March 28, 2007
By Amy Robison
Purpose-Privilege-Pride-Power. Most College of Education students know it's Dean Renee A. Middleton's favorite catchphrase. And if she's ever high-fived you while walking down the halls of McCracken, you know she exudes all four of those attributes.
Since Middleton assumed the deanship last August, the College of Education has been undergoing a whirlwind transformation that started with the building itself. Walls that were once overrun with flier-packed bulletin boards now exhibit the creative works of budding artists from Morrison Elementary, Hocking Hills Elementary, Meigs Middle School and Athens High School.
Middleton has spent time in universities from Boston to Arizona and Michigan to Alabama, becoming an ardent advocate for the teaching profession. "Teaching is not a job; it's not a vocation or a craft," she says. "It is a profession, a spiritual calling and a privilege."
The challenges faced by public education in Ohio are nothing new to Middleton. She is thoroughly enjoying the process of getting acquainted with Southeast Ohio's schools. She plans to visit every one of the 129 school districts in Appalachia Ohio, and she already has a healthy start.
At Eastern Elementary in Meigs County, Middleton volunteered for an after-school program. She made her own bird feeder, threading a string of popcorn and blueberries that now hangs from a tree in the schoolyard. But it wasn't all fun and crafts; she also had practice multiplying three-digit numbers with fourth graders.
At Morgan County High School, Middleton spoke with draftsmen and future architects in the Career and Technical Education program. She then hit the road with "Bear," the school district's transportation director, who showed her just some of the 5,000 miles of rural roads his bus drivers cover daily.
Right here at home, Middleton appeared on the East Elementary "Today Show," where her comments were signed for the hearing impaired and translated into Arabic.
When she isn't touring southeastern Ohio, Dean Middleton can be found in her office working into the night; the television is tuned to CNN or MSNBC for background noise and breaking news.
But don't let her diligence fool you, Middleton also happens to be a hopeless romantic who loves to hole up on weekends with a stack of old movies and talking for hours with her sisters in Alabama.
Middleton has a clear sense of purpose; she knows where she wants to take the College of Education over the next five to ten years. As dean, she sees it as her primary duty to empower the college's faculty, staff and students to be as successful as they can be. And that's something the entire university community can take pride in.
Amy Robison is the public affairs coordinator for the College of Education.