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2012

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Changing the world begins in the classroom

Pruden Scholar Katie Schwizer paves way for future leaders
By Tyler McAvoy ('12)

Pruden Scholar Katie Schwizer draws on study abroad experiences to change the world in the classroom.
Katie Schwizer ('09, '10M) says her Study Abroad teaching experience affirmed her belief in the value of an education.

As students rushed to the front of the classroom Katie Schwizer ('09, '10M) second guessed her decision. The middle-school aged students fought to get their hands on the valuables that lay before them; a pile of books, donated by JMU alumni and staff members. While teaching during her Study Abroad in South Africa, Schwizer set the books in front of the class. She didn't expect such a reaction.

"We immediately regretted our decision as our students ran to the front, pushing and shoving to get a book that was a prize possession to them," says Schwizer. "They reminded me just how valuable education is in our world."

The students' reactions fueled the passion that Schwizer already had for education. At an early age, she dreamed of becoming an educator, practicing her poise in front of an imaginary classroom with stuffed animals as students. "Over the years, my bedroom actually transformed into a high-tech classroom, equipped with an overhead projector, marker board, podium and all of the other necessities to teach my 'students,'" recalls Schwizer.

"Katie is the most outstanding young woman I think I've had the privilege of working with in 30 years," says Peggy Shaeffer, associate dean of the College of Education. "She's a young woman with a future."

Now a fourth-grade teacher at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School in Waynesboro, Va., Schwizer has taken much from her Study Abroad teaching experience in South Africa. It has affirmed the importance of an education and being an educator: "It's my responsibility to pave the way for our future leaders," she says. "My students will one day grow up and succeed in our world because of what they have learned in my classroom."