February 12, 2014

College of Education Honors Distinguished Alumni

The College of Education at the University of Montevallo recently honored a number of its alumni at a dinner held in conjunction with homecoming activities. The following professionals have distinguished themselves in their fields.

The recipient of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Award was Connie Couch, who received the B.S. in psychology from UM in 2004 and the M.Ed. in counseling in 2006. She has worked with adolescents and adults as an outpatient and substance abuse counselor providing individual, group and family counseling. She currently works as an adolescent intensive outpatient program therapist at Alabama Psychiatric Services.

Couch has held offices in the Alabama Counseling Association and the Alabama Association of Addictions and Offenders Counseling and has presented at various counseling agencies.

Paul Johnson received the Couples and Family Counseling Award. After earning a B.A. in speech communication and theatre from Samford University in 1987, he worked for a number of years as an actor, writer, director and producer before pursuing a career as a counselor. He graduated with honors from Montevallo in 2008 with a master’s degree in counseling.

Johnson served as a therapist with Samaritan Counseling Center of Birmingham from 2008-2013 and as director of the center from 2009-2012. He currently operates his private practice, LifePractical, providing therapeutic services, assessment, consultation and education.

A member of several honor societies including Chi Sigma Iota, Phi Kappa Phi and Alpha Epsilon Lambda, Johnson has presented at the Alabama Counseling Association conference where he was honored as an Emerging Leader in 2008.

Maegan Vick was the recipient of the School Counseling Award. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with a B.S. in elementary and special education in 2008 and received the M.Ed. in counseling in 2010, also from UM.

Vick taught special education at Thompson Intermediate School from 2008-2010 and has been a counselor with Shelby County schools since 2010, currently serving at Helena Elementary. In addition, she has worked as a group counselor for the Juvenile Detention Center and has co-led supervision groups in graduate counseling clinical courses. Vick has presented at the Alabama Counseling Association’s “Counselor Roundup” every year since 2011, and in 2013, she co-authored a chapter on social isolation in the textbook “Applying Techniques to Common Encounters in School Counseling: A Case-Based Approach.”

Vick was named Alabama School Counselor Association Elementary Counselor of the Year for 2013.

The recipient of the Instructional Leadership, Ed.S. Award was Brent Byars, who received the B.S. in elementary education in 2002, the M.Ed. in administration in 2007 and the Ed.S. in instructional leadership in 2012, all from the University of Montevallo.

Byars taught and coached football and baseball in the Shelby County schools prior to becoming assistant principal at Helena Elementary School. He currently serves as principal at Creek View Elementary School in Alabaster.

Lauren Yancey received the Teacher Leadership Award. She graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in English, received a master’s degree in secondary education in 2006, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in instructional leadership, all from the University of Montevallo.

After teaching for seven years, Yancey is now the secondary program area specialist for the Shelby County schools. She also serves as the Problem Solving Team coordinator, the Student Government Association supervisor and member of the Continuous School Improvement team.

Diana Statum was the recipient of the Elementary Education Award. She received the B.S. in elementary education from UM in 1980 and immediately went to work in Shelby County as a substitute teacher. After a brief stint in St. Mary Parish, La., she returned to Shelby County in 1982 and now teaches 4th grade at Helena Intermediate School.

The University of Montevallo is a tradition in Statum’s family. Her mother, husband and sister graduated from UM, and soon her daughter will follow in their footsteps. Concerning her career in education, Statum said, “Teaching is a payday every day. There is no other profession you can do for 32 years and still look forward to another 10 years.”

Mark Barber was the recipient of the Secondary Education Award. He received the B.S. in elementary and secondary education from UM in 1981.

He taught at Thompson Elementary School and Homewood Middle School prior to his current position as English teacher at Hoover High School. He also coaches the Hoover boys’ tennis team. His principal said, “Mark is a phenomenal teacher and mentor for his students at Hoover High. He goes above and beyond in providing outstanding academic opportunities for students.”

Suzanne Culbreth received the Traditional Education Award. A National Board Certified Teacher, Culbreth earned the M.Ed. in secondary education from UM in 1991. She was named the 2013 Alabama Teacher of the Year, a 2011 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and Alabama’s Milken Educator for 1999.

