Esther Akers, better known as "Bunny", the 2011 recipient of the Clinical Partnership Award, is an English teacher and Department Chair, currently at Warhill High School in Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools.
This award is given to a professional educator serving in the field in recognition of effective collaboration in and contributions to the preparation and development of education professionals through field-based experiences.
Bunny has long been a mainstay of the teacher preparation program at The College. Our first official record of her serving as a Cooperating Teacher is 1985 (26 years ago). However, Bunny began teaching in Williamsburg in 1972, and served as a Cooperating Teacher beginning early in her career. As evidence of her tireless commitment to the preparation of new teachers, consider the fact that Bunny has mentored at least one teacher candidate from W&M every year since 1999. That's an incredible pace and an invaluable contribution to the profession
Indeed, Bunny's contribution to preparing new teachers is quite remarkable. Rumor has it that in 39 years in the profession, Bunny has mentored nearly 50 aspiring teachers from W&M and other teacher preparation programs. Any of Bunny's former student teachers will tell you that her supervision, direction, mentoring, and support were immeasurably important in their development as new teachers. But, we can quantify some of Bunny's impact on the field. Through her mentorship of aspiring teachers, Bunny's legacy willstretch well through the current century. And, when you combine Bunny's own teaching with the teaching careers of her former student teachers, Bunny will have touched the learning of more than 230,000 middle and high school students.
Bunny is not only an amazingly stalwart, caring, committed, and effective mentor to aspiring teachers, she is also an innovative and collaborative leader. We began our Clinical Faculty Program at William & Mary in 1998, and Bunny was one of our earliest members of the Clinical Faculty, completing the 1999 cohort. However, even before that Bunny partnered and co-taught with Dr. Mark Gulesian, establishing an ongoing professional development partnership between the School of Education and Lafayette High School in the early 1990s. Bunny has continued this type of professional exchange and collaboration with Dr. John Moore, our current Professor of English Education. Bunny is also one of our first Lead Clinical Faculty Members. What began in 2002 with a handful of schools has grown into a network of 24 Partnership Schools in which the SOE has a presence of Clinical Faculty members and Lead Clinical Faculty, like Bunny, who serve as Adjunct Faculty members of the SOE and our points of contact for placements, problem-solving, and continuous improvement of our programs. Not only was Bunny one of the original Lead Clinical Faculty members while at Lafayette High School, but she also enjoys the unique distinction of having expanded the Clinical Faculty Program to two other high schools, Jamestown and Warhill.
As a Lead Clinical Faculty member, Bunny has served as a model to other Cooperating Teachers. You might say that she is a "mentor of mentors." Additionally, she was one of the first Lead Clinical Faculty members to establish site-based orientations for teacher candidates, as well as site-based, intra-departmental student teacher seminars. She truly is innovative and collaborative in her approach to student teaching supervision and mentorship. But don't let Bunny fool you: She is also quite savvy. She is well-known for unabashedly recruiting top-notch graduates of the William &Mary teacher preparation program for her department!
Bunny can be described as genuinely committed to teaching young people, to the school community, and to the teaching profession; passionate about teacher preparation; a true friend of and invaluable colleague to the School of Education.
For all these reasons, she is the recipient of our 2011 Clinical Partnership Award. Congratulations and thanks, Ms. Akers!