Watson Chronicle


Support for Educators in the Field

PDS Holds Professional Learning Day for Partnership Teachers

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Watson College Dean Van Dempsey joined PDS Director Somer Lewis in welcoming more than 60 teachers to a virtual professional learning day event on October 22. WCE’s PDS Office hosts the event each semester for partnership teachers and supervisors hosting Watson College interns. The theme of this year’s event was “Why We Teach.”

In opening remarks, Dean Dempsey thanked WCE’s partners for their “talent, creativity, resilience and ways they have learned in to provide the best experience for our students and our children.”

The day began with a “Why We Teach” panel discussion featuring Emilee Higdon ’18, NCCAT 2021 Beginning Teacher of the Year; Deborah Hoffman, Principal and 2020 Onslow County Schools Principal of the Year; and Freebird McKinney, NCDPI Director of Government and Community Affairs. They all took different paths to teaching, but agreed it is a rewarding profession.

Hoffman said that although she’s now an administrator, a good teacher is always a teacher. She said her ‘why’ is that, “As an educator, I can change a student’s trajectory.” She also shared a favorite quote from Barack Obama: “Find someone to be successful for. Raise their hopes, then rise to their needs.”

Higdon said she chose to teach rather than become a marine biologist because she wanted to make an impact, and seeing students grow from freshman to senior year is what she loves the most. A third year teacher, Higdon said mentoring internship teachers and beginning teachers is incredibly important. “It’s something we’re doing right. YOU are what’s right as partnership teachers,” she said.

“As teachers, your power transcends your classroom,” McKinney said. “What you are doing now will echo into eternity. Teachers, you are the ones students will remember when they look back on these challenging times we’re living through. The work you continue to do on a day-to-day basis is so important.”

A series of breakout sessions by Watson College faculty and partnership teachers followed the panel discussion. Presenters were:

  • Brian Brinkley, WCE Stike Ed Lab Director and Brooke Kensworthy, PDS Master Teacher, “Coaching to Your Strengths”
  • Courtney Townsend, WCE Stike Ed Lab Coach, and Jenn Hatch Knight, WCE PDS Assistant Director, ”Rise Up: Cultivating Habits of an Emotionally Resilient Educator”
  • Kylee Maarschalk, PDS Master Teacher, and Elizabeth Felts, New Hanover High School, “Moving Forward Together: Incorporating Collaborative SEL in Your School”
  • Jeff Ertzberger and Emily Sobul, WCE Technology Unit, “What’s Working in Ed Tech"
  • Maggie Guggenheimer and Tracy Hargrove, WCE Faculty, “Finding the Beauty in Mathematics”
  • Lori Best, UNCW NC NTSP Lead Instructional Coach, “How’s the RIGOR?”
  • Kimberly Fullard, Rachel Freeman School of Engineering, “The YOU in EdUcation”
  • Denise Ousley-Exum, WCE Faculty, “Self-Care Practices for Your Classroom”
  • Harris Muhlstein, UNCW MarineQuest, “Supercharge Your Instruction and Innovate with ALGAE!”

“We wanted to acknowledge the challenges we’re facing, that our interns have faced teaching online and transitioning face-to-face, but we want to stay positive,” Lewis said. “This event provided an opportunity for our partnership teachers to remember why they chose the teaching profession, an opportunity to network and a time to re-set.”

Professional learning days are offered each semester to PDS partnership teachers hosting interns from the Watson College. WCE’s Professional Development System Office coordinates the events.