May 20, 2022

College of Education Countdown is Complete: Six Things About Seacobeck

UMW President Troy Paino gives the podium to Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony recognizing the official opening of Seacobeck Hall as the new home to the College of Education. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW President Troy Paino gives the podium to Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony recognizing the official opening of Seacobeck Hall as the new home to the College of Education. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Future educators began filling its classrooms and meeting spaces this semester, but a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday made it official: Seacobeck Hall is the new home of the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education and Office of Disability Resources. A years-long renovation transformed the building – which served as a dining hall for decades – into a state-of-the-art learning facility to primarily nurture budding teachers.

“It’s so much more than a building. It’s about what happens in here,” Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera said during the event. “People gathering, connecting, working together… and helping people prepare for life matters so much to the health of our communities and to the future of the Commonwealth and the future of this world.”

UMW President Troy Paino, College of Education Dean Pete Kelly, Board of Visitors Rector Heather M. Crislip ’95 and Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken also spoke, as did Mary Washington junior Katya Stafira, who is studying special education.

“You’re actually able to put yourself in the space of being a real teacher,” Stafira said of Seacobeck’s specialized rooms and dynamic details that help students see themselves leading a classroom from the start of their education. The Office of Disability Resources, formerly located in Anne Carter Lee Hall, now has more space, including rooms for students who require more time for test-taking. Read more.

Win-Win: UMW Grad Students Help Fill Area Teacher Shortage

Last fall, Chloe Wade taught art under the supervision of an experienced teacher. This semester, she’s the one in charge.

Falmouth Elementary art teacher Chloe Wade is one of the UMW graduate students who is teaching full time as part of a partnership between the College of Education and area schools. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Falmouth Elementary art teacher Chloe Wade is one of the UMW graduate students who is teaching full time as part of a partnership between the College of Education and area schools. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

“I’m having an amazing time being in my own classroom and getting to choose the lessons myself,” said Wade, whose students at Falmouth Elementary in Stafford are experimenting with tempera paint and watercolors.

A graduate student in University of Mary Washington’s College of Education (COE), Wade is participating in a paid internship program launched last year to address the critical teaching shortage in local schools. So far, it’s working – and so are the 20 Mary Washington students who have taken full-time teaching positions this spring in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania. Gaining hands-on experience while earning a paycheck, completing final requirements for their master’s degrees and helping to fill a community need? That’s a plan that deserves an A+.

“This partnership is beneficial to the school divisions, apprentice teachers and most importantly, the students,” said Theresa Aberg, human resources supervisor for Stafford County Public Schools. Read more.

Wells Interviewed on StoryWalk Project in The Free Lance-Star

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Assistant Professor of Education Melissa Wells and her students were interviewed in The Free Lance-Star, along with Callie Brown ’17, Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation Supervisor, about the class’s work on the StoryWalk project along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail.

The StoryWalk débuted on Fredericksburg’s Rappahannock River Heritage Trail last year—but now it features an original story written specially for the local community.

Students in University of Mary Washington education professor Melissa Wells’ “Literature and the Arts in Elementary Classrooms” course penned “Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,” a 20-page storybook about a family discovering local wildlife and learning about river safety while tubing on the river. Read more.

Coffman Featured in WalletHub Story on States with the Best and Worst Schools

Professor of Education Teresa Coffman

Professor of Education Teresa Coffman

College of Education Professor Teresa Coffman was recently featured in WalletHub’s recent piece on States with the Best and Worst School Systems. Dr. Coffman answered a series of questions, including the following:

In evaluating the best and worst school systems, what are the top 5 indicators? 

The following five key indicators tend to be used most often when considering a school system’s performance:

  • Student academic achievement,
  • Instructional quality,
  • School climate,
  • Graduation and attendance rates, and
  • Satisfaction of teachers, administrators, staff, caregivers, and students.

In lower-performing schools, funding has an impact on each of these five indicators. Teachers may be qualified to teach, but many may be first-year teachers with limited mentorship opportunities within the lower performing school resulting in higher turnover. The ability to provide quality resources might be reduced and the connection between home and school might not be as united as it could be thereby limiting communication and support.

