Spring 2020

Greetings from the Chair

Tom Shields headshot As you are aware, our Graduate Education e-newsletter comes out twice a year — in the fall and the spring. The earlier version of this Graduate Education e-newsletter that was to come out in March looked very different. That version would have highlighted events such as our Graduate Education Speaker Series with author Doug Lemov, our children’s author series with Janet Wong, the culmination of the Next Generation Leadership Academy and many others. It also would have celebrated the work of our incredible graduates and highlight our End-of-the-Year-Party, SPCS Night, and Commencement.

As I write this and reflect on the many events that would have occurred this spring, it is amazing to realize how quickly our lives have been changed and upended due to the coronavirus situation. I’m sure you are doing your best in juggling coursework, careers, caregiving, home-based lessons for children, and concern for loved ones, particularly those who are on the front-lines, who are elderly, who live at the margins of our society or have underlying health conditions. Our collective lives are now governed by Zoom, news updates and the latest measures for social distancing and mask-wearing. In this stressful and anxious time, please know the community of Graduate Education is thinking of you and your family.

I wanted to briefly summarize some of the information that our adjunct faculty and students have received over the past few weeks from the University, SPCS, and programs in Graduate Education.

With the assistance of staff from SPCS and the University’s Faculty Hub, all of our faculty were able to transition spring courses to online and remote learning.

Students who are enrolled in teaching and leadership internship courses have been provided extra assistance to make sure there are sufficient opportunities for them to complete this integral part of their degrees.

Students enrolled in courses this spring semester have the opportunity to choose a Credit/No Credit grading option. If you are a student and want to pursue this possibility, please reach out to me or your program chair. The deadline for making this decision is 5 pm on April 24.

Students who are in the comprehensive exam stage of their programs have received instruction and support to make sure that they are able to complete these culminating degree assignments. We also adapted timelines for students who are piloting portfolios.

The admissions deadline for summer has been extended to May 1 to allow applicants for summer more time to complete their application files, and application fees have been waived.

Our admissions procedures were modified to offer summer and fall applicants more flexibility and offer a complete remote admissions process.

And, finally, we are continuing to monitor and keep abreast of the notifications emanating from the Virginia Department of Education about the need for possible waivers for internship hours and other changes.

As you can see from the above, our chairs, faculty, and staff have been incredibly busy. Looking to the end of the semester, we are still working through many of the challenges that this situation has presented. Here are some items that we are working on.

As we head into the final stretch of the semester, our faculty and staff are working to ensure that students in our Graduate Education programs finish strong and that we accommodate the needs of our students during these difficult times.

For our graduates who were going to walk across the stage in our May commencement exercise, we are sorry that we won’t be together to celebrate this amazing day with you and your families. Please know that SPCS and the University will be providing more updates in the near future about how we will celebrate you and your families.

Many of our Graduate Education students continue to work on classes and their degrees over the summer. Our programs have worked with full-time and adjunct faculty to ensure that all summer courses will be taught online. For students taking summer courses, you should be receiving messages from various sources, including your instructors, about how these courses will be conducted online.

During this time of transition to online and remote learning, Graduate Education faculty and staff continue to seek opportunities to offer appropriate and timely professional development to K-12 educators. For example, this summer we are offering, EDUC 598U Maximizing Student Learning Through Online Instruction. This course will prepare K-12 teachers to design a variety of online learning environments, from 100% distance learning classrooms to supporting in-person instruction with blended tools, resources and strategies. Please be sure to check out this course and other summer professional development offerings for K-12 teachers.

For those who are interested in pursuing a degree or know of someone who would like to advance their career in K-12 education, please visit our admissions page. SPCS has extended our summer application deadline for prospective students to May 1. We have also waived our fees for summer and fall applications.

At this moment, it is heartening to realize how fortunate we are to be part of the community of Spiders. An institution of higher education is more than just a place of learning — it is a caring, loving, and thoughtful community that looks out for all. Yes, this is a spring semester like no other, but it is now when we realize the true meaning of being part of our Spider community.

Be safe and be well!

Tom Shields signature
Tom J. Shields, Ph.D.
Graduate Education Chair