Author James Patterson sent autographed copies of his latest children's novel, "Treasure Hunters," to the eight SUNY Geneseo students awarded James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships this year, pictured here with the dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education. Front row (l to r): Marissa Liberati; Jessica Stoneham; Melissa Bellonte; and Kelsey Horan. Back row (l to r): Hannah Pettengill; Kristen Bondi; Dean Anjoo Sikka; Haley Hilgenberg; and Ashley Hark.
GENESEO, N.Y. – Best-selling author James Patterson has created a scholarship program at SUNY Geneseo's Ella Cline Shear School of Education to support aspiring teachers in promoting the importance of literacy in education.
This year, eight graduate students earning a master's degree in literacy received a $6,000 James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship. Next year, the Patterson Family Foundation will award the scholarships to full-time incoming freshmen intending to seek teacher certification, with the possibility of renewal through graduation.
"I've been looking to bring these scholarships to more schools, and after studying a number of institutions and programs, I found Geneseo to be a great addition," said Patterson, a highly popular mystery writer who also has written books for young readers. "My passion is to get more and more kids excited about reading, and training the next generation of great teachers is essential to that mission."
All of the Geneseo scholarship recipients this year are from New York: Melissa Bellonte (Avon); Kristen Bondi (Dansville); Ashley Hark (Dalton); Hayley Hilgenberg (Falconer); Kelsey Horan (Endicott); Marissa Liberati (Manchester); Hannah Pettengill (Bloomfield); and Jessica Stoneham (Corfu). Hark, Hilgenberg, Horan, Liberati and Stoneham received their undergraduate degrees at Geneseo.
Patterson sent each scholarship recipient an autographed copy of his latest children's novel, "Treasure Hunters," and included a personalized note, stating that he was "thrilled that future teachers like you will help instill a lifelong love of reading in children."
"We are very honored that James Patterson has included Geneseo in his literacy initiative," said Anjoo Sikka, dean of the School of Education. "Exciting kids about books and reading is crucial to their success as readers, thinkers and keen observers and, ultimately, to become self-actualized and effective participants in our society. The scholarships will help us attract talented students with the kind of passion that drives Mr. Patterson. I sincerely commend him for his vision and am grateful for his contribution to the preparation of literacy teachers at SUNY Geneseo."
Geneseo's Patterson Scholarship recipients were selected on the basis of academic performance and an essay describing how they would apply what they have learned to help children develop a lifelong passion for reading. Applications were reviewed by a committee of faculty led by Susan Salmon, assistant professor and coordinator of graduate programs in the School of Education.
"Reading comes first," said Liberati, who excelled both in and out of the classroom during her undergraduate years as a Geneseo student-athlete. "It is the compass by which we explore and map all other literacies – digital or not – and only by reading can we and our students become and continue to be lifelong learners."
Liberati earned All-American honors in cross country and track and field. She also was on the NCAA Division III All-Academic Team in cross country in both 2009 and 2010.
"This scholarship is so much more than money to help me pay for my education," said Hilgenberg, who completed her student teaching in Ghana, West Africa. "It shows that someone is rewarding my hard work and believing in my potential. It's one of the greatest acts of kindness."
Other recipients expressed similar sentiments about the power such scholarships have as a catalyst for success.
"As a future educator, I believe that it is not only my job to teach students how to read and write; it is my responsibility to teach them to love to read and write," said Pettengill. "By opening a book, you can go on an adventure. Those small letters on the page take you to places you've never been and give you experiences you've never had."
Patterson is among the most successful authors in history. He is the first to achieve 10 million ebook sales and has had more books ranked first on The New York Times best-seller list than any other author. He also is the current best-selling author in the young-adult and middle-grade categories and promotes reading through his website ReadKiddoRead.com.
SUNY Geneseo is firmly rooted in education, opening in 1871 as the Geneseo Normal and Training School. In 1948, the Geneseo Normal and Training School became a part of the State University of New York. The teachers colleges of SUNY became Colleges of Arts and Sciences in 1962, and two years later, Geneseo's four-year degree programs in arts and sciences were implemented. SUNY Geneseo's Department of Education was reorganized as a School of Education in 1992.
The School of Education today has 25 full-time and five part-time faculty members, who are preparing more than 700 students to be teachers. The school offers undergraduate programs leading to initial teacher certification in Early Childhood and Childhood, Childhood, Childhood with Special Education, and Adolescence Education. Graduate programs that could lead to professional certification are offered in Early Childhood and Childhood, Multicultural Childhood Education, Literacy (B-12) and Adolescence Education.
Among the school's numerous success stories are the accomplishments of Geneseo alumnus Matthew A. Rozell, who teaches history at Hudson Falls (N.Y.) High School. He earned his master's degree in education from Geneseo in 1988 after receiving a bachelor's degree in history from the college. The Geneseo Alumni Association named Rozell Educator of the Year for 2013.
Rozell's alumni educator award from Geneseo is among several honors he has earned during his career, including the prestigious National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Mary S. Lockwood Medal for Education. The medal honors outstanding achievement through service and leadership in promoting education outside the formal educational process. He also has been recognized as a leader in World War II and Holocaust history through several projects he initiated that have received national attention.
"Entering the teaching profession in many ways is to answer a higher calling," said Rozell. "The Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships increase the options for our best and brightest to enter the field of teaching and represent a commitment to continuing to produce the caliber of teachers that Geneseo is renowned for. There is no higher mission."
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