Kasha Hayes did it. She’s an English teacher and instructional coach at H.D. Woodson Senior High School, in Washington DC, where the reading proficiency level hovers around 13 percent. Because she did, her students are beginning to enjoy the transformative power of good books, and her colleagues are learning how to integrate literacy strategies into their instruction.
Julie Ann Sgroi, a fourth-grade teacher at Little River Elementary in Loudoun County, did it in both Roanoke and Falls Church.
Science teacher Paul Clendenon did it and became principal of St. Paul High School in Wise County.
Judy Bowns, theater and dance specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools, did it after putting in 32 years in the classroom.
The common thread among these education professionals is that they are among hundreds who earned their Curry School degrees through off-Grounds programs, taking courses in their local communities.
M.Ed. ‘11 Soc Fdns“I live and work in Washington DC and am a mother of two boys,” Hayes says. “It was extremely important to me that I could work on my degree off Grounds. Because of the location and flexible class schedule, I was able to make it all work—even though it took me almost four years!”
Sgroi, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, agrees. “The fact that I could receive this education in my hometown [both in Roanoke and in northern Virginia after she moved] was a true blessing,” she says.Julie Ann Sgroi
M.Ed. ‘10 Elem Ed“While I would have loved to return to Charlottesville, that was simply not an option.”
The Curry School’s off-Grounds degree programs have supported adult learners across the Commonwealth for decades and are now coming full circle. After a dozen-year stretch under the administration of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), Curry off-Grounds degree programs are coming back home administratively.
“These programs at the University’s regional centers have provided high-quality educational opportunities for professionals across the state, and our alumni from those programs are very happy with their experiences,” says Mark Hampton, associate dean for administration and planning. “Yet, there recently has been a level of disconnection from the Curry School that we are excited about changing. We want every student, whether on Grounds or off, to have full access to the depth of knowledge being created in the Curry School and to the diverse richness of our tenured faculty.”
We want every student, whether on Grounds or off, to have full access to the depth of knowledge being created in the Curry School and to the diverse richness of our tenured faculty.
The change was prompted by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s call for more Virginians to earn bachelor’s degrees, which meant an expanding role for SCPS, Hampton says. “There was inherent inefficiency—which both Billy Canady, dean of SCPS, and Bob Pianta, dean of the Curry School acknowledged—in having one school offer another school’s graduate programs.”
The Curry School’s relationship with continuing education has spanned nearly a century now. In 1915 the first U.Va. Bureau of Extension, later renamed the Division of Extension, was directed by Curry professor Charles Maphis. From the 1930s on, the majority of extension courses offered for credit were in education. George Zehmer, namesake of the hall housing the on-Grounds SCPS offices, was an education faculty member who served as dean of the division until 1958.
After a period of expansion of Curry degree offerings in the early 1970s, the university administration rescinded degree-granting status for off-Grounds courses, although Curry faculty continued offering courses for credit. Not until John T. Casteen III became president was a focus on educational outreach renewed, and in 2000 SCPS was added as the university’s tenth academic school. Sondra Stallard (Ph.D. ’79 Educ) was named its first dean. Since then, all off-Grounds degree programs have been administered through SCPS.
Beginning July 1, 2012, the Curry School will again begin administering all education programs that lead to official licensure or attainment of a degree. SCPS will continue working with schools on professional development courses. Initially, the Curry School’s off-Grounds offerings will mirror those currently available through SCPS:
- M.Ed. in Social Foundations of Education – Falls Church only
- M.Ed. in Special Education – Falls Church only
- M.Ed. in Administration & Supervision – Falls Church, Richmond, and Hampton Roads
- M.Ed. in Reading Education – Roanoke, Abingdon, Falls Church, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.
One major benefit of Curry’s return to offering off-Grounds programs is the ability to develop new off-Grounds programs, including programs that are developed around the needs of local regions or school divisions—even those beyond the five U.Va. regional centers. “Curry will be able to innovate and broaden its impact in the field, and to be more responsive to emerging needs among Virginia’s schools and school divisions,” Hampton says.
As the programs expand many more potential future alumni will likely agree with Sgroi: “I am now in my fifth year of teaching, and I honestly wake up every morning looking forward to seeing my students,” she says. “Even though it is incredibly challenging, I find teaching so very rewarding. I am proud to be a teacher, I am proud to be making a difference in the world, and I am so proud to be a graduate of U.Va.’s Curry School of Education.”