Alumni News

School of Education presents annual alumni awards

Photo of Musette Sprunt Morgan

Musette Sprunt Morgan


Photo of Barnett Wayne Berry

Barnett Wayne Berry


Photo of Malbert Smith III

Malbert Smith III


Photo of John Scott Westefeld

John Scott Westefeld


Photo of Briana Marie Corke

Briana Marie Corke

The School of Education recognized the accomplishments of five outstanding educators at the 10th annual Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony Sept. 26, 2009. Dr. Gus Martin, chair of the 2009 Awards Committee, and Dr. Eliz Colbert, president of the School of Education Alumni Council, presided over the ceremony, which was held at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Musette Sprunt Morgan (A.B.Ed. ’76), of Memphis, Tenn., received the Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of her exceptional leadership in advancing opportunities in education. Morgan has taught at the college level and served on the Tennessee State Board of Education, where she chaired the Committee on School Violence. At the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education, Morgan and her husband Allen established the James Yadkin Joyner Fellowship to honor her great-grandfather James Yadkin Joyner, who was North Carolina’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1902-1919. The fellowship provides funding for a graduate student who conducts research that can be shared with state leaders and has the potential to directly affect schooling in North Carolina.

Morgan also has served on the Board of Directors of the School of Education Foundation and the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council for the Carolina First Campaign. The Morgans are benefactors of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Morgan Family Writer-in-Residence Program at UNC.

“It’s a great honor to be here today and to come alongside those who have been committed [to working in education] for a lifetime,” said Morgan when accepting her award. Addressing the practicing educators in the audience, she said, “Your enthusiasm for the future of our children is inspiring. I’m excited about the future, and grateful for all of you and what you’re doing.”

Founder, president and CEO of the Center for Teaching Quality, Inc., Barnett Wayne Berry (Ph.D. ’84) received the Alumni Achievement Award for his outstanding accomplishments in improving the quality of educators. The Center, located in Hillsborough, N.C., is a research-based advocacy organization that seeks to improve student learning and advance the profession of teaching. In 2003, Berry created the Center’s Teacher Leaders Network to elevate the voices of proficient educators in the debate about the future of the profession.

Berry has published in many academic and trade publications on teacher quality throughout his career, helping policymakers and educators better understand the correlation between student achievement, teacher effectiveness and teacher working conditions. He has also worked as a high school teacher and college professor, a social scientist and a senior executive with the South Carolina State Department of Education.

In accepting his award, Berry paid tribute to one of the many extraordinary teachers who have touched his life. His former professor Julio George helped him “find his way” when he was a doctoral student at the School of Education. “He found me in 1981 a bit lost, a bit out of focus,” said Berry. “He helped me channel my energy. He has been a friend and an inspiration to me.”

Malbert Smith III (M.Ed. ’77, Ph.D. ’80), co-founder, president and CEO of MetaMetrics Inc., was presented with the Alumni Achievement Award. MetaMetrics is an independent educational measurement firm in Durham, N.C., that developed the Lexile Framework for Reading in 1998, an accurate, scientifically-based way to assess the difficulty of a text and the ability of a reader. Today, the Lexile Framework is the most widely adopted reading measurement tool, used in all 50 states and abroad. In 2004, MetaMetrics expanded its focus to create an innovative system for measuring mathematics ability, the Quantile Framework for Mathematics.

Smith has served on the School of Education’s Steering Committee for the Carolina First Campaign as well as on the Board of Directors of the School of Education Foundation. An active member of his community, he has also served on the boards of directors of the Durham YMCA, the Hill Center and Durham’s Child Guidance Clinic.

In his acceptance remarks, Smith recalled his undergraduate years at Duke when he was thinking about his career plans for the future. “I happened to take a [summer] class [at the UNC School of Education] taught by Gary Stuck, ‘Introduction to Educational Psychology.’ It was like a bright light!” said Smith. “Once I took that class, I knew what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and from that point on I’ve never had any doubt.” He acknowledged four of his Educational Psychology faculty – Dick Coop, Gary Stuck, Kin White and Marv Wyne – as “clearly the best professors” he ever had. “They were great scholars, inspirational teachers, they did everything right … They inspired the whole graduate class to be better, to make a difference.”

The Excellence in Teaching award was presented to John Scott Westefeld (A.B. ’72, M.P.H. ’73, Ph.D.’78), a professor in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Iowa. One of the first two graduates of the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at the School of Education, Westefeld has made significant contributions in teaching, scholarship and program development. His teaching has been recognized with distinguished teaching awards from the University of Iowa and from the Alabama Psychological Association when he was on the faculty at Auburn University. He was recognized for his research and scholarship in the area of suicide and suicide prevention when he received the 2001 Outstanding Contribution Award from Division 17 of the American Psychological Association.  

Westefeld has remained involved with the School of Education by helping to establish the Gregory D. Berrier Counseling Psychology Practitioner Award in 1987 and helping to organize an alumni reunion of the counseling programs last spring. In 2008, he was elected president of the Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17 of the American Psychological Association.

“The finest definition of a teacher I’ve ever heard is that a teacher is someone who instructs in realities and suggests dreams,” said Westefeld, quoting his former School of Education professor Gerald Unks. “That’s what I’ve tried to do in my career as a teacher. The University of North Carolina and the School of Education gave me the tools to do that, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.”

The 2008-2009 district Teacher of the Year for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Briana Marie Corke (A.B.Ed. ’03) received the Outstanding Young Alumna Award. Corke began her teaching career in 2003 at Carrboro (N.C.) Elementary School, where she teaches the fourth-grade Spanish Dual Language class. She also serves on the school’s Leadership Committee and is the Student Services Team Co-Chair. Corke has a passion for helping students who are considered at risk for academic failure. She conducts home visits for struggling students, meeting with families to discuss strategies for improving the students’ learning.

From 2006-2009, Corke was a Kenan Fellow, participating in a competitive curriculum and leadership development program through North Carolina State University for practicing K-12 public school teachers. She earned her National Board Certification in 2007 as a Middle Childhood Generalist.

In expressing her appreciation, Corke commented on the ongoing mentorship and support she has received from the School of Education, both as a student and as an alumna. “During student teaching, my classmates and I were nurtured as our supervisors observed, conference with, and helped us to reflect on our teaching effectiveness and curricular choices each week,” she noted. “I believe that the high expectations set by Dr. Rhonda Wilkerson that stemmed from consistent, individualized supervision during my practicum guided me to set high standards for my teaching.

“Since graduating, I have continued to receive support and opportunities for professional growth through collaboration with faculty and other alumni through the School of Education,” added Corke. “I believe that if more novice teachers had the academic preparation and support provided by UNC’s School of Education, the number of teachers leaving the classroom in their first years of service would decrease.”