Governor Bob McDonnell announces new Virginia Center for Excellence in Teaching at Fairfax campus

Governor Bob McDonnell announced on Oct. 21 that the new Virginia Center for Excellence in Teaching will be located on Mason’s Fairfax campus.

The center and its future programs will focus primarily on providing resources to experienced K-12 teachers looking to take a leadership role in their local education community. Doors will open in June 2014 for an initial program involving 100 outstanding teachers from across the state.

In December of 2012, Governor McDonnell announced the creation of this center and its initial summer program as part of his All Students education initiative, which was designed to highlight the vital role of K-12 education in a community.

According to McDonnell, the center and its programs will host “exemplary” teachers for grades K-12 who are “seeking to improve their instruction, knowledge of educational policy, and capacity to provide instructional leadership.”

Elizabeth Sturtevant, the director of the Virginia Center for Excellence in Teaching, said her staff is still developing a method to find these teachers.

“We’re in the process of developing the specific criteria, because we just got the money a couple of weeks ago,” Sturtevant said. “We’re going to have a marketing campaign going on in early January where we’re going to be contacting school principals throughout the state. There will be an application to send in… and they’ll have to have their principal’s strong recommendation that they’re an effective teacher... but we’re not trying to compare them on some sort of rubric we develop.”

The summer program will consist of four academies, each designated for a different subject area: STEM subjects, fine arts, humanities and language arts, and interdisciplinary studies.

“By establishing the Virginia Center for Excellence in Teaching, we continue to elevate the teaching profession and send a message that there is no higher calling than inspiring, mentoring and preparing young people for the future,” said Governor McDonnell in a press release. “The center will set a new standard for excellence in classroom instruction and prepare teachers for leadership within their fields and beyond.”

In May 2013, the state sent out requests for budget proposals to institutions of higher learning throughout Virginia.

The proposal devised by staff at the College of Education and Human Development was awarded the $720,000 contract to kick start the center and fund the summer academies and other center programs through its first year. The center’s staff is responsible for discovering other funding sources besides the state for the following years.

The money will be used to pay for the teachers’ housing, transportation, meals, tuition and textbooks.

Mason faculty members running the academies will also receive pay. According to Sturtevant, an initial amount of $220,000 will be used for spreading the word about the academies.

“The first amount of $220,000 is [for] planning and recruitment, so we will have a marketing company, a marketing subcontractor to help us with the web development and the marketing throughout the state,” Sturtevant said. “We don’t want to just get the word out to a few teachers - we want all the teachers to know.”

One of the program’s goals is to bring teachers together throughout the state who have at least five years of experience, Sturtevant said.

“I think that we just need to do more for teachers that have experience,” Sturtevant said. “Sometimes teachers around that point in their careers... they’re looking for something interesting to boost their career forward. After about five years in teaching you really understand how to be a good teacher, but you maybe want to go to the next level and become a leader among your peers, and we don’t have much support for that...We want [teachers] to be good supports for each other and then they can become mentors to new teachers. They just need more support on how to do that.”

According to Sturtevant, the center will benefit the conversation on education in Virginia.

“I think [the center] is a big opportunity for our college to be of service to the teachers in the state and for the teachers throughout the state to get to know one another on a deeper level and talk about how to improve education in Virginia. We want to take advantage of getting this opportunity,” Sturtevant said.

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