Watson College of Education Launches Faculty-in-Residence Initiative at D.C. Virgo

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Watson College of Education has launched a Faculty-in-Residence initiative at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy in an effort to enhance children’s learning and well-being and to deepen the connection between UNCW and the K-8 lab school, which was opened by UNCW in 2018.
The initiative’s focus areas include instructional approaches implemented in the classroom, school leadership, and family and community engagement.
Assistant Professor Wilson Okello and Associate Professor Amy Garrett Dikkers will serve as faculty-in-residence for the fall semester. Okello seeks to build critical thinking partnerships with D.C. Virgo staff to reflect on cultural context and practices. Garrett Dikkers will bring expertise in blended/online learning to the K-8 instructional context.
“We believe in the transformative power of collaboration, and working together will help improve teaching and learning, both at the university and in the K-8 setting,” said Bill Sterrett, associate dean of teacher education and outreach at Watson College of Education. “We are grateful for expertise and innovation from university faculty and D.C. Virgo teachers and staff. When we come together to explore issues and opportunities ranging from equity to blended learning, we are hopeful that we can improve outcomes and engagement.”
Along with the faculty-in-residence initiative, D.C. Virgo is receiving support from a NC Principal Fellow; an intern from the UNCW Master in Social Work program; and four UNCW elementary education program students, who are partnering with professors and teachers for a year-long field experience. In addition, Sue Kezios and Jasmine Gaston of UNCW Youth Services are developing STEM learning experiences school-wide, and WCE Professor Angie Reid-Griffin is providing resources for novel engineering around STEM, said Sterrett.
“The year-long field experience will provide the university student the opportunity to observe and experience firsthand the expectations, requirements, procedures and dynamics inherent with classroom teaching,” said Sabrina Hill-Black, principal at D.C. Virgo.
A team of UNCW researchers was awarded a $388,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support summer undergraduate research opportunities for first-year students who aspire to work in the marine sciences. The first-year students will work with the staff at D.C. Virgo to bring engaging lessons and applications to the school.
D.C. Virgo began its third year on Aug. 17. The school’s 209 students are attending classes remotely via live sessions with teachers and online portals.
“It has been exciting each time that we have opened the doors to a new year at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, and this year is no exception,” said Watson College of Education Dean Van Dempsey. “Even with virtual doors, the faculty and staff at Virgo and at the university have done an outstanding job of being ready to bring their creativity and innovative spirit to our students. The energy level has been high even in the midst of a trying time and complicated challenges.”

-- Venita Jenkins