Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship honors faculty member’s beloved profession

The newly established Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship will support students at Indiana University East pursuing the profession of teaching, exemplify the idea that teaching is an act of service, and encourage others to give.

Portrait of Lee Ann Adams

Lee Ann Adams

The IU East School of Education (SoE), along with family members and close friends of Lee Ann Adams, established the scholarship in honor of the 29-year faculty member. They did so in secret, and revealed the scholarship to Adams during what seemed to be a regularly scheduled staff meeting held on Zoom.

Adams, lecturer and reading specialist for the SoE, has designed and taught multiple courses in reading comprehension, grammar, test taking and writing. She is also a long-time instructor for First-Year Seminar, a course to help students transition to college and succeed in their first semester at IU East. She plans to retire at the end of the academic year.

For Adams, teaching is about her students. She comes from a family of teachers, including her grandmother, Elizabeth Spiker, who Adams credits as the inspiration for their “beloved profession.” Adams herself started teaching at an early age, teaching her stuffed animals, dolls and her three younger sisters—whether they wanted to “play school” or not. Many other family members are also educators.

“Students have always come first for me,” Adams said. “What I am really most touched about is the scholarship name. Teachers must have that ‘heart.’ You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t establish relationships with students, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed so much about all my years in the classroom.”

Jerry Wilde, dean of the School of Education, said the scholarship is one way SoE can honor Adams and her work before she retires.

“Lee Ann Adam’s legacy will be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of students who have graduated and gone onto successful careers because of her direct support,” Wilde said. “Time and time again, she has tutored, encouraged, supported, and helped students overcome hurdles to reach their goals. The scholarship is named the Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship because Lee Ann cares deeply about each and every one of her students.”

Wilde, Jamie Buffington-Adams and Josh Tolbert all cohesively came up with the idea of the surprise scholarship to honor Adams.

Tolbert, special education faculty, said this just seemed like the most fitting and natural thing to do to honor Adams.

“When the idea of a scholarship to honor Lee Ann came up, it was basically as if everyone involved was thinking the same thought simultaneously and everyone just agreed that it was something that needed to happen,” Tolbert said.

Buffington-Adams is the associate dean and associate professor of education. She said the scholarship was initiated to honor what is greatest about Adams, the heart she has for teaching.

“She exemplifies what it means for teaching to be an act of service as she works diligently and patiently to identify students’ needs and provide them with the tools to pursue their dreams. It has been an honor working alongside her and learning from her example,” Buffington-Adams said.

Terry Wiesehan, director of Alumni Relations, worked with the SoE to begin raising funds for the seed money. In her role with the university, Wiesehan additionally works with the Office of Gift Development, with both offices falling under the purview of the Office of External Affairs at IU East.

Now, the seed is planted for the Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship, having raised over $9,800. However, the School of Education now hopes to see contributions increase to meet its $25,000 goal.

Wiesehan said writing the gift agreement is special to her as a colleague of Adams. Earlier in their careers at IU East, Adams and Wiesehan worked together for the Office of Tutorial Services.

“Lee Ann means so much to me,” Wiesehan said. “I’m very honored to be able to do this. This has gone far beyond what we had anticipated, just seeding this scholarship, and that’s because we love Lee Ann.”

While at IU East, Adams has also worked with the IU East School of Nursing, now the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, to assist nursing students preparing to take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (N-CLEX) licensing exam.

In 2021, Adams received the Helen Lees Teaching Award, an honor in recognition of Professor Emeritus Lees who passed away in 1992. Her spirit continues in this annual award to honor a full-time faculty member who has taught at least 10 semesters at IU East. “Helen Lees was my first mentor at IU East when I taught here as an adjunct in the 1980’s, so I was even more honored to be presented this award,” added Adams.

Adams has received additional campus honors including the 1995 IU East Student Government outstanding Service to Students Award, the 2009 Community Council on Disability Awareness Employee of the Year, IU East Employee of the Year in 2000, and the IU School of Nursing Alumni Association Special Recognition Award in 2003.

In all, Adams has been a professional teacher for 50 years.

Prior to joining IU East, Adams taught adults in Columbus, Ohio, and for Richmond Community Schools at Hibberd Middle School. She began her teaching career in Yorktown, Virginia.

Adams received her Master in Education and Bachelor of Science in Education from Ohio University. She is a board member of Richmond Friends School and the board president for the Independent Living Center of Eastern Indiana.

As she looks toward retirement, Adams plans to stay involved at IU East including with the SoE and perhaps continuing to tutor students. She also plans to work with younger students on reading skills at Richmond Friends School, to garden and to perhaps, do a little travel with her sisters and visit her son, John, and his wife, Megan, at their home and vineyard in Oregon.

Tolbert said he hopes this scholarship will give promising teachers motivation and opportunity to pursue a career in education.

“This scholarship should allow aspiring teachers to inform their emerging craft with the wisdom, empathy, and pedagogical expertise that have characterized Lee Ann’s career. In some way, I like to think of this scholarship as Lee Ann continuing to guide our future teachers safely and successfully on their journeys, as she has done for all these years at IU East,” Tolbert said.

Throughout her time at IU East, Adams has been a dedicated teacher going above and beyond to help students to reach their fullest potential. Among those attributes are preparing students to tackle advanced coursework; bolstering their proficiency in reading, writing and test-taking skills; and helping many students as they face the struggles of college to overcome those challenges to achieve their dreams.

“With nearly 30 years of service to IU East, our hope is that this scholarship cements Lee Ann’s legacy by providing financial support to students who have a heart for service, for teaching, and for walking alongside others to help them realize their dreams,” Buffington-Adams said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the magnitude of Lee Ann’s impact on so many people’s lives.”

How to Contribute to the Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship
Contributions to the Lee Ann Adams Heart of a Teacher Scholarship can be made online at myiu.org by following these steps: Click on ‘Give Now’. Click on ‘Make a Gift’. Type ‘Heart of a Teacher’ in the search all funds area.

Questions? Please contact Terry Wiesehan, director of Alumni Relations, at twieseha@iue.edu, or Paula Kay King, director of Gift Development, at pkayking@iue.edu or (765) 973-8331.