Dr. Dottie Willis has been in teaching a long time. A very long time. As she approaches her retirement, Dr. Dottie reflects back on where she started and who she will be next
Dr. Dottie’s career has been, more or less, a long, unbroken line. As a first-generation graduate fresh out of college, she started her first job as a seventh-grade reading teacher in Nashville, Tenn. Along the way she furthered her education, raised a family and taught in three more states.
Fifty years went by.
Over the past decade, however, her home has been at Bellarmine, where she has taken all she has learned about curriculum, instruction, analysis and acting (more on that in a minute) and poured it into shaping the next generation of teachers.
That wasn’t always the plan, however; Dr. Dottie’s path was born more of a lack of options. At the time, she says, women could be nurses, secretaries or teachers. “Well, I can’t stand blood or the smells, and I’m not organized enough to be a secretary.” Instead of settling, however, she embraced her vocation with the full support of her family and community. “My parents really valued education,” she says. “[And] back then, if you said you were going to be a teacher, people congratulated you and looked at you with a sense of awe.”
Dr. Dottie herself has experienced that same awe in seeing some of her former students thrive far beyond what she never imagined when she was an undergrad herself. Dr. Jon Blandford, who directs the Honors Program, studied English and Latin under Dr. Dottie at Waggener High School. “She believed in me and my potential back when I was a young and unruly whippersnapper who probably (indeed, almost certainly) didn’t deserve it,” he says. Both are delighted to have each other as colleagues and still see each other grow. Dr. Dottie says, “It is such a joy to come full circle and serve on committees with Jon.” “I have continued to learn from her example, and admire her for the intelligence, patience, and kindness she brings to everything she does...someone who has transformed countless students’ lives for the better.”
And some people Dr. Dottie meets are just passing through—but her mark is no less indelible. “I’ll be in the Kroger parking lot and someone in a minivan will say, ‘Are you Mrs. Willis? You taught me how to write.’” She sees former students, now teachers themselves, mentoring her current education students—a feeling she likens to being a grandmother. “It makes you realize how immortal teachers can be,” she says.
Despite her lengthy career in the classroom, Dr. Dottie has always taken strides to transcend their walls. A passionate student of Shakespeare—including a distinction of being Kentucky Shakespeare’s “Most Outstanding Teacher of Shakespeare”—Dr. Dottie to this day enjoys bringing the Bard to life for future teachers. After playing Lady Macbeth in a workshop, she says, she never taught Shakespeare the same. “It’s not Latin—it’s living English,” she insists. “Every teacher has to be an actor and make that excitement happen.”
Dr. Dottie has supported even more Bellarmine teachers through her more than 30-year involvement with the Louisville Writing Project, where she currently serves as a board member. “In the past two years, there were more Bellarmine students at the conference than any other school,” she says of the program, which supports teachers in their literacy efforts with students of all abilities.
While Dr. Dottie cannot predict how she will face her new identity, she knows it is time for a change. The coming years, she hopes, will consist of travel with her husband Wayne, a retired minister, and “Granna duty” with her six grandchildren. “It’s a fun teaching assignment”—one that also will free her up to have dinner with Wayne instead of teaching night classes.
“I can’t imagine not being a teacher...although I almost feel like that chapter is behind me,” she says. “Retirement is a time to reinvent who you are—or discover who I am. As women we are expected to give our life to our family, our job, our causes. It will be interesting to repossess my life and find out: Who is Dottie deep down? I am not counting the days. When I see how quickly the semester is passing, I want to put the brakes on.”
Teacher candidates inducted
On September 14, the Annsley Thornton School of Education inducted 34 new teacher candidates.
In addition to the candidates’ families, special guests included a number of Ursuline sisters, after their predecessors who founded Ursuline College with an outstanding educator preparation program in the Ursuline tradition.
The all-women’s Ursuline College merged with the all-men’s Bellarmine College 50 years ago. To commemorate this merger, a mural was installed on the third floor lobby of Allen Hall this summer.
Ed.S. candidates present capstones
We are so proud of our Ed.S. candidates, who presented their capstone research action research projects in July.
Standing, L-R: Evelyn Carias, Tracy Shoultz, Leah Mullen, Jahi Peake, Jessica Farrell, Charmeika Tarrence, Patty Masters. Seated, L-R: Aundrea George, Melanie Page, Sheryl Woods
Congratulations to our new doctors!
