UNCP, Sandhills partnership pays off for teachers
By Scott Bigelow
At 'Plan-it Literacy' - From left: Crystal Bonville, Sandy
Jeffries, Meg Demolet and Mary Carrington
Three births, two weddings, one adoption and an engagement.
That is the tally so far during the two years that 25 public school
teachers from Moore County have been enrolled in a Master of Arts in
Elementary Education program offered by UNC Pembroke.
UNCP calls it their "cohort" at Sandhills Community College
in Southern Pines, N.C. The teachers call it a family.
"We've bonded," said Emily Brady, a cohort member and teacher
at High Falls Elementary School. "We are a family."
The Sandhills cohort will travel to UNCP in December 2004 for commencement
exercises. It will be the first visit to the Pembroke campus for many
"I've only been to UNCP once, and I had to ask directions,"
said Sandy Jeffries, a teacher at Pinehurst Elementary School.
UNCP offered the graduate program entirely on Sandhills' campus in
late afternoon classes that suited the schedules of elementary school
teachers with families.
Teaching teachers -
Karen McCullough offers instruction on how to teach research papers
"The professors were very good to us, very accommodating and flexible
about class times," said Crystal Bonville. "If there was a
PTA meeting, they understood."
Dr. Sharon Sharp, who coordinates UNCP's elementary education graduate
program, said the Sandhills cohort is a talented one.
"We are so proud of this outstanding group of master's candidates,"
Dr. Sharp said. "The mission, in part, of the master's program
in elementary education is to prepare the experienced teachers for full
participation in the profession as leaders, researchers, and master
To become masters of their trade, cohort members and their families
made many sacrifices to complete the program.
"Monday night was pizza night at our house and Wednesday was Chinese,"
said Mary Carrington, a teacher of academically gifted children based
at Aberdeen Primary School.
"My daughters learned how to cook," Jeffries added.
The program was worth the effort, cohort members said. What they learned
in the classroom was relevant to what they were doing in their own classrooms.
"It was great because everything we did was useful in the classroom,"
"The professors were sensitive about what we need to succeed in
the classroom," Bonville said.
"We had a lot of input, and we did a lot of the teaching ourselves,"
"Our professors have been wonderful," said Mandy Browne,
a teacher at Carthage Elementary. "It was personalized instruction."
"We were able to take our class work assignments and integrate
them into our classrooms - theory into practice," said Michelle
Lester of Sandhills Farm Life Elementary School.
A master's degree will give the teachers a boost in pay, but they said
there was more of value realized than that. And, the cohort thanked
UNCP's School of Education for opening the doors of opportunity.
"The pay increase is nice, but the satisfaction of sticking it
out and getting through it is tremendous," Lester said. "I
would not have been able to go to school with two children if UNCP had
not offered this program here."
A cohort has benefits for UNCP too, said Dr. Warren Baker, dean of
the School of Education.
"Our Moore County cohorts originated as a result of a great deal
of interest shown by educators in the region," Dr. Baker said.
"Because all of the groups are currently practicing teachers, the
cohort-based approach is used because it provide them with a systematic
structure for course scheduling."
December will not be the end of this group. Once a cohort always a
cohort, several members said.
"We're staying together to do National Board Certification next,"
said Meg Demolet, a teacher at Pinehurst Elementary School. National
certification would further upgrade the skills and pay of these Moore
The Moore County Schools system received additional benefits from the
program last spring when the 25 cohort members delivered a daylong reading
workshop called "Plan-it Literacy." The program was attended
by 60 Moore County teachers and featured 20 sessions on topics from
using digital photography in the classroom to writing research papers.
"Recognizing that master's candidates are experienced professional
educators, the Moore County cohort members were required to develop
workshops around an area of their literacy expertise in a course,"
Dr. Sharp said. "Their leadership project became the "Plan-it"
"Crystal Bonville used the opportunity to coordinate the conference
as her leadership project, and she did an outstanding job," Dr.
At Sandhills Community College, UNCP has offered several degree programs,
including the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Master of Business
Administration. Stand-alone undergraduate courses have also been offered
for several years.
The Master of Arts in Elementary Education is one of three UNCP master's
degree cohorts currently in progress at Sandhills, and more may be in
the works. Dr. Collie Coleman, UNCP's Associate Vice Chancellor for
Outreach, attended the reading workshop at SCC.
"Actually being at the workshop, along with five UNCP faculty
members and administrative officials, provided me and my colleagues
with a clearer understanding of and appreciation for the value of programs
such as this," Dr. Coleman said. "This is high-quality, reality-based
distance learning. We not only address the critical teacher shortage
in Moore County through this graduate program, we impact and improve
the learning and teaching process by providing well-trained teachers
who are committed to remaining in the Moore County Schools.
"It's a win-win for everyone - especially for the teachers and
students in the county," Coleman said. "UNCP is proud to be
a functional and positively contributing partners in this endeavor."
Sandhills President John Dempsey said offering advanced degree programs
in communities like Moore County is important for the community college
and the community.
"This is just what we hoped for when the partnership got started,"
Dempsey said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for folks who are place-bound
to complete their education, and we at Sandhills are happy and proud
to be part of it."
Dr. Rick Swanson, dean of instruction at Sandhills, said UNCP is a
partner in the community college's mission.
"At Sandhills we do everything we can to support the higher education
needs of the people in our community," Swanson said. " Part
of this effort has been to actively partner with UNC Pembroke in support
of bachelor's and master's level classes delivered here on our campus
and elsewhere in the community."
"We have been thrilled with the cooperation and proud of the members
of our community who have taken advantage of the opportunity provided
by UNC Pembroke to complete upper-level and graduate degrees,"
Rebecca Roberts, coordinator of UNCP at Sandhills, is a key component
of the partnership. Roberts said the elementary education cohort was
a symbol of the effectiveness of the partnership.
"Many of these teachers were enrolled their first two years at
Sandhills Community College, and now they are back at SCC getting their
master's degrees," Roberts said. "We're so excited about this."
It takes the cooperation of many individuals, departments and institutions,
Dean Baker said, and UNCP is committed to offering quality programs
"The School of Education has embraced distance education as alternative
route through which students can successfully complete their masters
degree," Dr. Baker said. "Our relationship with Sandhills
Community College has proven very successful in meeting some the region's
need for graduate work in elementary education, reading and school administration."
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