A 30-year veteran of the classroom, Culbreth has taught biology and math in Alabama, Florida and Texas. She has taught pre-advanced placement geometry at Spain Park High School and Oak Mountain High School for the past 11 years. Currently, she works with the teachers at Mountain Brook Junior High School as their staff development specialist.

Culbreth said that discovery is the cornerstone of her instruction, and she shares that with other teachers at conferences and as an Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative trainer. She believes students should be engaged in mathematics and tangibly experience it beyond working a set of problems successfully. Integration of technology, hands-on activities and cooperative learning added to the excitement in her classroom each day.

The recipient of the Family and Consumer Sciences Award was Teresa Johnson, who received the B.S. in home economics from Montevallo in 1984.

She has been a registered dietitian for more than 25 years and has worked in a variety of clinical and outpatient settings. In 2004, she began teaching full-time at Troy University and completed a doctorate in clinical nutrition from Rutgers University in 2010. At Rutgers, she was awarded the Certificate of Excellence for Outstanding Academic Performance in the School of Health Related Professions. Since coming to Troy University, she has published 19 articles, co-authored three federal grants and worked on four research projects. She serves as a reviewer for three journals and has given eight national presentations. She continues to work as needed in the pediatric specialty clinics at Children’s Rehabilitative Services.

The recipient of the Kinesiology Award was Catherine Simpkins, who earned the M.Ed. in kinesiology from Montevallo in 1994.

Simpkins taught physical education at Valley Elementary School in Pelham from 1986-1996 and also coached volleyball and basketball. She created developmentally appropriate curriculum that was creative, innovative, and child-centered. While at Valley, Simpkins was named Teacher of the Year and received the Outstanding Leadership Award.

She has served as the physical education teacher at Oak Mountain Intermediate School since 1996, assisting in developing high quality curriculum. She provides annual workshops for UM’s Teacher Education candidates and serves as one of UM’s cooperating teachers. In 1996, Simpkins was nominated for the Birmingham Post Herald’s Distinguished Teacher Award. She also volunteers in a number of events in support of children’s health.

The recipient of the Kinesiology Young Alumna Award was Tracy Edwards, who received the M.Ed in P-12 education from UM in 2010. She was a recipient of the Bernice Finger Graduate Scholarship, a member of Alpha Epsilon Lambda, and the Professional Student Honor Society.

For ten years prior to entering the master’s program at Montevallo, Edwards worked as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist.

Upon completion of her master’s program, Simpkins accepted a position at Thompson Sixth Grade Center as the physical education teacher. This long-term substitute position was brief, but she had a great impact on their program. She designed and implemented a developmentally appropriate curriculum while emphasizing motor skill development, interactive play and health enhancement. Her efforts were further enhanced by “The Fuel Up to Play 60” grant that she wrote and received.

Ginger Aaron-Brush, a National Board Certified Teacher since 2007, received the Regional InService Center and AMSTI Award. She earned the B.S. in physical education in 1999 and the M.Ed. in N-12 education in 2002, both from the University of Montevallo.

A teacher at Valley Elementary School in Pelham since 2000, she has received several significant grants as well as numerous honors and recognitions. She was named the Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 2010 and recently was chosen as the 2013-2014 Elementary Teacher of the Year for both Alabama District III and Shelby County schools.

The recipient of the Lifetime Commitment to Teaching Award was Jerry Bullock. He received the B.S. in elementary education in 1986 and the M.Ed. in elementary education in 1991, both from the University of Montevallo.

Bullock has taught in Shelby County schools for 25 years, most recently at Oak Mountain Middle School. He has been selected Teacher of the Year twice: at Oak Mountain Elementary School in 1994 and at Oak Mountain Intermediate School in 2006.

Larry Haynes, his principal at Oak Mountain Middle School, who also holds three degrees from UM, said, “He is an excellent example of what every teacher should strive to be. His concern for students is evident not only by the outstanding teaching he provides in the classroom, but also by the time he spends with his students before and after school. Current and former students and parents continue to praise the positive learning environment and high expectations in Mr. Bullock’s classroom. Mr. Bullock is always willing to go beyond the call of duty. Last week, during the winter storm outbreak that paralyzed our area, Mr. Bullock eagerly volunteered to spend the evening with over 200 students and faculty/staff members. All in all, he spent 33 consecutive hours at the school.”

The recipient of the Instructional Leadership, M.Ed. Award was David Hogue, who earned the M.Ed. in instructional leadership from UM in 2011.