February 16, 2018

College of Education honors outstanding alumni

The College of Education at the University of Montevallo recently honored a number of alumni at a dinner held in conjunction with homecoming activities on Feb. 6. At the annual dinner, the College of Education recognizes one alumnus in each area of study. The following professionals have distinguished themselves in their fields.


Elementary Education

The Outstanding Alumnus Award in Elementary Education was awarded to Daniel Farris, a 2013 graduate of UM from Clanton. Farris taught math and English at the Thompson Sixth Grade Center in Alabaster for four years. During his second year at TSGC, he was selected as Teacher of the Year. In addition to teaching, he also serves as an assistant coach for numerous sports teams at Thompson Middle School, as well as being the math team sponsor at TSGC. Farris earned his Master of Education in Instructional Leadership in 2017 from UM and is now pursuing his Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership. He is currently serving in his first year as an assistant principal at Thompson High School.

Elementary Collaborative

Chelsea Shanks, of Maplesville, is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award in Elementary Collaborative Education. Shanks teaches 4th and 5th grade self-contained special education at Thompson Intermediate School. While only in her second year of teaching at TIS, she has been awarded Teacher of the Year for Alabaster City Schools. One of Shanks’ most innovative accomplishments at TIS is a coffee cart she uses to develop her students’ life and career skills.

Secondary Education

The Outstanding Alumnus Award in Secondary Education was presented to 2011 graduate Vincent Chiaramonte, of Pelham, for his genuine interest in students as individuals. His approach to teaching is deeply rooted in personal feelings and beliefs about the magnitude of impact and depth of influence teachers have in the lives of students. Formerly a social science teacher, Chiaramonte has taught computer science since 2014 at Bumpus Middle School in Hoover. He has experience teaching in private schools, lower-socioeconomic public schools and larger affluent schools. Chiaramonte was named the R.F. Bumpus Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2015 and the Alabama Secondary Alternate Teacher of the Year in 2016. He was also recently recognized with the national Milken Educator Award and will receive the prestigious honor in Washington D.C. this spring.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The Outstanding Alumna Award for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education was presented to Clanton resident Alissa Helfinstine, who earned her bachelor’s degree from UM in 2009. Helfinstine taught in Birmingham City Schools as the itinerant teacher for the district for more than eight years. She worked closely with audiologists at Children’s HEAR Center and the Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as well as students, teachers, and staff at approximately 25 schools. Helfinstine currently serves as a special education teacher at Clanton Elementary School where she works with students with a variety of special needs.

Family and Consumer Sciences

Kimberly Ramsey, of Montgomery, was recognized as the Outstanding Alumna in Family and Consumer Sciences. Ramsey earned her master’s degree in 1992 from UM. After graduation, Ramsay began her career as a county and regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Colbert, Cullman and Marshall Counties. In this position, she worked with thousands of youth through the 4-H program. In 2005, she joined the Alabama Farmers Federation where she serves as the women’s leadership division director. Ramsey promotes agriculture through education with the Agriculture in the Classroom Program as well as the policy-making and implementation of programs on county and statewide levels.

Exercise and Nutrition Science

The Outstanding Alumnus in Exercise and Nutrition Science was awarded to Cody Hughes. After graduating from UM in 2016, Hughes earned a master’s in sports management from the University of West Alabama. While at UWA, he served as a graduate assistant strength coach and worked with the baseball, basketball and volleyball teams. He then started as the assistant director of strength and conditioning at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he also served as the internship coordinator. Hughes now works as the assistant director of sports performance at RedLine Athletics in Longmont, Colorado.

Nutrition and Wellness

Birmingham resident Erica Tsivourakis, who earned her undergraduate degree in dietetics at UM in 2010, was recognized as the Outstanding Alumna in Nutrition and Wellness. She completed a master’s degree in 2012 at the University of Southern Mississippi and began working for HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. She then went on to work with Brookwood Baptist Health Systems where she earned two years of clinical experience and is currently in her third year of food service management. She is certified in Patient Programs with Morrison Healthcare, is ServSafe certified and is currently working on the Morrison’s Retail Certification.


