The University of Montevallo’s College of Education and Human Development held an awards dinner on Feb. 7 to recognize the achievements of its outstanding alumni. The awards are presented annually in several categories to alumni who have shown dedication and exemplary commitment to teaching.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Susie Owsley Stanfield ’84
Stanfield graduated from UM in 1984. She later became an active and integral part of the Deaf community, serving 38 years as a teacher and ASL interpreter. Stanfield now has a business where she works with deaf students and sign language interpreters.
Instructional Leadership – Desaree Jackson ’06
Jackson graduated from UM with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She has more than 16 years of education experience and is currently the principal of Calera Middle School. She is the 2022-2023 District 5 Middle School principal of the year.
Instructional Leadership – Donald Clayton ’01
Clayton received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and administrative certificate from UM. He is currently serving his 21st year in education as the principal of Mountain Brook Junior High School. As an educator, he has served in several other roles, such as assistant principal, athletic director, history teacher, girls’ basketball and boys’ soccer coach.
Teacher Leadership – Jennifer Cooper ’08
Cooper is a teacher at McCalla Elementary School. Her career in education has lasted nearly 25 years, during which she has had the opportunity to serve local schools, an international school and other districts around the U.S.
Instructional Technology – Wesley Lawley ’04
Lawley earned his master’s degree in secondary education, instructional leadership certificate and education specialist degree from UM. He has been with the Bibb County School system for more than 20 years. In this position, he has been instrumental in obtaining a USDA RUS DLT Grant three times. His most recent grant awarded him more than $750,000 for long-distance learning equipment. He also teaches an adjunct class at UM and sits on the board with Alabama Leaders in Educational Technology.
Elementary/Collaborative – Melanie Clark ’94
Clark earned her undergraduate degree in education for deaf and hard of hearing UM in 1994 and began teaching as a special education teacher in 1995. She later returned to UM, earning her master’s degree in educational administration in 2001. Clark spent several years serving at-risk youth. In June, she retired from Shelby County Schools after 27 years. She now teaches at UM in elementary collaborative education.
Professional Educators’ Masters – Sabrina Lynch-Castillo ’03
Lynch-Castillo was awarded her graduate degree in elementary education from UM in 2003. She taught fifth grade at Thompson Intermediate School for 21 years. She recently began a new adventure teaching third grade at Forest Oaks Elementary School.
Alternative Masters in Elementary Education – Julie Gay ’98
Gay is a 1998 graduate of UM with a speech-language pathology degree. She then went into the 5th Year Program/Alternative Masters and received her master’s in elementary education. She has taught fifth grade at Thompson Intermediate School for 21 years and recently transferred to Calera Intermediate School to teach fifth grade math and science.
Secondary Education – Justin Foster ’18
In 2018, Foster graduated from UM with his master’s in secondary education. After graduating, he taught English and TV production at Pelham High School. Foster led his students to a third-place victory at the SkillsUSA State Competition in TV News Production and Advertising Design. He also works in local radio and is an announcer for Pelham basketball games. In addition, Foster has received several accolades, the most recent being awarded Pelham High School Teacher of the year in 2021-2022.
Family and Consumer Science – Ebone Fowler ’12
Fowler graduated from Montevallo in 2012. After graduation, Fowler had a successful retail merchandising career at Dillard’s Corporation. She was a visual merchandise manager and later transitioned to sales manager. While there, she created and implemented an associate workbook that led to a 70% increase in employee productivity. As the diversity, equity and inclusion advocate, Fowler now works for Saks Fifth Avenue in Birmingham.
Exercise and Nutrition Science – Aubrey Long ’20
Long completed her bachelor’s degree (2020) and master’s degree in exercise science (2021) at UM and served as vice president of the Student Exercise Science Club. She is planning to continue her education as a physical therapist in Michigan, where she is employed as a physical therapy technician. She awaits a decision on her application as an athletic training intern with the Detroit Tigers.
Exercise and Nutrition Science – Kayla Chambers ’19
Chambers completed her bachelor’s degree in exercise and nutrition science from UM in 2019. Since graduating from UM, she has been on a path to securing her doctoral degree in physical therapy. She will graduate in August 2024. Upon graduating with her doctorate, she plans to work in outpatient orthopedics, specializing in manual physical therapy. Eventually, she wants to teach in a doctoral program.
Nutrition and Wellness – Bernice Lee Ballard ’08
Ballard graduated from UM in 2008 and is a renal dietitian for Fresenius Medical Care in Montevallo and Shelby. She offers expert nutrition care to end-stage renal disease patients requiring dialysis. She has precepted students at UM and UAB for several years. Ballard serves on the UM Nutrition and Wellness Advisory Board and is a Birmingham District Dietetic Association member.
Ernest Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award – Dr. Kelley Devane-Hart
Devane-Hart has been a College of Education and Human Development professor since 2016. She has been instrumental in the Exercise and Nutrition Science program, but especially to the nutrition and wellness students. She provides a particular focus on food preparation and food science. She is also a faculty mentor with the McNair Scholars Program and impressively sponsors the Student Dietetic Association.
Bill Fancher Staff Excellence Award – Mary Howard
Howard is the director of Teacher Education Services. She is an essential member of not only UM but the community of Montevallo. She challenges those around her to have fun and help grow the community. Her lively persona and adaptable personality inspire all who work with her.