Education Major Awarded Southwestern University’s 20th TASPA Scholarship
September 11, 2019
- Carlos Barron
The Southwestern University Department of Education is proud to announce that elementary education major Abigail Luna ’20 is the 20th recipient from SU to win a Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) scholarship. The scholarship is awarded annually to a preservice teacher, and this is the 20th year in a row that a student in SU’s teacher certification program has received the award—an unprecedented achievement.
For Luna, the award is just one major milestone in a burgeoning career that she envisioned as early as childhood. “Growing up, I would set up my dolls in a semicircle and teach a concept I felt I was an expert in to my ‘students,’” she recalls. “Whether this was my ABCs or adding 1+1, I was determined to take on the role of a teacher and create further learning and growth in my ‘classroom.’” Her passion for working with children grew while she worked summers as a YMCA outdoor camp counselor during high school and as a company manager for the Georgetown Palace Theatre camp during college. For the past two years, Luna has served as a tutor and caregiver for a young woman who has cerebral palsy and autism and is nonverbal; the experience has inspired the Southwestern senior to pursue certification in special education.
“Abigail is impressive and has a strong work ethic, high standards for herself, and intelligence. And most of all, she is eager to learn,” says SU Professor and Chair of Education Alicia Moore. “She fully embraces the mission of education and continually strives to gain the skills needed to become an exemplary teacher.” Moore adds that Luna’s future in education is bolstered by her eagerness to reflect on her teaching, analyzing her own lessons, welcoming feedback, and quickly incorporating suggestions into her next lessons so that she can continue improving. “She is extremely supportive of the children she works with as well as of other SU students,” Moore comments. “Her positive attitude is contagious, and it positively impacts everyone around her.”
Luna’s commitment to teaching extends beyond the classroom. Last fall, Luna—along with Southwestern Professor of Education Michael Kamen, Kelli McLaughlin ’18, Abby Earle ’19, Sarah Buchanan ’20, New York City–based playwright Adaire Kamen, and Dr. Alys Mendus of the University of Hull, U.K.—presented at the Performing the World conference in New York City in September 2018. Their presentation included a 30-minute performance of They Call Teachers by Their First Names!, the group’s collaboratively written play about preservice teachers’ experiences visiting innovative schools in New York City. Luna made significant contributions to the script as well as important theatrical suggestions. The script has since been accepted by the editor of a Routledge book project about affect and performance in education.
In spring 2019, Luna and Buchanan analyzed videos Kamen had recorded of second-graders building with toy blocks during their math class. The three presented their research in Costa Rica in March at the International Consortium for Research in Science and Mathematics Education. Kamen received multiple compliments about Luna’s knowledge and professionalism while presenting their work.
Moore adds that Luna’s leadership as the president of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education has helped the organization improve its service, outreach, and inclusion on campus. The Southwestern senior has also contributed to the campus community by accepting roles in several musicals. “She is tireless in engaging with the Southwestern University community, working with students in local schools, and promoting the education profession,” Moore says proudly.
Luna will be presented her scholarship at TASPA’s annual awards luncheon in December in Austin. After graduation, she hopes to teach in a local public elementary school, where she will have the opportunity to work with all types of students. Having appeared in several Southwestern theater productions, including You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Heathers: The Musical, she is looking forward to continuing to bring her twin passions for theater and education to the classroom. “Theater has made me a better teacher. … My favorite part about teaching is being able to act goofy with students in order to enhance the quality of a lesson,” she reflects. “I love bringing my theater experience into the classroom, whether that includes making various voices for each character while I read aloud or singing the instructions of an activity to get my students’ attention. Lessons come to life as the classroom becomes the stage for me, and I love for my students to believe they are welcomed to perform with me.”
“Theater has made me a better teacher. … My favorite part about teaching is being able to act goofy with students in order to enhance the quality of a lesson.”
Since 1989, TASPA, a professional association comprising human resources and support staff from across Texas public schools, has awarded scholarships to assist college students seeking their initial teaching certification and/or endorsement. TASPA works in conjunction with the Texas Association for Employment in Education (TAEE) to administer the funding program.