, particularly the late Freida Riley. “She was a teacher who was an icon across the world,” Hickam said. “She took up for me. Whenever students started to fail, Miss Riley came to our aid and backed us up. She ultimately made the Rocket Boys who we were.”

Home Hickam

Celebrated author Homer Hickam served as the event's keynote speaker.

Hickam’s novel, published in 1998, was a No. 1 New York Times best-seller and was made into the 1999 film “October Sky,” an anagram of "Rocket Boys."

The McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence are awarded each year to educators from the Appalachian region of Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky. The winners must use $10,000 of their $25,000 prizes within a year for international travel or study to broaden their thinking and experience and to further enhance their excellence as professional educators. The awards recognize full-time classroom teachers with at least five years of experience.

Taylor said she will use her award to travel to China, exploring the Great Wall, and to the coast of the Australian outback. Phillips said she will travel to England and study the King Arthur legends and the “Just So” writings of Rudyard Kipling.

Tom McGlothlin and winners

Tom McGlothlin (center), president of the McGlothlin Foundation, presents Liz Phillips (left) and Lisa Taylor (right) with checks for $25,000.

Established in Bristol in 1998, the McGlothlin Foundation supports a number of programs in higher education, health care and the arts across the region. Its giving in the latest fiscal year totaled nearly $860,000. Besides the foundation and Blue Ridge Public Television, co-sponsors for the annual awards are the Radford University College of Education and Human Development and the Radford University Foundation Inc.

To see more photos from the event, visit our Facebook gallery.

Apr 13, 2011
Bonnie Erickson