Long-time educators receive top teaching honor at Roanoke College
Salem, Va. - Education not only was a career for George and Nancy Akers. It was a way of life.
The couple and retired educators spent a combined 72 years in classrooms throughout Virginia and Maryland, teaching everything from math and music to being principal and directing school bands.
"Education was a career in which no two days were the same," said George Akers, a former principal and math and science teacher in Roanoke County schools.
The Akers, who live in Roanoke County, received a prestigious award at Roanoke College on Wednesday. They are co-recipients of the 2012 Margaret Sue Copenhaver Education Award, which is given on the final day of the Margaret Sue Copenhaver Institute for Teaching and Learning, a training program for teachers held at Roanoke.
Each year, administrators of the three-day institute choose a successful educator who shows the same passion for teaching children as Copenhaver, a retired teacher from Richmond. Copenhaver's sister, Helen Hanes, through an endowed gift, started the Margaret Sue Copenhaver Institute for Teaching and Learning.
The sessions, held Monday through Wednesday, consist of workshops, discussions and special speakers, including one of this year's guests, Taylor Mali, a nationally-known poet and advocate for teachers. About 160 educators from schools and colleges in Virginia and other states attended this year's institute.
The Akers' intense devotion to education and many years in the field made them the perfect fit for the Copenhaver Award, said Dr. Tim Reynolds, co-director of the institute and chair of the Education department at Roanoke.
"They've been like a team," he said.
George Akers, a 1962 graduate of Roanoke, got his start as a math and science teacher at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke County. He eventually became an assistant principal at Cave Spring Middle School and later, principal at Burlington Elementary School. He also was an adjunct instructor at the University of Virginia. He has a master's degree in science education from UVA and a PhD. in science education from the University of Maryland. Now, he sells real estate for Gwyn & Harmon Realtors in Roanoke County.
Nancy Akers graduated from Radford College-Women's Division of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and she taught instrumental and vocal music in Roanoke City schools and in Prince George's County schools in Maryland. She also was an assistant band director for junior high and high school marching bands.
"My one regret was not keeping a journal" to record funny anecdotes about students, said Nancy Akers, now an active member of the Thursday Morning Music Club, which raises money to fund music and performing arts scholarships for students.
On the college level, the Akers, along with retired professor Dr. Mack Welford, helped found Roanoke's education honor society, the Upsilon Tau Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.
Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its "Best 376 Colleges" 2012.
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