Cato College of Education Presents Annual Awards for Excellence

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The Cato College of Education is proud to present its 2024 Awards for Excellence to several outstanding faculty, staff, and graduates. Click the hyperlinks to learn more about each recipient.

Clinical Educator – Spring 2024
sinokia Lee Campbell

The Cato College of Education Clinical Educator Award annually recognizes a P-12 teacher who serves as a clinical educator to a full-time student teaching candidate. Award recipients provide exemplary support and mentoring to an undergraduate or graduate candidate in a teacher education program.  

Backdrop: Sinokia Lee Campbell first began teaching in Jamaica before coming to the United States through a cultural exchange program for international teachers. She transitioned to the profession 12 years ago from a career in engineering.

What her students say: “Throughout my student teaching experience, I had the privilege of working with a clinical educator who went above and beyond to support me in my journey to becoming a great teacher. She was incredibly supportive, always pushing me to reach my full potential and providing guidance every step of the way. I learned everything I know from her and if all student teachers had her as a mentor, they would undoubtedly succeed.”

What she’s saying: “Whatever is I wanted back then as a student, that’s what I want to give my students. It means something to be recognized in this way. “Education picked me. I realized my presence had an impact and influence on the students because I was sharing so much more than an education,” said Lee, adding her classroom is “her happy place.”

Clinical Educator – Fall 2023 and overall 2023-2024 Winner
Michael Hayes

Hayes is an expert at modeling effective practices and guiding his student teacher in her teaching journey.

What his student teacher is saying: “My clinical educator repeatedly told me that his job is to make me a success. He is always my advocate and encourager, giving seasoned advice and excellent input. He draws me out and encourages me to assess how well things went, what I did well and how I can improve.

Staff Employee of the Year
Christy Eaton

The Cato College of Education Staff Employee of the Year Award will recognize recognizes staff members who have demonstrated: devotion to duty; innovation; human relations; community/public service; or safety/heroism in fulfilling their work requirements on behalf of the Cato College of Education.

What her colleagues say: “Her bright smile and sense of humor are priceless, and her work to not only place our student teachers but to advocate for them is inspirational.”

Award for Diversity
Professor Clare Merlin-Knoblich
Department of Counseling

The Cato College of Education Award for Diversity is awarded to one outstanding, full time faculty member who exemplifies the goals outlined in the Cato College of Education’s Diversity Commitment statement. The recipient will display a deep commitment to diversity, demonstrate creativity/ innovation in a variety of domains, and sustain a positive impact on the university and community constituencies. Merlin-Knoblich is active in serving K-12 schools as well as promoting inclusiveness through her research and teaching. Through her leadership of Diversity Dinner Dialogues and School Counselor Equity Fellowships in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake County, and Union County Public schools, she has led training and dialogue regarding multiculturalism, experiences with privilege/power/oppression, expanding student and faculty multicultural awareness, and developing a commitment to social justice advocacy.

Award for Excellence in Research
Professor Taryne Mingo
Department of Counseling

This award recognizes an outstanding data-based publication in a peer-reviewed journal published in the past year. In her nominated research study, published in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, a premier journal in counseling, Mingo encapsulates the essence of the research, which delves into the profound impacts of racial trauma across the lifespan on the well-being of Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the U.S. particularly those who grew up during the Jim Crow era.

Award for Excellence in Teaching
Professor Kristie Opiola
Department of Counseling

The College of Education Teaching Award Committee is soliciting nominations for the College of Education Annual Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award has been established to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support outstanding teaching within the College of Education. Nominations are to be based upon sustained excellence of teaching in courses offered by the College

What her students say: “I had never experienced a class like hers in  graduate school, or in any of my other educational institutions. There is a feeling of safety that is  created where people are free to ask questions, share their concerns, be transparent in their  doubts of themselves, and receive a listening ear and advice on how to move forward.”

Page and Ed Kizer Beginning Teacher of the Year Award
Sarah McKenzie
Joseph W. Grier Academy
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The Page and Ed Kizer Beginning Teacher Award will recognize annually an outstanding beginning teacher who is a graduate of one of UNC Charlotte’s undergraduate teacher education programs and is in the first 3 years of his or her professional experience.

What her colleagues say: “I would never know she is a beginning teacher! She is warm and welcoming during parent conferences and helpful to her colleagues during PLC meetings. If her students have difficulty, she affirms their effort and provides them with strategic support to learn from productive struggle.”

Award recipients were honored with a plaque and a cash award of $1,000 or $1,500 in professional development funds for faculty.