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Three Honored at Excellence in Education Awards

Courtney Kinson, Jennifer Caudle and Janet Paul McKnight

On Thursday, May 3, TCU College of Education alumni from classes spanning 60 years gathered to meet, reconnect and celebrate outstanding educators and counselors. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Excellence in Education award, started by former Dean Douglas Simpson. This year an Early Career award was established and winners of both awards received a $500 stipend, thanks to the generosity of Dr. Simpson.

Jennifer Caudle accepted the Viktor Frankl Award in Counseling, an honor given to students who demonstrate leadership qualities, academic excellence and a passion for counseling. Caudle earned a bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University, a master’s degree in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University and a master’s degree in counseling from TCU.

While at TCU, Caudle received a grant from the Andrews Institute of Mathematics & Science Education to develop a therapeutic art project at two Fort Worth district schools housed in the same building – the International Newcomer Academy for refugee high school students and the Applied Learning Academy for middle school students.

Courtney Kinson, who earned her bachelor’s degree from TCU in 2013 and her master’s degree in 2014, accepted the Early Career award for dedication to the field of education. Kinson’s association with TCU started early. She started volunteering with the KinderFrogs School when she was in middle school and studied Early Childhood Education and Special Education while completing the accelerated master’s program at TCU. After graduating, she began working at O.H. Stowe Elementary in Birdville. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2017 and received the district’s Touch of Class award in 2016.

Kinson said she was inspired to teach because of the experiences of her cousin Jenny, who was born with Down syndrome.

“Jenny has been a huge inspiration in my life. Life for her and her parents is not always easy, and she has experienced many struggles with teachers and school programs over the years,” Kinson said. “Because of her, I am even more passionate about wanting to teach and make a positive impact in the lives of my students and their families. I strongly believe every student has the right to learn.”

Janet Paul McKnight, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from TCU, accepted the Excellence in Education award for her dedication to the College and to the field. McKnight taught in area schools and served in leadership positions for many years in the Birdville, H-E-B and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts. In 2010, she was hired by Dale Young (a 2006 award recipient) to return to TCU and serve as a field supervisor. McKnight now coordinates with clinical or student teachers and cooperating teachers to ensure that teaching candidates successfully complete their field placements.

“My favorite part of my job is watching these young people turn into dynamic teachers,” McKnight said.

McKnight expressed her gratitude in receiving the nomination and the award. She thanked her family, many of them educators, who were in attendance as well as former student Kim Parton Ross, who was a student in the first class that McKnight taught and the first of many students with whom she has made a lasting connection.

McKnight said one of her fondest memories of TCU were of graduate school. She worked as a teaching assistant for the elementary education professors at the time, including Dr. Cathy Collins Block (recipient of the award in 2005) and Dr. Luther Clegg (recipient in 2015). She credited her success at TCU to her mentor, Dr. Jeff Horn. Now she encourages students in the program to enjoy every minute of it.

“It was one of the happiest years of my life,” she said.

Thank you to COE Alumni Network committee for selecting this year’s Excellence in Education award recipients: Janneka Colbert, Kristen Connolly, Dr. Chris Hightower and Shannon Quinn.