MURRAY, Ky. — Four faculty members from Murray State University’s College of Education and Human Services were recently selected to receive a unique professional development opportunity with the Ron Clark Academy. In April, Drs. Jessica Branch (interdisciplinary early childhood education), Melissa Chapman (teacher leader), Miguel Gomez (middle school education), and Kemaly Parr (career and technical education) will travel to Atlanta, Ga., to experience the Academy firsthand.

Attendees of the University’s 2017 College and Career Readiness Summit may remember Clark and his inspiring presentation. As a featured speaker at that event, Clark drew a record-breaking 1,200+ educators to Lovett Auditorium. His session was followed by a book signing at Pogue Library where he eagerly took photos with attendees.

With Clark’s passion for education, for students, and for his peers, it is no surprise that he has come to be known as “America’s educator.” Furthermore, Clark was named Disney’s American Teacher of the Year in 2000 and was recognized as Oprah Winfrey’s first Phenomenal Man. As a New York Times bestselling author, he has sold over one million copies of his book, “The Essential 55,” which has been published in 25 countries. His classes were honored three times at the White House, and Clark has been featured on CNN, “The Today Show,” and “Oprah.” He was also portrayed by Matthew Perry in an uplifting film titled “The Ron Clark Story,” which follows Clark’s teaching experiences in New York City.

In addition to being a fully-operational, nonprofit middle school which educates students from a variety of backgrounds and communities across the Atlanta area, the Ron Clark Academy is also a demonstration school. Visiting educators are able to witness the school’s best practices in action prior to completing hands-on workshops.

According to, “In the past nine years, more than 38,000 superintendents, district level administrators, and teachers from 42 states and 22 countries have participated in the RCA Experience to learn better ways to engage students, promote academic rigor, and create a climate and culture that promotes success.”

This trip, which will include a one-day training session, transportation, lodging, and meals, is made possible through a faculty incentive grant provided by the College of Education and Human Services. Following their professional development training, the participating faculty members will present a one-hour summary workshop regarding their experiences to faculty, staff, and students interested in attending.

“The ultimate goal,” said Dr. David Whaley, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, “is to take the teachings of the Ron Clark Academy and channel them into enhanced teaching and learning strategies for our teacher candidates and, furthermore, their own future students.”

To learn more about Murray State University’s College of Education and Human Services, please visit

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