McGlothlin Awards go to 2 Southwest Virginia teachers

Pamela MacDonald

Pamela MacDonald

An elementary teacher in Giles County and a high school teacher in Washington County were awarded $25,000 each on Thursday, April 18, as winners of the 14th Annual McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Pamela MacDonald, who teaches at Macy McClaugherty Elementary School in Pearisburg, and Steve Ahn, who teaches at Abingdon High School in Abingdon, received their awards at a ceremony on the Radford University campus. The annual event is administered by Blue Ridge PBS.

In her welcoming remarks, Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle recalled the university's founding as a teachers college. "Of all the events held at Radford University each year, the McGlothlin Celebration of Teaching is one of the most fitting," she said.

Steve Ahn

Steve Ahn

Addressing an audience that included many teachers and other education professionals, she added, "Because of your knowledge and selfless dedication, our children will be ready to meet tomorrow's challenges."

The president then introduced the keynote speaker for the awards ceremony—actor, children's author and education advocate Henry Winkler.

Diagnosed as dyslexic at the age of 30, Winkler spoke of children's different needs in education, emphasizing that many do not learn in the conventional way and that one student out of every five faces learning challenges.

In spite of his challenge, Winkler became one of the most recognized names in entertainment. "If you will it, it is not a dream," he told a rapt audience in RU's Bondurant Auditorium. "How you learn has nothing to do with how brilliant you are."

Tom McGlothlin, president of the Bristol-based McGlothlin Foundation, presented the awards. In his remarks he spoke of his fondness for Radford University. Sharing a story about his favorite teacher from childhood in a coal mining town, he said, "She made our lives wonderful using music, theatre, books and celebrations. She gave us the spark to go forward."

The McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence go 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.

Award winner MacDonald, whose classroom has a Starbucks coffeehouse theme, wrote in her nomination essay, "In keeping with the cafe theme, I would love to travel to Europe and visit cafes across the continent. I would also like to capture on film some of the many architectural feats of Europe to use in conjunction with a unit on geometry."

Ahn wrote that he would use the award to visit and observe schools in Finland, Norway and Iceland. He wrote, "Geologic time and Earth history are much more vivid if the same coal that formed in the Carboniferous period and whose presence has been a steering influence on Appalachian is correlated with related oil deposits that have similarly steered Norway's history."

MacDonald and Ahn were chosen from six semifinalists. Runners-up were Lisa James, Narrows Elementary-Middle School, Narrows; Dawn Toole, Patrick Henry Elementary School, Martinsville; Beth Cook, Salem High School, Salem; and Jeff Steele, Liberty High School, Bedford. Each runner-up received $1,000.

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. The annual teaching awards are co-sponsored by the foundation, Blue Ridge PBS, the Radford University College of Education and Human Development, and the Radford University Foundation Inc.

Learn more about Radford University at

President Kyle with Henry Winkler and Tom McGlothlin

RU President Penelope W. Kyle with McGlothlin Awards keynote speaker Henry Winkler and Tom McGlothlin, president of the McGlothlin Foundation.

Apr 18, 2013
Bonnie Erickson
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