On the Road Again: Education Faculty Travel to Congratulate Alumni Awardees

Westminster College’s education faculty recently shoved helium balloons, makeshift signs, and a few gifts into their cars and trucks before hitting the road in what is becoming a celebratory tradition within the department.

On March 15 and 23, the faculty descended upon Bush Elementary School in Fulton, MO, and Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, MO, where alumni Branden Beeler, ’20 KA, and Therasia Brautigam, ‘20, currently teach.

Alumna Therasia Brautigam (above, middle) says faculty continue to root for her now that she’s out of college and working in her chosen profession. “They were the most supportive group of people while I was at Westminster, and it’s been comforting throughout my first year of teaching, knowing they’re still supporting me from afar.”

Beeler and Brautigam were each named an Outstanding First-Year Teacher by the Missouri Association of College Teachers of Education (MACTE). The Westminster faculty wanted to be sure their alumni were properly congratulated.

Dr. Barri Bumgarner, Associate Professor of Education and Digital Blue Coordinator, explains their contagious enthusiasm in logical terms.

“Anyone who has taught K-12 knows the importance of celebrating victories and every little step on the journey of learning, and because most of us are empaths, we love to continue that trend, as we are training future teachers and beyond,” she says.

The celebration caravan is reminiscent of an 800-mile trip the passionate faculty took in spring 2020 to celebrate their recent graduates while the College temporarily closed during stay-at-home orders. This time, COVID-19 restrictions forced the March 9 MACTE awards ceremony to take place virtually.

Beeler and Brautigam received the awards after being nominated by their school districts and Missouri’s teacher education programs. Beeler teaches elementary physical education, coaches middle school wrestling, and is the hitting/catching coach for the Westminster Blue Jays baseball team. Brautigam teaches high school creative writing, newspaper, and yearbook.

Keeping up with education graduates such as Beeler and Brautigam is second nature to the department, which makes a concerted effort to stay in touch with alumni. In addition to finding out graduates’ plans right before graduation, the department’s Education Association maintains an active social media presence on Twitter and Facebook.

“We’ve gotten our folks so trained that many of them notify us if they are moving schools, grade levels, content classes, coaching positions, etc.,” Bumgarner adds.

Ultimately, the department revels in bringing people together, which during this year’s caravan resulted in coverage by local media as well as the participation of many others.

“We contacted both principals at Bush Elementary and Rock Bridge to get their help in pulling this off,” Bumgarner says. “It was so fun to gather their fellow teachers and their colleagues … even their parents came from out of town to take part in the celebration, which ended up being so special.”

Keep reading Westminster Monthly to see if the education faculty caravan to other far-flung locations in the future.



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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.