Support for Local Educators

January 13th, 2016

Linda Bland '64 (left) visits with reading specialist Becky Martin '83 MA '14 (education) in her classroom at Plains Elementary School in Timberville, Virginia.

Linda Bland ’64 (left) visits with reading specialist Becky Martin ’83 MA ’14 (education) in her classroom at Plains Elementary School in Timberville, Virginia.

Each spring, Linda Heatwole Bland ’64, a retired reading specialist and administrator, hosts a celebration dinner to honor the recipient of a scholarship she has endowed. This gracious gesture symbolizes her continued support of literacy education and the benefits of professional connection: both values she says she learned while earning a degree in elementary education at EMU.

After graduation, Bland taught in Ohio and West Virginia before turning to Virginia. She worked in Augusta and Shenandoah county schools, before join­ing Harrisonburg City Schools as a read­ing supervisor in 1986. She eventually led the division in establishing the English as a Second Language program and piloting the city’s dual-immersion programs until her retirement in 2002.

Bland is an active philanthropist in her community and within her profes­sion. Her parents modeled generosity and expectation with regular tithing, she says, and as a young girl, she was “always given money for the Sunday school offer­ing and the missionary fund. I enjoyed filling my little tin world globe bank with coins for our Sunday School mis­sionary project.”

Bland currently serves on the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) Foundation Board and has served as co-chair for the Woodland Park Green House Homes campaign. An avid classical music fan, she was also on the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival board for 10 years and annually helps to spon­sor a concert. She’s a regular supporter of VMRC’s Good Samaritan Fund, Park View Mennonite Church and the Rock­ingham Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Here’s why she supports local educa­tors through an endowed scholarship at EMU:

I have always been grateful for the prepa­ration I received in the education depart­ment. Dr. Esther Lehman introduced an assessment tool called the Informal Reading Inventory, which I used my entire career. This tool provided authentic measures of a student’s reading level and, in turn, informed appropriate instruction and selec­tion of reading materials.

Our instructors also encouraged us to join professional organizations. I consid­ered it my professional responsibility to join the local chapter of the Shenandoah Valley Reading Council, the Virginia State Read­ing Association (VSRA) and the Interna­tional Reading Association.

As a consequence of these role models, I served many years on the VSRA board. In retirement, I have advocated with the Virginia legislature for state-funded reading specialists. Our goal is to have a highly qualified, master’s degree-holding reading specialist in every school in the Common­wealth.

Now it is my honor and pleasure to support the training of our literacy teach­ers through the Linda Heatwole Bland Endowed Literacy Scholarship. To offer financial support through this scholarship is my way of giving back to EMU and the preparation of reading specialists.

Mentorship As Important As Financial Support

Becky Martin ’83, a recipient of the Linda Heatwole Bland Endowed Literacy Scholarship, is a reading specialist at Plains Elementary School in Timberville, Virginia. She says earning her master’s degree in 2014 fulfilled a long-time goal and has enabled her to contribute in leadership roles within the district. She’s been appreciative of the connec­tions made with EMU professors, some of whom have provided in-services at Plains. In 2015, she joined professor Tracy Hough on a 3.5-week trip to a rural school in Lesotho to provide teacher training and support.

The scholarship was especially meaningful, she says, because of Bland’s personal interest and mentorship. “I am very appreciative of the support of Lin­da Bland because she has walked in my steps as a reading specialist. She actually taught at Plains for eight years. The financial support was helpful, but more so, having the support and recognition from a person who understands the daily challenges of being a reading teacher has been very encouraging.”

Linda Bland '64 (left) visits with reading specialist Becky Martin '83 MA '14

Linda Bland ’64 (left)with reading specialist Becky Martin (right) ’83 MA ’14