Kathy Paschall, M.Ed. ’13 hoisted herself onto a tabletop in the back of a Richmond classroom last spring and pointed to a makeshift solar system taped to the wall.
“Why do they call Venus Earth’s twin?” the teaching intern asked, pointing at one of the planets.
“Because they are about the same size,” a high school student answered confidently.
Less than a mile from Paschall’s earth science class at George Wythe High School, Tally Botzer ’08, M.Ed. ’13 gathered a group of third-graders at Swansboro Elementary to read about Helen Keller.
Spring semester, Paschall and Botzer were pursuing master’s degrees in education from the University of Mary Washington and completing teaching internships in the Richmond public schools as part of the Ukrop’s Fellowship Program. Botzer completed a master’s degree in May; Paschall got a teaching certificate in May and plans to graduate in December.
As the first two Ukrop’s Fellows, the graduate students were in the classroom every day, honing their teaching skills.
The Ukrop’s Fellowship helps ensure that Richmond schools hire and retain the best-prepared teachers. The initiative, supported by Ukrop’s Endowment Fund of the Rappahannock Region Foundation, funded the UMW graduate students’ academic credits, instructional materials, and living expenses.
“The Ukrop’s Fellowship provides support for UMW College of Education teacher candidates who plan to develop their careers in urban schools,” said Mary Gendernalik-Cooper, dean of the College of Education. “You can’t get a better match of goals and strategy.”
The fellowship provided real-world applications to Paschall’s academic studies.
“The setup of the master’s curriculum is brilliant,” said Paschall, who has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech. “The process of going from courses to practicum experiences to the internship has been the biggest component of my success in the program.”
“The process of going from courses to practicum experiences to the internship has been the biggest component of
my success in the program.” – Kathy Paschall
Latoya Toms, the lead teacher in Paschall’s class at George Wythe, said the fellowship also benefited her high school students. With Paschall in the classroom, she said, students became more engaged, and their grades improved. “She is so insightful and very energetic − she brings life to the classroom.”
Jim Ukrop, a fund administrator and former chairman of the Richmond-based Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc., attended Swansboro Elementary when he was a child.
“He is very clearly passionate about making Richmond a place where people really want to live,” Botzer said. “He’s smart – he knows that people want to live where there are good schools. And good schools don’t exist without good teachers.”
The Ukrop’s Fellowship aims to help Richmond become one of the nation’s premier urban school systems, and Ukrop thought UMW students should be a part of that.
“The University of Mary Washington has helped produce many gifted educators, so we jumped at the opportunity to partner with UMW to develop a program that prepares teachers for success in an urban public school setting,” Ukrop said. “The program helps the Fellows to successfully meet the special challenges of urban school settings. At the same time, we hope the program will inspire these talented, well-prepared future teachers to live and work in the city of Richmond after they graduate.”
Botzer received a UMW bachelor’s degree in English in 2008. She worked as a copy editor before she volunteered as an assistant to an English teacher in Costa Rica. She was nervous at first, but she soon realized that she belonged in an elementary classroom.
Botzer’s UMW education and the fellowship have launched her career. She has accepted a full-time teaching position at Swansboro Elementary starting this fall.
“I want these students to succeed, and I tell them that I expect them to succeed,” she said of her Swansboro pupils. “Even something as simple as that can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Every student deserves an excellent education, and where better to start than in the heart of Virginia?”