ELKIN, N.C. — Six classrooms are trimmed in black and gold and 25 motivated teachers and support staff are ready to guide classes of mini-Mountaineers in exploration-based learning at the Appalachian State University Academy at Elkin this year.
Elected officials and local dignitaries joined educators and staff from App State and Elkin City Schools on Aug. 23 to celebrate the opening of App State’s second laboratory school — one of nine operating as part of the University of North Carolina System Laboratory School initiative. The initiative was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 to improve student performance and provide real-world experience for the preparation of future teachers and school administrators.
The App State Academy at Elkin is a partnership with Elkin City Schools and is co-located at Elkin Elementary School. The “school within a school” serves approximately 100 students in second through fourth grades. The first day of school was Monday, Aug. 29.
“When Appalachian State University began in 1899 as Watauga Academy, its founders set forth with a mission to increase access to education,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “From these humble beginnings, we have excelled at preparing our students to teach the next generation of leaders — and we are excited to be doing so at the Academy at Elkin.”
Lab schools, according to the UNC System, are committed to addressing the academic, social and emotional needs of all students and harnessing the benefits of partnerships to strengthen learning, teaching and school leadership. App State’s Reich College of Education has developed a lab school model based on innovative, evidence-based teaching and leadership methods, and the partnership with the university provides Elkin City Schools with access to additional resources and special programming for students, teachers and school leaders, including professional development, curriculum sharing opportunities and a pipeline for teacher and principal recruitment.
Elkin City Schools Superintendent Myra S. Cox — who Everts recognized as being dedicated, supportive and instrumental in establishing the new lab school — said the ribbon-cutting ranked among the best days of her career.
“I enjoyed working with Chancellor Everts and other App State staff to establish this ‘school within a school,’ and the journey to get to the ribbon-cutting was well worth it,” Cox said. “My staff and our community are looking forward to the impact it will have on our students.”
App State alumna Emma Hatfield-Sidden ’08 ’19 will lead the Academy at Elkin as its first principal. Hatfield-Sidden comes to the university from Catawba County Schools, where she served as auxiliary programs coordinator. Her career also includes serving as an exceptional children’s teacher, a district coach and a district administrator. She has experience in designing and providing enriching experiences to diverse groups of students and teachers through teaching, assessing, coaching, supervising and leading professional development.
With the opening of the App State Academy at Elkin, App State will be the only UNC System institution to operate two lab school programs. App State’s first lab school, the App State Academy at Middle Fork, opened in Walkertown in 2018 in partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Award-winning educator Sean Gaillard was named the new principal of the Academy at Middle Fork this summer.
In its earliest history, App State was a training school for teachers. Today, the university offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. App State’s Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. Nearly all 100 North Carolina counties employ App State alumni as teachers or administrators, and for six consecutive years, App State has led the nation in the number of alumni who have become National Board Certified Teachers.
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About the Academy at Elkin
A partnership between Appalachian State University and Elkin City Schools, App State’s Academy at Elkin is a free, public lab school located on the campus of Elkin Elementary School. The academy, which opened in August 2022, serves students in second through fourth grades. It is a learner-centered community that promotes exploration-based learning, with an emphasis on improving and enriching students’ literacy as a primary focus. Learn more at https://elkin.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls more than 2,000 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
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.