Amazing Students

Lenie George

Ph.D. student Lenie George taught for six years before coming to UGA to pursue his doctorate. As an Archway Partnership graduate assistant, he gets to offer professional development on how to integrate technology within the classroom in meaningful ways.

Hometown:

Snellville, Georgia

High School:

Brookwood High School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in Learning, Design and Technology, and Specialist in Educational Leadership

Other degrees:

Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and Master of Arts in teaching from National Louis University

Expected graduation:

December 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

My time at UGA has been full of amazing opportunity. The university provided me with a unique blend of academics and real-world experience, where I am able to apply current research methods and best practices in the K-12 classroom. Over the last four years, I have been able to excel in leadership, research and academics.

The most rewarding experience at UGA has been my role in leadership, as a graduate assistant for the Archway Partnership, a unit of the university’s Public Service and Outreach. Before attending UGA, it was important to me that I choose a school where I can have a direct impact on public education. I had spent six years teaching high school mathematics in Chicago public schools through The New Teacher Project. Although it was challenging, there is nothing quite like the experience when a struggling student gets an “a-ha moment.” It was there that I developed a passion to engage students in learning and became interested in educational research. When I began my role with Archway, I was immediately plugged into a vibrant school district that had a vision of going BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). I spent time with the teachers, providing them with professional development on how to integrate technology within the classroom in meaningful ways. My most impactful times, however, were the moments that I stepped into the K-12 classroom and offered support to the teachers and students. It’s incredibly honoring to see the tangible effect of an idea that starts in the university classroom and ends as an engaging activity for students to experience in K-12. I’ll never forget the looks of excitement that I would see on students’ faces as I would lead a lesson. Whether it was a simple stop motion video project or a rigorous STEM application, the level of enthusiasm from the class was infectious. At UGA, I was also voted president of the Instructional Technology Student Association, where I arranged for social events and academic opportunities for the students.

My time at UGA has also sparked a continued interest educational research. Through the help of my advisor, T.J. Kopcha, we have initiated a study in a local Georgia county to examine the impact of going BYOT at the high school level. We also published an article describing the effect of leveraging technology to flip a high school classroom through a response-to-learner intervention. I have been fortunate to present my research at multiple conferences, including AECT and UGA’s Digital Learning Conference. This year, I will be conducting research on the engagement of middle school students as they participate in a comprehensive blended learning mathematics curriculum. Through the opportunities at UGA, I’m continually reminded about the direct impact that educational research can have on the student learning experience.

To be in education, there is a prerequisite to value academics. The classes I’ve taken through the Career and Information Studies and Educational Administration and Policy departments have had a direct connection to my research in engagement, technology use and blended learning. The faculty has been extremely supportive in providing mentorship for students with differing research interests. I’m encouraged to know that we have strong leaders coming out of UGA who will have a meaningful influence on Georgia’s education system.

My work through the university has allowed me to become involved in a variety of endeavors that align with my passion for education. This year, I became a mentor and tutor for AVID students at Riverwood International Charter School. I’ve also used my experience at UGA to begin roles with The New Teacher Project that include being a teacher development coach, seminar instructor, teacher observer and student work reviewer. As a whole, my experience at UGA has challenged me to partake in the many opportunities that are available in the field of education.

Current Employment:

Graudate assistant for the Archway Partnership

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the second member of my family to attend UGA. It’s ironic because I earned my undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech. I am a walking example of “a house divided”! If you earn two degrees at UGA, you become a “Double Dawg.” I’m trailblazing the way for the “Yellow Jacket Dawg.”

I chose to attend UGA because…

… there is a direct connection between academics and research. I was really impressed with the work of my advisor, who has a passion to promote critical thinking and meaningful technology use in K-12. I also saw the amazing opportunity of the assistantship that UGA offered me, through the Archway Partnership. I’ve been blessed to provide technology-enabling assistance to counties across the state. Archway created the connection to bridge the cutting-edge research of the classroom to the tangible needs of communities in Georgia.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… so many things that it’s hard to list! Sometimes, I just sit in the Lamar Dodd School of Art and relax. The building is like the brainchild of an Apple Store and an urban loft. I also love working out in Ramsey and biking the trails in and out of campus. I’m not alone in saying that Athens has the best coffee shops in Georgia. Whether it’s Jittery Joe’s or Two Story, the experience is worth the visit.

When I have free time, I like…

… to take walks with my daughter (born in November 2015!), go running through the trails on campus and toss a Frisbee with friends. I also love reading the current work from renowned educational researchers. I’m amazed and excited about where the field of education is headed, and it’s always a worthwhile experience to read through the current work.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… decide to run the Chicago Marathon. Running the marathon had always been on my bucket list. To be honest, I had never run longer than 5 miles! The training runs were long and grueling, during the hot days of summer. For a few days, I practiced in 90-degree heat. During the actual marathon, I remember wanting to stop around mile 19. I decided in my mind to start walking, but couldn’t stop my legs from moving! I spent the next few miles debating on whether I should walk or not, and the next thing I know, I was at the finish line!

My favorite place to study is…

… Lamar Dodd School of Art. Whether you’re an art student or not (I’m not), take a stroll through the building. Trust me, it’s worth the visit. If I’m off campus, I always try to check out the coffee shops around town. On a slower day, I love going to the MLC and getting a room with a whiteboard. There is something about whiteboards that sparks imagination.

My favorite professor is…

… too many to list! Dr. T.J. Kopcha is the reason I’m at UGA. I was impressed by his research interest in technology integration and K-12. He’s been an amazing mentor and advisor, and definitely one of the brightest minds in our field. Even though I never had a class with Gretchen Thomas, I’ve always enjoyed the work we get to do together. She is the epitome of bringing passion and purpose to education. Through her classes, students get to apply current trends in technology to real scenarios, including a mentorship opportunity with students in K-12. If you’re an undergraduate student, take EDIT 2000! You can thank me later. Also, I have a deep level of admiration and respect for Karen Bryant. She combines a high level of experience with a unique gift to make you feel empowered to make a difference. 

Lastly, I owe so much of my experience to Sue Chapman. She carries a wealth of experience and knowledge in so many areas, including public service and outreach and community development. She takes time to mentor her students, and is always looking to bring out their strengths and best interests.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my grandmother. She passed away in November 2015, a few weeks before my daughter was born. She was an amazing woman who raised eight children! Even though I didn’t fluently speak her language of Malayalam, we always communicated in our own unique way. One thing I would ask: How in the world did you raise eight children? Having one is more than a handful!

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… create a truly engaging, meaningful student environment for all students in K-12, regardless of geographic area or socioeconomic status. I believe that all students deserve to experience the best that our education system can offer. There are many students who do not have access to proper resources, like technology or rich educational opportunities. I want school to be a place that unlocks the potential for all learners.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel as much as possible, all around the world. There is so much to learn from the many different cultures. I’m interested in soaking it in, from the food, to the language, to the style of life. We have been fortunate to travel to India, Italy, France and Brazil. Ideally, every page on my passport would be stamped!

After graduation, I plan to…

… step into administration in K-12. My time away from the schools only increased my desire to go back.  I would love to also hold an instructor position in higher education, mentoring pre-service teachers about how to be successful in the classroom.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… facilitating a STEM challenge lesson with the fourth-grade class of a local elementary school. The challenge was to create towers made up of gumdrops and toothpicks, strong enough to hold a textbook. We set up in the cafeteria, so we could fit the entire grade. As soon as we started, there was a healthy buzz of excitement. The kids were having the time of their lives! In the end, their creativity left me amazed. They constructed towers of all shapes and sizes. To see the joy on their faces will always remind me that I’m in the right field.

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