Principal Kelli Blankenship Stanley orchestrated a fun and educational field trip for her students with her alma mater as the destination. Stanley traveled with the entire student body - 190 students total - from Straley School in Princeton, W.Va. to Concord University on March 27.
“I brought the whole school, the third, fourth and fifth grades,” she said.
Stanley received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concord in 1999 and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concord in 2009. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher. She has been a classroom teacher, curriculum coach and administrator.
Acting as trip planner and tour guide, Stanley organized a packed agenda for her students paying special attention to all the details of getting them fed, entertained and educated. She said bringing the intermediate school students to the campus where she had studied was a positive experience for them and for her. “They were so excited to be there,” she said.
The main attraction for the day was National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Map of North America, on campus for a two week visit. Linda Poff ’ 76, veteran Straley educator now retired and currently substitute teaching at the school, arranged for the map’s stay at Concord in her role as coordinator of the West Virginia Geographic Bee. Concord hosted the 2012 Bee on March 30. Stanley assisted Poff during the Geographic Bee serving as one of the score keepers for the competition.
Poff taught fun lessons from the map and played educational games with the children. “She always makes learning fun so they loved it,” Stanley said.
As classes took turns exploring the Giant Traveling Map in the Student Center Ballroom, campus tours were also underway for the Straley students. Stanley said the Science Building was a big hit. The youngsters loved the bird, mammal and reptile display cases located there. The interesting displays put the bug in one student’s ear to become a scientist, his principal said.
Lunchtime was also a favorite activity. The array of food choices offered by the University’s cafeteria delighted the children, Stanley said. “That was the highlight of the day,” she said, “eating in the cafeteria.”
After dining, the youngsters enjoyed a cultural event in the Fine Arts Center’s main theater. This gave the young concert goers an opportunity to put their theater etiquette lessons into practice.
Stanley and the teachers at Straley instruct their students in proper concert hall behavior. Prior to the Concord show, they were given a refresher on clapping as a way to acknowledge a performance they enjoy. The students were treated to vocal, percussion and organ performances.
Offering learning opportunities like this day on “The Campus Beautiful” are the norm for Stanley. And, it’s just this going above and beyond that earned her one of education’s most prestigious awards.
In 2006, she received a Milken Educator Award, an unparalleled honor for teachers.
Unbeknownst to her, she was nominated for the award. In a surprise announcement at school, she learned that she was a recipient. Along with the honor’s lofty reputation, a Milken also includes a $25,000 cash award.
As is tradition for Milken Educators, Stanley received her award during a gala black-tie event at the famed Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Because of the pomp surrounding the award, it’s become known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Stanley said.
Stanley credits her Concord education – on both the undergraduate and graduate levels - for her ability to succeed as an educator. She valued the cohesive group of instructors and classmates in her education courses. “It was a really nice support system, so we learned from each other,” she said. “In the school system you rely on your co-workers. You work together as a team.”
She acknowledged the “face-to-face interaction” with professors in her graduate studies. “First-hand experience from someone in education is critical,” she said.
All the training and preparation leads up to being “that person in charge, alone in the classroom,” she said.
Stanley taught first grade in Galax, Va. for two years after graduating from Concord. She then became a teacher in Mercer County, West Virginia where she’s taught at Bramwell, Oakvale, Princeton Primary and Straley schools.
As a teacher and now as an administrator, Stanley’s educational philosophy is based on “kids first.”
“It’s a kids first philosophy. We put the needs of the children we teach first,” she said. “Put the children first and meet their needs…give them every opportunity they can have to be their best.”
Stanley said one of her biggest joys of teaching is that “light bulb moment.”
“When you are teaching, seeing them get something or learn something new,” she said. “It’s a really neat experience.”
“It’s so amazing to see children learn how to read and to enjoy it,” she said.
As a Concord student, Stanley worked in the development office and belonged to Gamma Beta Phi and the Concord Reading Council. She received the education award and graduated with honors.
Stanley’s professional activities include membership in the Mercer County Reading Council and the West Virginia Association of Elementary Principals. She has presented at national education conferences and been a reading consultant. She resides in Princeton, her hometown.