Education notes: Oct. 10

Allen Back
Allen Back


■ Joseph-Beth Booksellers' second annual bookmark design contest was held recently, and Isaac Smith of Christ the King School was the winner for grades K-1, Grace Mitchell of Cassidy Elementary was the winner for grades 2-3 and Megan Slusarewicz of Winburn was the winner for grades 4-5 while attending Meadowthorpe Elementary. Each received a $50 Joseph-Beth gift card, and their bookmarks will be mass-produced. Details for the 2013 contest will be announced in January.

■ The Dollar General Literacy Foundation recently awarded youth literacy grants to five elementaries in Fayette County Public Schools: Athens-Chilesburg, $1,000; Northern, $1,000; Russell Cave, $1,500; Southern, $2,000; and Squires, $2,000.

The grants help implement new or expand existing youth literacy programs and help purchase books, technology, software and other supplies.

This fall, the foundation distributed grants totaling more than $2 million to 564 non-profit organizations, community groups, schools and libraries throughout the United States serving an estimated 315,000 youths.

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation was established in 1993. For information, visit

■ Katherine Theis, a kindergarten teacher at Booker T. Washington Academy, was named a 2012 recipient of the "A Day Made Better" giveaway by OfficeMax. Theis received $1,000 of school supplies such as markers, notebooks, scissors and glue sticks, as well as a camera and a new desk chair. In addition, customers at the Hamburg location contributed about $600 in office supplies for Booker T. Washington through an in-store drive.

"It's cool to see the community come together and do all that," Theis said. "It's amazing for our school because it's hard for people to pay out of their pockets."

The annual OfficeMax campaign encourages support for classroom teachers. The company works with non-profit partner to identify schools in need nationwide, and each fall employees drop in on 1,000 teachers to present $1 million of total donations.

School secretary Sheyra Langston had nominated Theis, whom she described as very patient and always willing to help colleagues and students' families.

■ Dr. Brandon Fornwalt, assistant professor of pediatrics, physiology and biomedical engineering in the University of Kentucky Division of Pediatric Cardiology, has been selected to receive the National Institutes of Health Director's Early Independence Award. The award provides funding for junior scientists who have demonstrated outstanding scientific creativity, intellectual maturity and leadership skills with the opportunity to conduct independent biomedical or behavioral research by skipping the traditional post-doctoral training period.

Fornwalt was among 14 exceptional junior scientists who have completed doctoral degrees or clinical residencies in the past year and have been chosen to be supported by the NIH Common Fund and contributing NIH Institutes.

Fornwalt will receive $1.96 million over five years to advance his research in exploring the role of dyssynchrony — a condition where the heart suffers from uncoordinated contraction — in pediatric heart disease with magnetic resonance imaging.

Fornwalt is the first faculty member from Kentucky selected to receive the NIH Director's Early Independence Award and as a recipient joins scientists from such elite research institutions as Yale University, UCLA and Stanford University.

Originally from South Carolina, Fornwalt joined the faculty at UK in 2011 and directs the Cardiac Imaging Research Laboratory at Kentucky Children's Hospital. He attended the University of South Carolina, receiving undergraduate degrees in mathematics and marine science.

His research focus is in congenital heart disease, which affects more than a million children and adults in the United States and is responsible for more years of life lost than all of childhood cancer combined. According to Fornwalt, "the big-picture goal of my research program is to address this problem by adapting a relatively new, highly successful therapy for adult heart failure called cardiac resynchronization therapy, into a treatment option for patients with congenital heart disease."

More information on the Early Independence Award is available at


The Power of Middle School: Maximizing These Vital Years, written by educator Keen Babbage, has been published by Rowman & Littlefield Education. This is Babbage's 15th book about education. The book teaches educators, parents and guardians how to effectively work with students who are in the middle school years. The book is available at

■ Lt. Col. Allen Back has been named director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at Eastern Kentucky University, which was recently named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the fourth consecutive year.

Back joined EKU in 2007 as a recruiting operations officer in the university's Army ROTC program. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member, teaching a military history course since 2008.

EKU is home to Operation Veteran Success, a series of initiatives designed to make the university even more helpful to the 1,200 military veterans and their dependents whom EKU counts among its nearly 16,000 students.

■ The Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts will present five daytime shows this academic year to students from area schools.

The programs on the school show schedule are The Nutcracker (State Ballet Theatre of Russia), 10 a.m. Nov. 30; STOMP (music/dance), 10 a.m. Jan. 17; children's music performer Barbara Bailey Hutchison (grades 1-4), 10 a.m. March 6; Cirque Ziva (acrobatics), 9 and 11:30 a.m. March 26; and Of Mice and Men (play), 9:30 a.m. and masterclass at 11:30 a.m. April 17.

For all the programs except Hutchison's, the cost is $10 per student, with one teacher able to attend free for each group of 20 paid students (additional adults can attend for $20 each). The cost for the Hutchison show is $5 per student, with one teacher able to attend free for each group of 20 paid students and additional adults for $10 each.

All participating teachers will be given a study guide in advance to prepare their students. The guides are also available at

For information or to reserve tickets, call the center box office at (859) 622-7469. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

■ Kentucky author Silas House will headline the sixth annual Friends of the EKU Libraries dinner. "An Evening with an Appalachian Son," begins at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in Stratton Café in Eastern Kentucky University's Stratton Building. It is open to the public. The cost is $30. Call (859) 622-1072 to reserve a space by Oct. 25.

House, a native of Laurel County and graduate of EKU, is the author of four award-winning novels: Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo and Eli the Good, all set in Appalachia. He is co-author, along with Neela Vaswani, of Same Sun Here, in which an Indian immigrant girl in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner's son find strength and perspective by sharing their true selves.

Because of those and many other works, House, now a member of the Berea College faculty, received the 2012 Jesse Stuart Media Award in recognition of his contributions to the development of media that portray Kentucky in a complex way.

In addition to House discussing his own works, the evening will include a dinner buffet, music from the Berea College Appalachian Ensemble and a special performance by EKU Dance Theatre.