July 14, 2011 — The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education Foundation has announced the winners of its 2011 Outstanding Alumni Awards.
The Outstanding Higher Education Faculty Member is Cecil D. Mercer, professor emeritus of the University of Florida's College of Education.
Mercer joined the Florida faculty in 1974 and retired in 2005. His research focused on math education and effective instructional techniques. He co-wrote the popular textbook "Students with Learning Disabilities," as well as the Strategic Math Series, the Great Leaps K-2 Reading Program and the Great Leaps Math Program. He was awarded the College of Education Teacher of the Year award three times at Florida and also received the university's Graduate School Advisor/Mentoring Award and the College of Education Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mercer received a master of science degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1968 and doctor of education degree in special education from the Curry School in 1974.
Roger N. Morris, superintendent of Patrick County Public Schools in Stuart, received the Outstanding Superintendent Award. He has served more than 24 years in education.
Since he became superintendent in 2007, all of the Patrick County schools have been accredited, and the division has met annual yearly progress standards under the No Child Left Behind Act. A 2010 U.S. News & World Report survey named the division among the nation's best.
Morris also sits on the board of directors of the Patrick County Education Foundation. In 2010, Longwood University, where Morris earned his master of science degree, presented him with the Professionals Who Make a Difference Award. He received the Award of Distinction for High Quality Professional Development in 2009 from the Virginia School Boards Association and its Award of Excellence for High Quality Professional Development in 2008.
Morris received his education specialist degree from the Curry School in 1998 and his doctorate in 2002 from Curry's administration and supervision program.
Matthew Landahl, principal of Mary C. Greer Elementary School in Charlottesville, received the Outstanding Principal Award.
Landahl began his education career in Teach for America in Baltimore, where he spent five years. He spent two years as assistant principal at Burnley-Moran Elementary School in Charlottesville, and in 2001 became principal of Paul H. Cale Elementary, Albemarle County's largest elementary school. In 2007 he moved to Greer Elementary, the most diverse school in central Virginia, with a 78 percent minority population, and also one of the most economically disadvantaged schools in the area.
Over the past four years, Landahl has led Greer to become one of the highest-performing schools in reading and math, with learning gains in the double digits.
Landahl earned a master of education degree in administration and supervision from the Curry School in 1999.
Three teachers were selected to receive a $500 grant from the Curry School Foundation to be used for professional development.
The recipient of the Outstanding High School Teacher/Counselor award is Gary H. Spedden. He has taught social studies courses, including U.S. history and U.S. and Virginia government, at Ocean Lakes High in Virginia Beach for 17 years. Three times he has received the school's Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, he is the only varsity baseball coach the school has ever had and has twice been named Group AAA State Coach of the Year. He also coaches the school's golf team. Spedden received his bachelor of science degree in social studies education from U.Va.'s Curry School in 1982.
Sara Elizabeth Rich received the Outstanding Elementary School Teacher/Counselor award. Rich was formerly a middle school teacher in The American School of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is now working independently with three schools in the country's North Kivu Province. She earned a bachelor's in history from the College of Arts & Sciences and a master of teaching degree in social studies education from U.Va. in 2007.
The recipient of the Outstanding Middle School Teacher/Counselor award is Karen Gonsky Weiss. She came to Grove Valley Elementary School in Edmond, Okla., as a first-grade teacher when it opened in 2009 after a year at Prairie Vale Elementary, also in the Deer Creek School District. Previously, she had spent a year as a teacher to second-language learners at Potowmack Elementary in Sterling, and taught first grade in Loudoun County from 2005 to 2008. Weiss received a bachelor's degree in history from the College and a master of teaching degree in elementary education from U.Va.. in 1992.
The recipient of the Curry School Distinguished Alumni Award is Nancy Ryan Iverson, assistant dean of K-12 education for the U.Va. School of Continuing and Professional Studies and director of the Center for K-12 Education.
Iverson entered the field of education when she and her husband moved to Prince Edward County in 1967 and discovered a community still reeling from effects of the 1959-64 school closings, as part of Virginia's "Massive Resistance" to the desegregation of public schools. She began as a volunteer teaching art to fifth graders and later established a tutoring program for high school students.
Since joining the U.Va. School of Continuing and Professional Studies in 1994, Iverson has established the school's Statewide K-12 Advisory Council, which brings together key educators to share best practices and build collaborative partnerships, and the Statewide Communities of Practice for Excellence, an award-winning program completed by more than 300 Virginia education leaders.
Her Gateway to Teaching Career Switcher Program received awards in 2003 and 2004 from the University Continuing Education Association.
Iverson received a master of education degree in 1977 and a doctor of education degree in 2002, both from the Curry School's administration and supervision program.
Nominations for the Outstanding Alumni Awards come from members of the Curry School community and professional colleagues. They are invited to a reception in their honor, to be held Oct. 20 at the school.