Watson Chronicle



Watson Student Leaders Host Aspiring Educator Summit

Sunday, November 01, 2020

WCE’s Watson Student Leader organization held their second annual Aspiring Educator Summit on Nov. 21. The theme of the event was “Equity in Education.” The full-day virtual conference featured a keynote by Daphne Penn, visiting fellow in education at Harvard University and presentations by 25 educators from across the nation including current and former state-level Teachers of the Year from Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New York, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Kalyn Smith led a student committee that planned the event in partnership with faculty advisor Erika Hanson, graduate assistant Miriam Cone and the Watson College SAIL Office. Smith is a junior in WCE’s elementary education program and chair of the WSL professional development committee.

“The Watson Student Leaders exhibit their skills in many ways, but it has never been more impressive than with the Aspiring Educator Summit,” said Watson College Dean Van Dempsey. “In showcasing the power and essential nature of the teaching profession, they convened through the summit over 150 people, including a wide array of presenters, participants from across North Carolina and numerous other states, alumni, current educators, and Watson students. After a year of preparations and planning, AES is an outstanding example of the promise of our future teachers as educators and leaders.”

In opening remarks, Smith explained why she chose “Equity in Education” as the theme for the summit.

“’Strength in diversity’ is the saying that has shaped my pursuit of education,” she said. “I attended a very diverse high school and I assumed that the world after graduation would be as diverse if not more so. But, it’s not. When I arrived at UNCW I realized everyone here looks like me. Imagine the progress we would make, the learning we could inspire if we could create more diverse learning environments. The work is ours to do to ensure a better future for our students. In planning the conference, we looked across the state and nation for inspiration and we are honored to have so many outstanding educators here with us today.”

Daphne Penn has spent 10 years researching educational inequity. In a keynote titled, “Winning the Race Towards Equity,” she shared her journey from Howard Technical High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Vanderbilt University and eventually Harvard where she recently earned her Ph.D.

“People want to hear the quintessential American story about a person who overcame obstacles by pulling herself up by her bootstraps, but my story is more complicated than that,” she said. “My teachers believed in me. My story is not about aptitude and hard work. It’s about what happens when a student is given opportunities, resources and support.”

Penn said educators can provide an environment to help children succeed by keeping in mind the acronym RACE: Rigorous instruction, Access to opportunity, Critical hope and Empathy.

“No one rises to low expectations,” she said. “And, while ability is equally distributed in the population, opportunity is not. Don’t pity your students and go easy on them; instead challenge them with grace. Students from disenfranchised backgrounds succeed because someone believes in them. Critical hope pushes students to find cracks in the concrete where they can grow. Don’t allow despair to have the last word; give students the tools and opportunities to overcome.”

Penn’s keynote was followed by six one-hour breakout sessions, where participants could choose from 3-4 different presentations on topics that included poverty, resiliency, racial equity, social emotional learning, student-centered learning and creating a positive classroom community. The AES concluded with a fifteen-minute wrap up at 5 p.m.

In addition to students from UNCW, pre-service teachers from Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elon University, North Carolina State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Western Carolina University participated in the summit.

WSL Faculty Advisor Erika Hanson said planning for the conference began months before the event.

“Kalyn decided on our Summit theme in the spring prior to the upheaval of the pandemic,” she said. “From there we all discussed what was needed for those interested in submitting a proposal and how to advertise that we were accepting proposals. Over the summer Kalyn worked on the website and subthemes. Most of the work came during the beginning of fall semester where we confirmed presenters/presentations, opened registration, continued updating the website, shared information via social media, set up our virtual schedule and links, and tended to all the details. I am incredibly proud of Kalyn, our WSLs and our GA Miriam Cone, who has also done quite a bit of work on the AES preparation including our social media, contacting presenters, scheduling, and website maintenance.”

Students said the summit was “inspirational” and “a powerful experience.”

“I don’t know where to begin in talking about the summit,” said WCE student Kelcey Smith. “I learned so much in every presentation and just feel that it will help me be a better educator someday. I am so excited and will look forward to attending the event again next year.”

For more information about summit including recordings of many of the presentations visit the AES website.

About the Watson Student Leaders

The Watson College introduced the Watson Student Leader program in 2013 for students who are passionate about the teaching profession. The role of the WSLs is to serve as ambassadors and represent the Watson College through leadership, professionalism and service. WCE academic advisor Erika Hanson coordinates the Watson Student Leader program. For more information visit their website or visit them on Facebook.