Two faculty members from Carver Middle School – Head Principal Don Ashburn and French/German Teacher Deborah Houghton – were honored Thursday evening at a special banquet at Pocahontas State Park. As the occasion hosted world language educators from Chesterfield County Public Schools, Ashburn received the Jane Baskerville CommunityAward and Houghton received the Jane Crouch Rieder award for their contributions to world languages.
According to Jane Carlson, executive director of the Chesterfield Education Foundation whose sole purpose is “to provide private support for public education in the county,” she said, award recipients had to have met a certain set of criterion for nomination: professional development, enthusiasm for world cultures, and creative approaches to teaching world languages.
When Ashburn first arrived to lead Carver in 2000, world language offerings at the school were on the decline. And then with the emergence of Elizabeth Davis Middle in 2009, Carver’s student attendance decreased from 1,300 to 850.
“We had to take a long hard look at that time as to what our world language offerings, and all our elective offerings, were going to be,” Ashburn said. “…If you lose 450 students, you lose the teachers that go along with them.”
At that time, Carver only had one class for Spanish I, French I, and German I, all of which were for eighth graders. And in his assessment of the world language offerings for the 2008-2009 school year, Ashburn discovered he had a position for a part-time French/German teacher, and brought in Houghton, allowing German to remain at Carver. Two more teachers have been added to the department since.
Since Houghton started at Carver, nearly half of Carver’s student body (40 percent) currently takes a world language class, especially with Spanish offered in all three grades as of this year. Students at Carver can now complete their world language graduation requirements before they ever reach high school.
“She has really been the driving force behind the excitement in the languages department …She has been the cheerleader, the promoter … getting kids excited about world languages,” he said.
And Houghton commends Ashburn for his support of the department: “He has just been supportive of us trying to have a good strong language department, and we really appreciate it,” she said. “It makes all the difference in the world that you have an administrator who believes in what you’re doing …”