For the past 50 years, the Shenandoah Valley chapter of Phi Delta Kappa has been connecting educators and providing professional development and resources in the Valley, and on Thursday night the chapter celebrated the milestone with a celebration in Keezletown.

Fifty years ago on Sept. 16, the founding members of the Shenandoah Valley PDK chapter signed the charter.

Mark Hogan served as the president of the chapter for 20 years between 1994 and 2014. Hogan recently retired to Nashville.

The importance of the organization cannot be understated, Hogan said. It gives educators a vehicle for continued growth and professional development, becomes a networking group for teachers, administrators and future educators and works with high school Future Educator clubs to encourage high school students wanting to become teachers, he said. It provides teacher appreciation awareness to the community and gives access to cutting-edge teaching strategies and means of the ever-changing world of the classroom, especially during the pandemic, Hogan said prior to the event.

“In a time of teacher shortages, it’s great to have sustained active support for 50 years for teachers,” he said. “The leadership teams of the organization over the 50 years are some of the top educators in the central part of the Shenandoah Valley. I always knew there was someone I could call upon for assistance or support. It also, through its regular dinner meetings, provided an avenue to become an incubator of new ideas for teaching and learning.”

On behalf of one of the charter members of PDK, local historian Dale MacAllister was scheduled to speak about Larry Pence. Pence was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony due to a medical procedure.

“Larry S. Pence was athletic director at Turner Ashby High School. He had previously been a member of the University of Virginia Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa having joined in 1968,” MacAllister said this week. “Our Valley chapter was organized in September 1971.”

P. Tony Graham, associate professor of education at then Madison College, was elected as the first president. The vice president was Ira E. Miller, former academic dean at then Eastern Mennonite College and later international student adviser and director of placement at EMC, MacAllister said.

“Pence remembered that Fred Wampler, professor of education at Bridgewater College, was the secretary-treasurer of the chapter,” he said. “According to the Daily News-Record, there were 54 members that inaugural year.”

Don Steiner was also scheduled to attend Thursday’s celebration. He retired from Bridgewater College in 2014 after 39 years as an educator.

“We are indeed fortunate to be enriched by educational centers staffed by professionals aspiring to the highest ideals of lifelong learning,” Steiner said. “We, as educators, stand on the shoulders of those who mentored us demonstrating that truly to be an educator is to participate in the greatest moral enterprise constructed by humankind.”

Steiner said he was confident that talented educators will carry forth the mission and ideals of PDK, thus continuing the legacy of making the Shenandoah Valley a “shining light on the hill.”

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @Valley_Learn

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