Daniel Birdsong, of Alabaster, is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award in Counseling. Bidsong earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in choral music education at UM, before returning to complete a master of education in counseling in 2016. He also earned an educational specialist degree from Jacksonville State University and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at Samford University. Birdsong is a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor currently working as school counselor at Creek View Elementary School (CVES) with Alabaster City Schools. He received the Asa Sparks Alabama New School Counselor of the Year Award in November 2017 as well as the Recognition of Accountability, Verification and Excellence Award for CVES. In addition to working at CVES, Birdsong is an adjunct instructor at UM.

Teacher Leadership

The Outstanding Alumnus Award for Teacher Leadership was awarded to Grayson Lawrence, of Birmingham. He earned his Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership at UM in 2016. Lawrence currently serves as assistant principal at Winterboro High School in Talladega County. Prior to becoming assistant principal, Lawrence taught beginning band, junior high band and high school band and was the co-creator of OPUS: a collaborative class combining the 7th grade math curriculum and fine arts at Winterboro from 2007-2014. He was the 2011-2012 High School Teacher of the Year recipient at Winterboro High and received the Middle School Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award in 2014. He is also a charter member of Alabama Winds in Birmingham, Alabama, and plays horn.

Instructional Leadership

Amanda Hood is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award in Instructional Leadership. She received her master’s degree and Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Montevallo in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Hood currently serves as principal at Mountain Brook High School. She has led strategic planning, been instrumental in the expansion of Advanced Placement course offerings, assisted in the implementation of computer science curricula and effectively led a redesign of the professional learning community structure at MBHS. Under her leadership, a 1:1 technology initiative was successfully implemented, providing tools for each student and teacher to support effective and engaging instruction. She has been awarded the Lawrence L. Malone Outstanding Principal Award from the University of Montevallo, the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals-G.B. Beasley Award for Leadership and served as a member of the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools Board, as well as serving as the state president of the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals. In addition, she served as a principal representative on the Alabama State Department of Education Math Task Force.

Instructional Technology

Angela Clark, of Maylene, was honored with the Outstanding Alumna Award in Instructional Technology. Clark received her Ed.S. in Instructional Technology from the University of Montevallo as a part of the first cohort in 2016. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration and has earned National Board Certification in social studies, adolescent/young adult. Clark currently works in Shelby County Schools as the district program area specialist serving teachers and students in 30 K-12 schools. Prior to this year, she was a district technology resource teacher for six years. For 16 of her 24 years in education, she taught middle and high school business, technology and social studies. She has also been a presenter for the Shelby County National Board Conference for three years. She served as a candidate support provider for National Board Candidates and on the University of Montevallo Ed.S. Program Advisory Board.

Lifetime Commitment to Teaching Award

The top honor, the Lifetime Commitment to Teaching Award, was presented to Craig Bates, of Calera. Bates is a retired educator who spent 25 years in varying roles from classroom teacher to school administrator, to district instructional technology coordinator. While working as a principal, he assumed the lead role in designing and implementing a transformational model of instruction utilizing authentic hands-on learning through project-based learning and the integration of technology. He has been a guest speaker on this topic and many others, at conferences including the Southern Regional Education Board National Conference, the Alabama Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference, The National Principals Leadership Institute, the Alabama Educational Technology Association Conference, the Alabama Superintendent’s Conference, the CLAS (Councils for Leaders in Alabama Schools) Conference, CORE Summer Conference at Jacksonville University, the CoSN 2014 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., the CoSN 2015 Annual Conference in Atlanta and the Model Schools Conference hosted by the International Center for Educational Leadership. He has also been a contributor to data privacy information published in “EdTech Magazine” and is featured in “Five Critical Leadership Practices: The Secret to High-Performing Schools” by Ruth Ash and Pat Hodge. Bates was presented with the Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award from the Alabama State Department of Education in 2012 and the ISTE Making IT Happen Award in 2017.