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Ellen Frackelton, M.A.Ed. ’19 wins Williamsburg-James City County Teacher of the Year 2023

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    Ellen Frackelton, M.A.Ed. '19  wins Williamsburg James City County Teacher of the Year 2023  
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As schools nationwide continue to struggle with teacher shortages, the School of Education at William & Mary is committed to seeking ways to bolster the teacher pipeline with excellently trained educators and leaders in the field. For years now, many of the Williamsburg-James City County’s (WJCC) Teachers of the Year have been William & Mary alumni, including this year’s overall division winner, Ellen Frackelton, M.A.Ed. ’19.

Serving as the Reading Specialist for Laurel Lane Elementary, Frackelton supports classroom teachers with the knowledge, skills, and resources to deliver quality literacy instruction to their students. Frackelton is known at Laurel Lane for being a lifelong learner and for her enthusiasm. “I am always trying something new. I mix relationships with evidence-based practices, because it is not one or the other. It is both” comments Frackelton. Under her leadership, her school is moving towards a new approach to literacy instruction using skill-based small groups which will align with the future of Virginia’s state literacy vision and is based on methodology Frackelton learned from William & Mary’s School of Education.

Frackelton earned her master’s degree at W&M, learning about effective practices for literacy instruction, and shares, “It was a transformative point in my career. I read reading research and reflected on practices that have strong research behind them. I learned to look at something and dig into the research behind it.” During her time at W&M, Frackelton was awarded the Quinn Scholarship where she was given the opportunity to learn from the Riverside School on how to deliver effective instruction to students with dyslexia. She also took part in a clinical course that allowed her to assist students at WJCC’s summer school program and receive feedback from her professor and peers. These experiences helped prepare her for her current position as a reading specialist.

“I also built my network of people at W&M. Dr. Conradi Smith took me under her wing and was a classic teacher. She saw something in me that I did not see in myself. She pushed me to present at conferences and become a better educator” shares Frackelton. Now Frackelton is paying it forward, serving as an adjunct faculty member at William & Mary, teaching the introductory literacy methods course to preservice teachers and is finding it very rewarding, “It is amazing to see the students in my course at William & Mary and then be able to support them at their placements for student teaching. One of my students in my William & Mary course student-taught at Laurel Lane. Now, she is a fourth-grade teacher at my school and does a phenomenal job. I was able to see her come into her own.” Frackelton not only serves as a model to her students and colleagues at Laurel Lane and WJCC but also to her undergraduate students at W&M.

Previous division-level winners of the WJCC Teacher of the Year award also have ties to W&M. WJCC Teacher of the Year 2022, Stephanie Kline, like Frackelton, serves as an adjunct professor at W&M, teaching Classroom Management for elementary student teachers. “I am passionate about working with preservice teachers and have been working with student teachers since 2015. I enjoy having the opportunity to work with the whole cohort to reach more preservice teachers. I love sharing my knowledge of classroom management, tips and tricks and helping preservice teachers solve problems in their classrooms!” shares Kline.

WJCC Teacher of the Year 2021, Tamara Williams ’91, credits her teaching mantra in part to what she learned from Dr. Conradi Smith. Williams shares, “I think the most influential learning experience I had involving W&M was participating in a book study with Dr. Conradi-Smith. It altered my path as an interventionist and spurred me to learn more about research on how children learn to read. I began to take the things I learned from this training and conversations with Dr. Conradi and show teachers how they could implement evidence-aligned instruction that met the needs of all students. My new mantra became, ‘Teach using instructional practices that are good for all, better for some, and necessary for a few.’” Williams is also educating students at W&M as an adjunct professor with the Literacy Program and Reading Specialist Endorsement program.

WJCC Teacher of the Year 2020, Alisa Smith ’99, speaks of the honor it was to be named Teacher of the Year, especially during such a difficult year for teachers at the beginning of the pandemic. Smith comments, “I could not be more impressed and inspired by the resilience, dedication, and grit that I have seen in so many teachers. We have a common objective which is to educate students and provide them with resources and opportunities to help them reach their potential both inside and outside of school. I am proud to be an alumna of W&M and part of WJCC Public Schools, and I am honored to have been selected as Teacher of the Year for Jamestown High, the WJCC District, and Region 2 of Virginia.”

Several other W&M alumni were named Teacher of the Year at the school level for WJCC in past years as well. There is a pipeline from W&M to excellence in teaching in WJCC, and the excellence is being brought full circle back to W&M through these adjunct faculty who then mold and shape our future educators.

Director of Field and Clinical Experiences at W&M, April Lawrence shares, “We are extremely thankful and delighted to have the last three division level WJCC teachers of the year on faculty in the teacher preparation program at William & Mary. W&M teacher candidates learn the most from their field-based, contextually relevant assignments and experiences. Having WJCC division-wide teachers of the year on faculty help us ensure that our program is rooted in real-life applied practice, and that our students are guided by the most highly qualified and expert practitioners in our community. This is a mutually beneficial partnership that allows W&M future teachers to engage in authentic learning opportunities, and that provides highly qualified local teachers with opportunities to lead and mentor the next generation of teachers."