The following students passed their dissertations and will graduate as Ph.D.s in December:
Patrick Englert (June)
- Stephanie White (July)
- Wallis Malone (July)
- Jordan Wiehebrink (August)
- Thomas Malewitz (September)
Young Lions of DuBois Academy get Bellarmine introduction
In early August, incoming sixth-graders from the new W.E.B. DuBois Academy attended P.R.I.D.E. Camp at Bellarmine. Prior to entering JCPS’ first “males of color” school featuring a rigorous and multicultural curriculum, these young men spent two days on campus learning from principal (and Ed.D. student) Robert E. Gunn Jr. about what is expected of them—from their school responsibilities to life skills such as tying a tie.
Taking workshops to India
Ph.D. student (and Midway professor) Gayle Bartilow accompanied Dr. David Paige on a three-week trip to India this past June. Dr. Paige’s initiative, the Thinking Schools Academy, conducted three workshops in the northeast Indian cities of Guwahati, Assam; Shillong, Maghalaya; and Bandel, West Bengal for over three hundred K-12 teachers.
Louisville Writing Project, Bellarmine students honor Yarmuth
In September, representatives from the Louisville Writing Project honored Rep. John Yarmuth with the organization’s 2018 Patronus Award. “Glad I get to work with so many of the amazing individuals who are a part of this important National Writing Project and Kentucky Writing Project affiliate program here in Louisville,” he wrote.
Board member Dr. Dottie Willis has been involved with the project since 1987.
Poverty simulation enlightens future teachers
Bellarmine education students from all programs attended Metro United Way's poverty simulation in October. The purpose of the simulation was to sensitize community members to the day-to-day struggles of families living in poverty, and to motivate them to become involved in activities and initiatives aiming to reduce or eliminate poverty in our community. Volunteers came from AmeriCorps, Metro United Way and the general Louisville community.
Welcome to Dr. Jessica Ivy
This fall, the School of Education welcomed new faculty member Dr. Jessica Ivy. As an assistant professor of STEM Education, she comes to us from Mississippi State University. Dr. Ivy received her B.A., M.Ed, and Ph.D. at Ole Miss.
“I like how Louisville feels like a small town,” she says. “It was easier than I thought to join the community—it’s very organic.” Even at orientation, she met fellow faculty members and recently submitted two grant proposals with a colleague in a different department. “It’s easy to make a connection with colleagues—not just in this department, but in others, and with teachers in local schools and the archdiocese.”
The onetime high school math teacher has made her new home in the Highlands with her husband Kyle, their two elementary-age children, and their dog.
A visit with Coach Davenport and friends
This fall, Dr. Rosie Young has brought many principals—from both JCPS and the Archdiocese—to speak to her classes about the practical side of being principals. She also hosted the fifth grade class from the school where she served for many years, Watson Lane Elementary. Future Knights got a pep talk from men’s basketball coach Scotty Davenport and some of his players, a presentation from the Career Development Center on thinking beyond school, and a campus tour (including pizza).
The Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education is pleased to announce the new M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice program. The degree is a 30-hour, fully online master’s program that provides students with the breadth of knowledge and professional experiences to be able to lead and serve in a variety of entry- and mid-level positions in higher education. We caught up with Dr. DJ Mitchell, the M.Ed. chair and professor of education, to learn more about the program.
Who is the M.Ed. program designed for?
“The degree prepares students to engage and direct student learning through professional positions in student life, academic affairs, athletics and a multitude of administrative positions across the campus in a variety of higher education settings.”
Who teaches in the M.Ed. program?
“Our faculty consists of one full-time faculty member at Bellarmine (me) as well as adjuncts who are currently working in the field, which allows them to enrich courses with their professional experiences.”
Why higher education leadership and social justice?
Both are hallmarks of a successful 21st century higher education professional. If you are not equipped with leadership theory and application in higher education and social justice, you are not equipped to serve today’s and tomorrow’s U.S. college students. We want our students to be prepared to thrive.”
Is it truly 100 percent online?
“Yes, it is truly a 100 percent online program with asynchronous delivery, but you receive the hallmark Bellarmine University attention you receive in our traditional programs. We know our students well.”
How long does it take to complete?
“A student can complete the program in as little as three semesters if they are that ambitious! But generally, a person can be done in two calendar years, which includes summer courses.”
How can I learn more about the program?
“You can visit https://www.bellarmine.edu/mhed or contact “DJ” Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sarah Schuble, Senior Graduate Admission Officer, at 502.272.8271 or email@example.com.”