College to Community: App State & Watauga County

Wrapping up September, the Department of Public Instruction District Visits and Voices team traveled to Appalachian State University and Watauga County Schools. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and her team met with the Appalachian Educators Club at Appalachian State University before continuing their visit west to Watauga County Schools.

Wrapping up September, the Department of Public Instruction District Visits and Voices team traveled to Appalachian State University and Watauga County Schools. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and her team met with the Appalachian Educators Club at Appalachian State University before continuing their visit west to Watauga County Schools.

Talking directly to North Carolina’s future teaching workforce, Truitt and her team were invited by the Appalachian Educators Club to speak during their meeting. Joined by Director of Legislative Affairs and Community Outreach Freebird McKinney and Special Advisor on Teacher Engagement Julie Pittman, Truitt discussed the important role that teachers play in the lives of their students. The trio provided perspectives of three teachers from three different regions in North Carolina and were able to share personal experiences from the classroom while providing background on how policy impacts the classroom. This visit mimics Pittman’s ongoing “Teacher Talks” roundtable discussions that she has held across the state, but with a unique focus on engaging the future workforce.

The NCDPI team continued their visit in the northwestern region of the state by visiting Watauga County Schools, led by Superintendent Scott Elliott. Beginning their visit at Bethel School, visitors met with school nutrition manager, Melody Howell, who works closely with the community to ensure all students are fed a healthy breakfast and lunch. Additionally, the team learned how this school is a partner for the community as it is a location for community food lockers. Truitt and her staff also discussed the challenges of pre-k in every school and what can be done to better meet that need.

Continuing the day, Truitt and her team visited classes at Watauga High School and the Watauga Virtual Academy, and witnessed a preview of an upcoming student podcast. With the use of ESSER funding, the school established a partnership with its school nurse, Shelly Klutz, and the local health department that grants authority to school nurses to quarantine school members through a comprehensive tracking program. This partnership has the potential to be scaled so that local health officials can better assist district-area schools in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Lastly, Truitt’s team met with Family Resource Coordinator Yolanda Adams – a similar position the District Visits and Voices team saw earlier this year in Burke County. With a large population of Hispanic students, Adams creates engagement between students and the greater community. There are partnerships with community organizations and law enforcement to ensure family and students are engaged in all facets of the community.

Now what? Human capital and student support were emphasized throughout Truitt and her team’s visit to the northwest. Truitt’s team was able to speak directly to future educators and provide an inspiring message on the impact of teachers on the future of their students. Relationships built with partners now will help education students become better teachers as seen through the partnership between App State and Watauga County Schools.

Additionally, a fully-funded family resource coordinator creates engagement and clear communication channels for schools, families and the local community. Supporting staff and families during an everchanging time of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is made easier by the school nurse and local health department partnership. This is a scalable model for districts across the state to help ensure students are healthy so they can remain in the classroom. Lastly, the importance of pre-k in every school continues to be seen across the state.

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