BLUEFIELD (News Release)- Bluefield College recently presented its inaugural Dr. Donna Watson Goodness and Light Alumni Award – a tribute to a pillar of the Teacher Education Program who stepped down from her position as dean of the School of Education in the spring of 2017. The winner of the first ever award: Hannah Spicer Owens, a special education and English teacher at Narrows (VA) High School.
Created collaboratively by the Bluefield College School of Education (SOE) and Office of Alumni Relations, the Goodness and Light Alumni Award is designed to recognize SOE graduates who are “doing great things in our schools and classrooms,” according to Dr. Thomas Brewster, a 1991 alumnus of the BC Teacher Education Program who was called to fill the shoes of Dr. Watson. The annual award, he added, will recognize a graduate of the School of Education who “embodies Dr. Watson’s mantra of spreading goodness and light within the field of education.”
“We wanted to present an award that exemplified what Donna Watson is all about, and since her mantra has always been, ‘go spread goodness and light,’ we decided to create a Goodness and Light Award,” said Dr. Brewster. “It was something she taught her students to do. It was something she believed in, and it was something she did so often herself. This award will give us the opportunity to recognize members of our outstanding alumni base with an honor that best expresses our appreciation for their service to our education communities. We are proud of Dr. Watson’s important contributions to the school and the eternal influence she’s had on our graduates.”
Owens, the inaugural recipient of the alumni award, earned her bachelor’s degree in English with teacher licensure in English 6-12 and Special Education K-12 in 2013. In fact, she was the first graduate of BC’s Special Education program. While a student, she was named a Beazley Scholar and a Teacher of Promise. She also received BC’s Heather Marie Smith Outstanding Student Teacher Award and served as president of the Student Virginia Education Association.
“I am honored to have been chosen for this award,” said Owens. “There have been many times in my teaching career that I have asked myself if Dr. Watson were in my shoes what would she do in my situation. This has led me to make many excellent decisions in my teaching career. Other than her example, I have based many of my decisions on goodness and light, which is what she told us to spread every time we left her class.”
After Bluefield College, Owens served a summer as a teacher for Taking Action for Special Kids (TASK) in Tazewell, Virginia, before beginning her full time teaching career in the fall of 2013 with Giles (VA) High School, where she taught English and a basic skills class for grades 9-12. While at Giles, Owens was named Teacher of the Month by the Virginian Leader. Today, she is a special education and English teacher at Narrows (VA) High School.
“Hannah is a perfect example of this award,” said Todd Lusk, assistant principal at Narrows High. “She is a shining example for us at Narrows High School. She’s great with all of our students. The students love her. She is touching lives at Narrows, and we feel very fortunate to have her there.”
A 1980 graduate of the Bluefield College Teacher Education Program, Dr. Watson returned to her alma mater to teach in 1996 following 16 years in secondary education. After 10 years solely in the BC classroom, she became chair of the Division of Education in 2006 and dean of the School of Education in 2013.
“Dr. Donna Hardy Watson has not only found joy, but she spreads joy to others,” said Phyllis Owens, who taught alongside Dr. Watson for 11 years in BC’s School of Education. “I have no doubt that when she shares those words, ‘go spread goodness and light,’ she is in a way telling students to follow her path in their own way. I think all of us here wish her joy as she saves one child at a time and enlists others to do the same.”
Under her leadership, the BC School of Education earned national accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; launched the college’s first ever master’s degree program, a Master of Arts in Education; developed an online degree program in early childhood education; added new Teacher Education endorsements in instrumental music and special education; and proposed new teacher licensure options at the graduate level for biology, theater, visual art, instrumental music, vocal music, history and social science, and business. During her 21-year tenure at Bluefield, she also served as faculty president and twice earned BC’s Distinguished Faculty Award.
“Dr. Watson is esteemed so highly on this campus,” said Dr. Marshall Flowers, vice president for academic affairs. “The Teacher Education Program became a signature program under her leadership. We’re so grateful for what she accomplished. Bluefield College has been honored by her leadership through the years. When Donna spoke, we listened very carefully. She had a lot of wisdom and counsel to offer.”
Other nominees for the inaugural Goodness and Light Alumni Award included Jennifer Brewster (’08) from Graham Intermediate School in Bluefield, Virginia; Emily Sears Cook (’12) from Graham High School in Bluefield, Virginia; and Alison Jackson Mosko (’15) from Tazewell (VA) Elementary School.
“Teachers plant the seeds of hope in the tomorrows beyond our lifetime,” said Dr. Watson, who is now the dean of the School of Education at King University in Tennessee. “Teachers are the reason for democracy in our country. They provide hope for the future for all of us. Even though I am now at a sister institution, I support, love and celebrate teachers, and I’m grateful to have served at Bluefield College, my alma mater, and I’m so excited to be able to recognize BC teacher-graduates for spreading goodness and light to their students and to encourage all teachers that what they do every day is precious and crucial to our future.”