The spotlight shown this spring is on Callie Clary and Kristen Franklin (shown), two students in the JMU Educational Leadership Program at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. Clary was named “Teacher of the Year” at Ferrum Elementary School, and Franklin was appointed the Integrated Curriculum Lead with Code VA, a non-profit that works to bring equitable computer science education to students in Virginia.

Clary is in her fourth year teaching fourth grade teacher at Ferrum and had a “whirlwind” year! Because of Covid-19, Clary taught third grade virtually last semester and then was switched back to fourth grade when Franklin County Public Schools returned to in-person teaching five days a week. Clary is currently in the first year of her Master’s in Education program. Having also completed her undergraduate degree at RHEC through Radford University, she is thrilled to be back here.

“There’s something about the Higher Education Center that I really like,” she said. “It’s a mature environment, somewhere that I could foster learning again. After being there for my four years and as soon as I heard that my Master’s could be done there, I jumped on it.”

Her degree will prepare her to become a school administrator in Virginia. Clary has the unique perspective of working on her Master’s during a global pandemic and learning how to handle different scenarios from a leadership point of view.

Having already received her Master’s degree, Kristen Franklin is pursuing her Educational Leadership Certificate and will finish this June. After a 16-year career teaching in Salem City schools, she will soon transition to a full-time administrative role with Code VA. She currently works there in a part-time capacity in addition to teaching kindergarten. In this new role, Franklin will be facilitating professional development sessions for teachers, writing curriculum, and overseeing writing teams. “I will be making sure that our curriculum reflects computer science being integrated into all subjects K-8 and ensuring that it is created so that all students have access to computer science education,” she said.

Both Franklin and Clary appreciate the convenience of studying at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. “Not only could I easily meet with my professors in person (of course, that was before Covid), but also I wasn’t having to drive a long way. It was very convenient; I just had easy access to everything that I needed,” explained Franklin. Now, for flexibility during the pandemic, many courses are offered both live and remote at the same time.

Dr. Richard Turner, the Roanoke Area Program Coordinator for the JMU Educational Leadership Program, sings their praises. “I’m real proud of both of them. They’re going to both do really, really well as leaders in education. They both have great leadership attributes,” he said.