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Committed Leaders Key to Successful PATH

Posted June 9, 2004

HOLLAND – With a long-time staff member’s retirement imminent, Hope College has selected another experienced educator to direct its PATH program for gifted and talented secondary-age students.

Marty Swank, who has directed the Program for Academically Talented at Hope (PATH) since 1988, is retiring on June 15. She is being succeeded by Lisa Frissora of Holland, whose background includes having coordinated a district-wide program for gifted students in Illinois.

PATH is a cooperative project of Hope College, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and local school districts. It offers fast-paced, accelerated instruction in writing and mathematics to academically talented seventh, eighth and ninth grade students.

About 20 public and private school districts participate, with about 80 students attending each year. The students come to the Hope campus one afternoon a week for courses at the honors high school level.

Swank has been director of the program for most of its existence. As an interested parent, she had also been on the committee that developed PATH, which began in 1986. Her career as an educator began in the 1960s, and had included working with gifted and talented students in the Holland Public Schools prior to coming to Hope.

“Marty has been the person who put PATH on the map. She’s been the backbone of the program for almost its entire existence,” said Dr. Nancy Sonneveldt Miller, dean for the social sciences at Hope, who has administrative oversight of the program. “It’s the quality of her commitment and ongoing involvement that have given PATH the respect of teachers and administrators.”

Miller noted that Frissora’s professional experience and commitment should likewise serve PATH well.

“Lisa has been a teacher for several years, and has a strong background in meeting the needs of gifted and talented students in particular,” she said. “Like Marty, she’s also overflowing with enthusiasm. You can’t talk to her for a minute and not sense that.”

Immediately prior to directing PATH, Swank had directed and taught in the Quest Program in Holland in addition to working with gifted and talented students in the district as a volunteer.

Her experience as an educator also included teaching elementary-age students in Pennsylvania, teaching reading to partially sighted fourth- through eighth grade students at the Michigan School for the Blind, and serving as a reading diagnostician and associate director of the Reading Center at Michigan State University. She completed an Ed.S., an M.A. and a B.A. at Michigan State University.

In addition to her work with PATH, Swank has also played a key role as coordinator for the past decade of the Hope department of education’s on-going effort to seek reaccreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

“Marty has been an exceptional leader in preparing an accurate picture of our education program for three national accreditation reviews for NCATE since 1992 and the federally mandated Title II reports,” said Dr. Leslie Wessman, who is the chair of the department and the Arnold and Esther Sonneveldt Professor of Education at Hope. “She attended national informational meetings on our behalf in Washington, and kept our faculty informed of changing expectations. She was the lead writer in all of our reports and was able to organize a data collection process that made the process manageable for all of us. Her assistance has been invaluable and will be greatly missed.”

Frissora most recently was a kindergarten teacher at Waukazoo Elementary School. From 1999 to 2001 she coordinated the gifted education program for the Lowpoint-Washburn Local School District in Washburn, Ill., with responsibilities including developing the program and implementing an assessment program for gifted learners.

She had previously taught in Ohio. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Dominican College, and an endorsement in Gifted Education from the State of Illinois.

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