Dee (Sonnhalter) Groman, ’76

Heidelberg alumni find varied and unique ways to give back to their alma mater. Frequently throughout the academic year, faculty members welcome them back to their classrooms alumni who share their career expertise and advice with classes. Students – and faculty – find great value in these visits.

One such alum – Dee (Sonnhalter) Groman, ’76 – visited with ‘Berg student teachers last week with some very important information they’ll need before they head into their own classrooms.

As a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association, Groman walked the students through the code of conduct for Ohio educators. Her goal was to bring awareness to the ways educator conduct is regulated by the state and the local school district and ways teachers are perceived in public, by colleagues, by their students, by parents and anyone who has a view of how educators should behave.

Dr. Karen Jones, director of educational programming for the School of Education, said the presentation left the future teachers “better prepared to handle new challenges in the teaching profession.”

“With her teaching experience and current position with the OEA, Ms. Groman brought our student teachers a wealth of information regarding current ethical expectations of practicing teachers,” Jones said.

According to Dee, students need a course in Common Sense 101 before they step into their first teaching position. “Educators need to know what behaviors may impede their professional license and employment,” she said. “Perception is key.”

To reinforce her point, she shared eight principles of conduct that addressed such topics as maintaining a professional relationship with students, accurately reporting required information, abiding by the law, serving as a positive role model and fulfilling contract obligations.

Part of Dee’s role is to represent teachers who are accused of wrongdoing, so she understands first hand why teachers have to be so in tune with the code of conduct. “You are held to a much higher standard than the rest of the world,” she told them.

She also knows this from experience. Prior to her current position, she taught elementary school and special education for 35 years. In 1989, she was in the first class to receive a master’s degree in education from Heidelberg after the university launched graduate programs in 1987.

Through the decades, Dee and other educators have had to adapt to changing times in the profession, including dealing with social media. The OEA has had a rash of contractual and legal issues regarding alleged misuse of the internet. She had a special message for students: “Technology can be your friend. It can also get you into a world of hurt.”

Her best advice so teachers don’t jeopardize their careers: “Do not comingle your personal and school computers – ever.”

She left them with a wealth of information and an invitation and discount to join the OEA.

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