2003 Recipients - Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth
It is with great pleasure that the Copenhaver Institute presents the first annual award to Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Smyth. Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth, of Nellysford, VA, value the education of students and teachers. Their commitment is evident in a personally designed support program for Nelson County Schools. The program stems from Mrs. Smyth’s career as a public school teacher and from the couple’s interest in education development for their rural community. Their goals are to strengthen classroom instruction and to increase the number of local students attending college. The aims are achieved by a three prong approach, which includes recognition for school service, continuing teacher education, and student college scholarships.
Each year, the Smyths recognize the work and contributions of ten school personnel. Recipients, selected by a committee of local citizens, receive a monetary award in recognition for outstanding service to Nelson County Schools. Six faculty members and four staff members are chosen. The Smyths believe that education is a job completed by the joint efforts of all school personnel.
Teacher professional development is the second component of the Smyth’s efforts to better teaching and learning. To achieve the goal, the couple sponsors educational field-studies for teachers. The Smyths believe that domestic and international travel strengthens teachers’ content knowledge and enriches their cultural awareness and appreciation.
For the last twelve years, Mr. and Mrs. Smyth have also offered college scholarships to Nelson County students. The students are nominated by guidance counselors and selected based on their demonstrated commitment to higher education and their need for financial assistance. In a typical year, the Smyths award four scholarships. Each scholarship recipient receives $3,000 for each year of schooling. To maintain the scholarship, students are required to meet three standards. First, they attend a lunch hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Smyth during each school semester. At lunch, the students provide an update on their college experiences and join a conversation on the requirements and values of education. Mrs. Smyth addresses social issues and Mr. Smyth discusses academic achievement. Second, each scholarship recipient must maintain a “B” average and, third, each student must return to their former Nelson County schools to urge younger students to pursue a college education.
The school personnel and citizens of Nelson County greatly appreciate Mr. and Mrs. Smyth’s support for local schools. The Margaret Sue Copenhaver Institute for Teaching and Learning also values the Smyth’s community-centered approach to better teaching and learning. Such commitment is reflective of the attitudes and work of Margaret Sue Copenhaver. The MSCI faculty and steering committee believe that these ideals are principles that govern successful teaching and learning in a civil society. Thus, it is with great appreciation and admiration that we present this award to Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth.
“If I can help pique my students’ interest in research and scientific careers, I feel that I have done my job as a professor to promote an extended education,” Dr. Balasubramanian says.