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Oak Pointe Elementary Teacher Receives Prestigious Award from Francis Marion University

IRMO – Oak Pointe Elementary School teacher Dawn Oswalt received the 2017 Lorin Anderson Award for Excellence in Teaching Children of Poverty at Francis Marion University’s 2017 Summer Institute held June 28.

Oswalt was recognized for her work with students beyond their classroom instruction. Each day, Oswalt asks her students to give her a thumbs up or down to quickly assess which students have a need. She has a mailbox in her classroom where students can place inside whatever they would like to discuss one-on-one.

“It was such an honor to be recognized with this award for excellence,” Oswalt said. “I was overwhelmed. It feels so great to be honored for doing something that feels natural anyway. I honestly had no idea what I was doing was getting attention from other people. What’s most amazing about all of this is that it is the kids that are doing the work, I am just the facilitator.”

Originally, Oswalt thought that taking 15-30 minutes of instruction time away from students to discuss what was on their minds would hurt test scores, but to her surprise, they increased.

“My students’ test scores had always been good and I was extremely close to going to the principal and saying I’m not sure if they will be the same because of this new concept,” Oswalt said. “Taking this time has allowed them to focus better than they could before.”

Oswalt attended a professional learning event at Francis Marion University’s School of Education and began implementing a new concept of learning in her classroom. After studying the importance of relationships and the impact of stress on learning, Oswalt started “Practicing Mindful Thinking” where students take two minutes meditating to themselves to help them cope with stress both in and out of school.

“Mrs. Oswalt’s work in her classroom has been a source of inspiration for our Center,” said Dr. Tammy Pawloski, Francis Marion’s Center of Excellence professor of education. “Her success story has been shared with many schools and teachers. The work she is doing with under-resourced students is exactly what we want to celebrate so that other teachers will be empowered to spend time and energy in a direction that is, perhaps, less traditional.”

This marks the first year of the Lorin Anderson Award for Excellence in Teaching Children of Poverty has been given. Anderson was a graduate assistant of Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago and the lead author of A Taxonomy of Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Education Objectives. He also served as a lead witness for the plaintiff in the Abbeville v. SC lawsuit, and because of that experience, envisioned a Center that would work in support of teachers of children of poverty.

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