Poplin and Okenye Win Education Graduate Awards

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Alumni Hero

The faculty of the Graduate Studies in Education at Lee University recently named Mary Ann Poplin and Kaylee Kennedy Okenye as the recipients of two of its highest honors in the Helen DeVos College of Education (HDCOE).

Poplin was selected as the 2012-13 winner of the Cliff Schimmels Classroom Teaching Award, and Okenye received the Gary L. Riggins Graduate Education Writing Award.

Poplin recently completed the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree and is currently employed with the Cleveland City School system.

Poplin, an elementary art teacher, sees the creative arts as “a valuable tool to teach other subjects.” She, along with her Mayfield Elementary students, wrote, illustrated and published a book this spring, titled, “The Very Courageous Cowboy.”


The Cliff Schimmels Award is presented annually to the graduate student demonstrating outstanding teaching in the classroom. It was named in honor of former professor Dr. Cliff Schimmels, a nationally acclaimed educational expert who passed away in May of 2001.

Okenye, who also recently completed the MAT program, teaches chemistry and math at Polk County High School.

Okenye’s award-winning thesis, “Molarity, Moods, and Monomials: The Impact of Attitudes Toward Science and Math At Polk County High School,” explored high school students’ attitudinal differences toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. Okenye is originally from Oregon and currently resides in Cleveland, Tenn.

The Gary L. Riggins Graduate Education Writing Award was established to honor Dr. Gary L. Riggins, the longtime director of graduate programs in education at Lee. It is given annually to the graduate student who demonstrates superior writing skills and is determined by a vote of the graduate faculty.

“On behalf of our faculty, we are pleased to recognize the distinguished work of these two recipients,” said Dr. Gary Riggins. “They represent the best and brightest Lee has to offer our community, and I know that their students are in the competent hands of exemplary educators.”

For more information about these awards please contact the Helen DeVos College of Education at 423-617-8175.

PHOTO: Pictured here are: (left to right) Dean of HDCOE Dr. Bill Estes, Mary Ann Poplin (the Schimmels Teaching Award Winner), Kaylee Kennedy Okenye (the Riggins Writing Award Winner) and Riggins.