BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education (RCOE) and Watauga County Schools (WCS) received a $10,000 gift from the Sun Belt Conference as part of the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers (EYFT) Week initiative.
As part of EYFT Week, the 2018–19 WCS Teachers and Principal of the Year were recognized during an on-field presentation in Appalachian’s Kidd Brewer Stadium that took place during the Nov. 17 home football game. Additionally, WCS Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott was presented with a ceremonial check for the $10,000. The university originally chose its Sept. 15 home game as the date for the ceremony — the first day of EYFT Week — but, due to Hurricane Florence, the event was rescheduled.
The gift funded a project titled “First Teach: Appalachian State University and Watauga County Schools Teacher Leader Mentorship Program,” also known as the First Teach Program.
The program is a partnership focused on the continuing education and professional growth of the WCS 2018–19 Teachers of the Year and Principal of the Year, seven of whom are Appalachian alumni, and approximately 30 Appalachian teacher education students who are members of the Appalachian Community of Education Scholars (ACES) program. ACES is a four-year scholarly program created for future educators that focuses on service, leadership and professional development.
College football goes the extra yard for teachers
Through the support of the CFP Foundation and its partners, EYFT Week celebrates educators across the country. The foundation established EYFT Week in 2015 to provide an opportunity for universities, coaches and student-athletes to take part in its mission of elevating the teaching profession through inspiring and empowering educators.
The CFP Foundation provided the Sun Belt Conference with funds to support teacher-centric education initiatives in conjunction with conference activities at member institutions. Institutions had an opportunity to receive up to $10,000 to implement projects in the local community that incorporated one or more of the pillars of the EYFT program: resources, recruitment and professional development.
In addition, each institution was asked to designate a home game during EYFT Week to recognize the teachers associated with the initiative during an on-field presentation.
Game day celebration
The WCS Teachers and Principal of the Year were recognized at the Nov. 17 Appalachian home football game against Georgia State.
Those in attendance included:
- McKinley Goodnight Kunz ’14 ’17, from Bethel School.
- Terri Hodges ’88, from Blowing Rock School, who was also named the 2018–19 WCS District Teacher of the Year.
- Patti Hensley ’89 ’97, from Cove Creek School.
- Heather Ward ’07, from Green Valley School.
- Tonya McKinney ’90 ’00, from Mabel School.
- Kristina Shableski ’07 ’10, from Parkway School.
- Beaver Robinette ’88, from Valle Crucis School.
- Phil Norman, from Green Valley School, who is the 2018–19 WCS Principal of the Year.
Sonya Blakeley, who teaches at Hardin Park School, and Olivia Haigler Watson, a teacher at Watauga High School, were unable to attend.
Prior to kickoff, the WCS faculty and their families were hosted by Appalachian’s chancellor, Dr. Sheri Everts, at a pre-game tailgate event, along with WCS Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, RCOE Dean Melba Spooner and members of ACES.
During the game, the teachers and principal were recognized on the field for their achievements and as Extra Yard for Teachers participating partners. Everts, Spooner and Doug Gillin, Appalachian’s director of athletics, presented a ceremonial check to Elliot in acknowledgment of the gift that helped fund the First Teach Program.
“We should take every opportunity to celebrate our teachers and thank them for their dedication to our students and community,” Elliott said. “They truly do go the Extra Yard every day!”
About the First Teach Program
Appalachian was founded as a teachers college in 1899, and these educational roots remain an integral part of the university’s identity. Today, the RCOE is first for teaching — first to lead and listen, first to inspire and innovate — ensuring the college’s graduates are prepared to be leaders in the field of education.
The college works diligently to develop and sustain relationships with local school districts to support the growth of these teacher leaders. WCS is one such dedicated partner.
The First Teach Program, which includes all three EYFT pillars, allowed the WCS Teachers and Principal of the Year to engage with and mentor Appalachian teacher education students who are members of the ACES scholarly program. Professional development of this type helps to prepare Appalachian’s graduates to be successful in their future classrooms, thus inspiring the next generation of Appalachian teachers and sustaining education locally and globally.
“Sustaining partnerships is critical to the work we do in preparing educators,” Spooner said. “The Teach First Program, funded in part by the $10,000 gift from the College Football Playoff Foundation, provided the opportunity for our teacher education students to engage deeply with teachers and leaders in the Watauga County Schools. Being able to recognize the Teachers and Principal of the Year for their accomplishments and contributions demonstrates the commitment our university community places on quality education and educators.”
From mountains to sea
Participants in the First Teach Program traveled from Watauga County to the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) on Ocracoke Island for a rigorous professional development program that took place Nov. 9–12. The CFP Foundation gift helped to cover the costs of facility rental, participant travel and room and board, as well as substitute pay and a stipend for the participating teachers and principal.
NCCAT was established in 1983 to provide professional development programming to teachers in the state of North Carolina.
Currently, Appalachian’s RCOE is the only institution to visit NCCAT for pre-service teacher professional development.
Matthew Medlin, of Youngsville, a senior mathematics secondary education major, said, “I am very appreciative to have had the opportunity to visit Ocracoke with my fellow ACES and Watauga County schools representatives. I know that the knowledge I have gained through this experience will aid me in my first year of teaching and through the rest of my career as a teacher leader.”
The participants focused on significant topics in education, including teacher leadership, differentiation and community engagement. In addition, they were encouraged to discuss and analyze the history, culture and geography of the barrier island and apply it to their own educational experiences in Watauga County and/or at Appalachian.
“The Ocracoke NCCAT trip was for me, as a veteran Watauga County teacher, one of the best experiences of my career,” said WCS teacher Patti Hensley. “As a teacher, I am a lifelong learner, and it was gratifying to be able to learn and collaborate right alongside these fine ACES students who are going into the teaching field. It gave me great hope for the future of our children.”
Furthermore, participants have been asked to share their experiences and learned best practices with stakeholders at the university and in the community.
“I am grateful to the Sun Belt Conference, the university and App State Athletics for this award,” Elliott said. “The teacher leaders facilitated several sessions for the pre-service teachers to help them prepare for securing their first job and ensuring a successful first year of teaching. The group also spent time with members of the U.S. Coast Guard learning about the importance of teamwork and distributed leadership.”
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.