Five years ago, the Commonwealth of Virginia made the decision to invest in the renovation of Seacobeck Hall as the new home for the College of Education at Mary Washington. The former dining facility has been completely transformed into state-of-the-art classrooms and collaboration spaces while retaining the historic charm evoked by the oversized arched windows, and the grace of the Dome Room. It is good to be home! Given the challenges we face in education, the opening of Seacobeck Hall could not come at a better time.
Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings and afterward our buildings shape us.” Seacobeck’s cutting edge classrooms, makerspace, and collaboration rooms will shape our work into the future. Working in them will help us build community among students, faculty, staff, and K-12 colleagues. Teaching in them will facilitate the development of new pedagogies to meet the challenges our profession faces. Most important, Seacobeck will inspire faculty, staff, and students, and serve as a powerful lever for recruitment. We need Seacobeck now more than ever.
We continue to focus our recruitment efforts on Teachers for Tomorrow programs (TFT). TFT is a curriculum for high school students interested in becoming teachers. We have TFT collaborations with Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Fredericksburg City Schools, and expect these efforts to grow. Our TFT initiatives include campus visits for TFT students, targeted scholarships, and a TFT Summer Institute planned for the summer of 2022. This institute consists of a weeklong residential program to nurture and develop high school students’ knowledge and skills of the teaching profession. Our TFT efforts create important recruiting opportunities for Mary Washington’s Colleges of Education, and aim to help address the chronic teacher shortage in the region.
Additional efforts to improve our teacher preparation include a focus on collaborative clinical practice. Clinical practice seamlessly connected with university classes is the heart of effective teacher preparation. Students need opportunities to develop skills working alongside master teachers in K-12 schools, while simultaneously helping to improve teaching and learning in their host schools. These mutually beneficial clinical arrangements are happening at Drew Middle School and Hazel Hill, and we continue to place practicum and intern students in dozens of local schools. We have developed Makerspaces in schools, libraries, and juvenile justice centers. We also have 18 carefully vetted and supported graduate students completing internships as teachers of record in three partner school divisions – one more way we are helping to meet the needs of our K-12 colleagues.
We are also working with K-12 colleagues to improve teacher retention. More than 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years on the job. Evidence suggests that new teachers provided with effective mentorship early in their career are more likely to persist. Through our Pathways to Success program, we help to increase capacity for mentorship in our partner schools. We currently have 23 mentors from three school divisions in the year long Pathways program. Once their program is complete, these “Clinical Faculty” will provide mentorship support to Mary Washington students completing internships as well as to new teachers in their buildings.
No doubt, this is a challenging time for the teaching profession, but I am confident that through our collaborative efforts in recruitment, clinical preparation, and mentorship development, we will successfully navigate these difficult times. Seacobeck Hall will help light our way!
Dr. Pete Kelly
Professor & Dean
College of Education
University of Mary Washington