The Rochester Area Colleges Continuing Education Association (RACCE ) presented a Warner School of Education student with a 2011 Outstanding Adult Student Award. Alicia Van Borssum was formally honored by the RACCE at an award banquet this spring.
The RACCE award is given to candidates who exemplify a strong commitment to higher education despite the unique challenges adult learners may face. Eligibility for the award requires not only academic excellence, but also a demonstrated ability by the candidates to balance responsibilities outside the classroom, such as work, family, and community involvement, while pursuing their degree. Van Borssum was one of three distinguished University of Rochester students honored.
Van Borssum, a doctoral student pursuing her EdD in teaching and curriculum at the Warner School, is an English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher in the Greece Central School District, where her immigrant and refugee elementary students benefit daily from her use of innovative teaching methods. She is on schedule to complete her EdD in only five years of part-time study, while working full time and raising two children as a single mother.
According to Mary Jane Curry, associate professor in teaching and curriculum, Van Borssum’s research on primary school classroom and literacy practices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is as innovative as are her teaching methods.
Five years ago, Van Borssum was one of 11 teachers and librarians from across the U.S. and Europe to go to Ethiopia for the purpose of training Ethiopian educators in the uses of picture books to promote early literacy. As a volunteer for the non-profit organization Ethiopia Reads, Van Borssum raised $10,000 before the trip to help stock new libraries in communities and schools with the books she used for training.
In working with educators in sub-Saharan Africa in July 2007, Van Borssum quickly learned that some of the best practices embraced by U.S. educators did not mirror what educators in developing countries, like Ethiopia, desired. This realization sparked her own interest in identifying the literacy expertise of primary school teachers and librarians in Ethiopia and led her to focus her dissertation research on this topic. Funded by Ethiopia Reads and the Fulbright–Hays Group Projects Abroad Program, Van Borssum has since returned to Ethiopia five times to collect classroom data and create teacher and librarian study groups for Ethiopian educators to share their expertise and develop classroom materials. On each return trip she has brought more books, especially non-fiction, to continue equipping Ethiopia Reads libraries.
“Alicia represents the best of the Warner School’s values in so many ways, from her own teaching, research, and collegiality,” says Curry, who supported her candidacy for the RACCE award. “As an active participant in my monthly doctoral student cohort group, she has assiduously offered useful feedback to others as well as presented her own work on several occasions. I don’t know anyone more deserving of this honor.”
A resident of Hilton, Van Borssum has taught for nearly 30 years. She received her bachelor’s in French and art history from Austin College in Sherman, Texas and her master’s in TESOL education from The College at Brockport. Van Borssum will be defending her dissertation this fall and expects to graduate in December 2012.
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