Ryan Fischer/The Herald-Dispatch Drs. Joseph B. Touma, from left, and Omayma Touma speak at the Harless Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Monday, May 6, 2019, at Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON - The June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development at Marshall University on Monday celebrated education in West Virginia during its annual Harless Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

This year's inductees are Robert Shell Jr. and Lena Shell, Drs. Joseph B and Omayma Touma, and Katherine Johnson.

Stan Maynard, director of the June Harless Center housed within the Marshall College of Education and Professional Development, said the hall of fame honors those who have made or are making major contributions to education in West Virginia. Those contributions are not necessarily through the public school setting, but can be through entrepreneurship, medicine or trailblazing, as is the case for this year's inductees.

The June Harless Center was created in 2000 and provides educators and families of rural West Virginia with a support system that addresses educational problems, sustains school improvement, and provides positive growth in all educational factors, along with professional development in STEM, early literacy, and early childhood education.

The ceremony is also a chance for the center to update supporters on the center's current projects.

Monday highlighted the center's work to support the Explorer Academy in Huntington and expand the exploratory learning curriculum to other schools in West Virginia.

"What it was created to do was establish, as an innovation zone school, a site where other counties in the state could come and see how excellence takes place, then the Harless Center will help those schools implement that back in their home school," Maynard said.

Maynard said Pocahontas County educators will be visiting May 23 to learn more about the innovation zone school in Cabell County.

The ceremony also recognized a new Logan County early childhood education research center the June Harless Center is helping to establish, Fayette County becoming a "STEM county," and the center's partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in all 55 counties, ensuring all West Virginia children ages birth to 5 receive books.

The hall of fame inductees received a glass vase. Johnson's vase was presented to her earlier in her home in Virginia.


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