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ASPiRE Alumna Named Outstanding New Elementary Teacher of the Year

Ashley DunnawayAshley Dunnaway, ’15, M.T. ’16, was named the 2017-2018 Outstanding New Elementary Teacher of the Year for Prince William County Schools. Criteria for the award includes having “an engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.”

Dunnaway was selected by a committee of individuals representing teachers, administrators, students and central office staff. As the award recipient, Dunnaway gave a speech Aug. 16 at the Prince William County Schools’ CONNECT Orientation Conference for over 730 newly hired Prince William County educators. She was also awarded a certificate, trophy and monetary award.

After earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the VCU School of Education, Dunnaway returned to her hometown of Woodbridge, Va. and soon began teaching first grade at Minnieville Elementary School, one of the highest performing Title 1 Schools in its division.

As a student at VCU, Dunnaway participated in ASPiRE, completing over 100 hours of service and eventually serving as an ASPiRE Fellow. She said ASPiRE gave her various opportunities to demonstrate leadership abilities, including writing a grant for supplies for a service project, leading a lesson for a community-based service-learning class, registering residents of Mosby Court to vote, working with Hands Up Ministries, planning a volunteer service day at the Evergreen Cemetery and planning a renovation at an elderly housing facility.

“I joined ASPiRE because I wanted to grow personally,” she said. “ASPiRE prepared me for life after college by encouraging me to take risks and step outside my comfort zone. I had the opportunity to participate in various community service projects where I learned new skills, met people from various backgrounds and majors and made a difference in the community.”

In her first year of teaching, Dunnaway strived to build a relationship with each of her students. She said it’s those relationships that set the stage essential for learning. She also created engaging lessons, like publishing a collaborative classroom book, traveling on virtual fields trips, creating movie trailers and dressing up as fictional book characters. Dunnaway also used her own resources to purchase five iPads for her classroom.

In preparation for her second year of teaching, Dunnaway took a professional development course focused on improving writing instruction. She also looks forward to serving as her school’s team lead for first grade.

“As a teacher, I have my students’ best interest at heart,” she said. “I want my students to become lifelong learners, take ownership of their learning and become successful leaders in the future. That sense of happiness you feel knowing that you’ve helped someone is contagious - I strive to inspire my students and show them that any small token of kindness can enhance the lives of others.”

Follow along in Dunnaway’s classroom via Twitter at @MissDwaysClass.