Districts with the best school systems typically have higher funding, more experienced teachers and if there are new teachers’ strong mentorship programs, established student supports, multi-faceted resources, and more community and caregiver connectedness between the school and the surrounding neighborhoods. Read more.

College of Education, City Spin New Type of Story

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Walking along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, Stephanie Gardner and her kids, Piper and Pierce, read ‘Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock,’ written and illustrated by students in UMW’s College of Education, as part of Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department’s new StoryWalk(R) project. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Each time Melissa Wells has taught “Literature and the Arts in Elementary Classrooms,” her students have partnered with local teachers to create children’s books to use in their classes.

That wasn’t an option after the pandemic hit, said Wells, an assistant professor in University of Mary Washington’s College of Education (COE). But her colleague, Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement, had an idea.

She put Wells in touch with Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation and Events department, which recently launched a StoryWalk® project to get kids outdoors and reading. This semester, Wells’ students wrote and designed a 20-page storybook, Alex’s Day on the Rappahannock, about a family discovering wildlife and safety while tubing on the river. Rather than paper, the pages will be printed on panels along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail.

“The arts got many of us through the pandemic,” said Wells, who teaches aspiring educators how to integrate arts and literature into their curriculum. “As human beings, we naturally process our world and experiences through storytelling, which can help teach concepts that lead to deeper learning.” Read more.

Young Alumna Wins County-Wide Elementary Teacher Award

UMW alumna Amelia Carr recently received the 2021 New Elementary Teacher award from Fairfax County Public Schools. Carr earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2019 and a master’s degree in elementary education from UMW’s College of Education last year.

UMW alumna Amelia Carr recently received the 2021 New Elementary Teacher award from Fairfax County Public Schools. Carr earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2019 and a master’s degree in elementary education from UMW’s College of Education last year.

When Amelia Carr taught her kindergartners to recognize words by sight, she got a little help from her siblings. In a YouTube video, the trio belts out Sister Sledge’s ’70s anthem We Are Family, with Carr demonstrating on a whiteboard how to write the word “we.”

For her ingenuity, passion and knack for making learning fun, the University of Mary Washington alumna was recently named Fairfax County Public Schools’ 2021 Outstanding New Elementary Teacher.

In her classroom at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school near her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, Carr puts into practice the lessons she learned at UMW. Navigating a worldwide pandemic and teaching online was challenging, she said, but also a confidence and creativity builder. “I wanted to make my instruction as engaging as possible,” she said of virtual learning, which lasted through late February for most of her students. Read more.

Peck Receives VACTE Student Impact Award

College of Education Associate Dean for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships Kristina Peck

College of Education Associate Dean for Clinical Experiences and Partnerships Kristina Peck

UMW’s College of Education Director for Clinical Practice and Partnerships Kristina Peck was recently awarded a 2020-2021 Virginia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (VACTE) Student Impact Award. In her application for VACTE Initial Licensure Scholarship, Glynnis Farleigh ’20 wrote:

“While Mrs. Kristina Peck has only served as the College of Education’s Director of Clinical Experiences for a portion of my time at UMW, I believe that she fully deserves to be honored for her dedication to the students, staff, and faculty of UMW’s COE. Mrs. Peck has been my instructor for both of my Masters seminars during my fifth year. Here, she has demonstrated intense organization, high standards, and high expectations for myself and my peers as preservice teachers. As a former math teacher and Google Educator Instructor, Mrs. Peck held small-group training sessions for myself and a select group of peers so that we could become Google Educators ourselves. Mrs. Peck has never failed to answer the number of challenging and complex administrative questions that we as students may have and is always supportive to students.

Mrs. Peck demonstrates high standards when modeling the mechanics of teaching – an aspect that is often less discussed as it is less often the subject of intense research, but an aspect that is critical to the smooth, daily functioning of a classroom. This type of daily dedication is critical to the smooth running of a classroom. Mrs. Peck consistently models excellent classroom management, administration, and organization in a way that I hope to mimic in my own classroom and accepts nothing less than the highest standard of performance from us as UMW students. I feel proud to be a graduate of UMW’s Masters of Education program due to Mrs. Peck’s example and support. While I will be beginning my first year as a teacher in my own classroom this August, I will be inspired by Mrs. Peck’s commitment to organization and high standards for years to come.”

