Southeast Graduate Student Receives Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award



May 13, 2005 – Cheryl Thomas of Clarkton, Mo., who will receive her master of arts degree in elementary education Saturday at Southeast Missouri State University and who is completing the degree with a 4.0 grade point average, recently was honored with an “Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award” by the Missouri Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.

Thomas is currently completing her second year of teaching at Malden (Mo.) Elementary School. She received the award at the Association’s spring meeting April 29. Faculty in the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education at Southeast nominated Thomas for the award.

“Cheryl truly represents the quality of teacher we strive to prepare,” said Dr. Gale McMahan, interim chair of Southeast’s Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education. “Many of the graduate faculty have commented that Cheryl is a positive, enthusiastic and caring individual. Many of her instructors have also observed that she has implemented many projects with her students and she instinctively understands how to teach in a way that her students are constructing knowledge.  Additionally, she has consistently met research deadlines and is able to implement suggestions and ideas to improve her overall teaching skills.” 

Thomas earned her bachelor of science degree in education with a major in elementary education in 2003 from Southeast.

In her first year of teaching, Thomas was a sixth grade teacher at Risco Elementary School, where she wrote the district’s successful Reading First Grant, said Dr. Julie Ray, assistant professor of elementary, early and special education. Thomas had several students who won awards with their history projects at the Southeast Missouri State University 2004 History Day Fair. Also during her first year, she began work on her master’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in reading at Southeast.

In her second year of teaching, Thomas became the elementary librarian for Malden Elementary School, adding the librarian certificate to her other teaching certificates. As a first-year librarian, she conducted an action research project on how to improve fourth graders interest in reading non-fiction books.  Her research study was quite successful, Ray said, as she was able to develop strategies that dramatically increased the number of non-fiction books read by fourth grade students.  She is currently working with a faculty member on publishing her research study.