VACTE Scholarship Committee Chair Ellen Drogin Rodgers wrote: “It is clear, based on Glynnis’s recommendation that [Peck is] an extraordinary teacher and mentor who has influenced teacher candidates, and in turn, the communities they will serve.”

College of Education Graduates to New State-of-the-Art Home

A student passes by Seacobeck Hall, which is under construction as the new home of UMW’s College of Education and slated for completion early next year. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

A student passes by Seacobeck Hall, which is under construction as the new home of UMW’s College of Education and slated for completion early next year. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Barbara Bishop Mann ’66 remembers making peanut butter and jelly crackers on linen-clad tables. Gayle Petro ’79 pumped pink frozen yogurt from a newfangled machine. Susan Doig ’91, M.Ed. ’06, and friends got creative, making potato skins by topping tubers with salad bar staples and cranking them through a grill-type toaster.

“A lot of bonding happened in this building,” said Doig, one of several alums who studied education at Mary Washington and returned this month to their old dining hall. They came back to add their names to a beam – also signed by COE students, faculty and staff – to be hoisted onto the roof of Seacobeck, the decades-long campus hub for generations of students.

Since meal service moved to the University Center in 2015, a $24 million renovation – in starts and stops – has brought Seacobeck full circle. Its planned re-opening early next year as the new home of the recently accredited College of Education (COE) will reflect UMW’s roots as a school for teachers, with a nod to the future of academia.

The state-of-the-art facilities will be “transformational” for students, said COE Dean Pete Kelly. Read more.

Walker’s Co-Authored Paper Featured on University of Colorado News Site

Assistant Professor of Education Jennifer Walker

Assistant Professor of Education Jennifer Walker

College of Education Assistant Professor Jennifer Walker was featured in an article in Communique, the official news publication of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, about an article she co-authored with Colorado faculty member Kathy Randolph entitled, “Teacher Self-Advocacy for the Shared Responsibility of Classroom and Behavior Management.”

With more than 40 percent of new teachers leaving the profession after five years, teacher burnout is among the highest for all professions in the United States – and special education teachers can face even greater challenges. But with the right tools, special educators can lighten the load, writes Kathy Randolph, assistant professor of teaching and learning, in new research published in SAGE Journals. Read more.

World Lessons Inspire Sophomore to Pen Children’s Book

Sophomore Helen Dhue is about to publish a children’s book based on a story that she wrote as a child. Inspired by courses on immigration history and racism that she’s taken at UMW, Dhue hopes her book will help parents and educators have conversations with children about discrimination and inclusion.

Sophomore Helen Dhue is about to publish a children’s book based on a story that she wrote as a child. Inspired by courses on immigration history and racism that she’s taken at UMW, Dhue hopes her book will help parents and educators have conversations with children about discrimination and inclusion.

Home during quarantine, University of Mary Washington sophomore Helen Dhue found herself rifling through childhood belongings. Among old papers and artwork, she discovered a book she wrote as a kindergartner.

As she turned the pages, inspiration struck. Influenced by classes she’d taken at Mary Washington as part of her history major, Dhue put pen to paper. She’ll soon release her self-published children’s book, The Cats Who Like Bats, based on the story she dictated to her mother all those years ago. Dhue, who is also enrolled in UMW’s education program and aspires to teach high school history, hopes the tale will help parents and educators broach with young children complex topics like racism, discrimination, diversity and inclusion. Read more.

 “I appreciated that classes I’ve taken at UMW have allowed us to have open discussions so we could better understand one another and be more sensitive to other people’s experiences,” said Dhue, who was influenced by history courses she took focusing on immigration and Latin America. Illustration by Julia Lopresti.


“I appreciated that classes I’ve taken at UMW have allowed us to have open discussions so we could better understand one another and be more sensitive to other people’s experiences,” said Dhue, who was influenced by history courses she took focusing on immigration and Latin America. Illustration by Julia Lopresti.