Voices from Vance: How Opportunity Culture Is Working for One N.C. District

by | January 25, 2019

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, January 25, 2019

What do teachers, multi-classroom leaders, and administrators think about Opportunity Culture? In Vance County, a school district north of Raleigh on the North Carolina-Virginia border, their feelings about Opportunity Culture reflect the district’s motto: Vance County Proud.

I spent a day last week interviewing at various schools in Vance, accompanied by my colleagues Beverley Tyndall and Paola Gilliam. With Beverley’s camera rolling, educators told us repeatedly: We love Opportunity Culture, and it’s the best thing to have happened to our school and district.

As we put together a video, here’s a sneak preview of some of what we heard!

Casey Jackson, multi-classroom leader (above): “I saw Opportunity Culture advertised on Vance County and I was like, that is me, that’s exactly what I want to do.  It’s the best of both worlds—I get to work with students, I get to work with teachers, and administration. I chose Vance especially for the Opportunity Culture.”

Sharonda Bullock, multi-classroom leader: “Opportunity Culture is just changing the culture of the school and providing opportunities not just for the kids, but for everybody.”

Dr. Anthony Jackson, superintendent (above): “For us, in Vance County, innovation does not need permission. … We’re talking about ensuring that we provide personalized voice for children; I, as the leader, want to make sure that we’re providing personalized voice for our professionals, so that they have multiple pathways to grow, multiple pathways to teach, multiple pathways to meet the needs of our children.  If we can create that environment, we know that the majority of our kids are going to be successful—they deserve it, our teachers deserve the support, our children deserve the instruction.”

Willonda Cates, expanded-impact teacher: “I love Opportunity Culture because it gives me a chance to impact more children.  I feel like I’m involving myself with them not just academically, but I’m building better relationships with my student body.”

Kristen Boyd, principal: “I’ll be completely honest, I was very hesitant…but the more and more I’m into this work, Opportunity Culture really is the best thing that’s ever happened to this elementary school. …I mean, the teachers are taking off, from veteran teachers to first- year teachers. I’ve got a teacher that’s been teaching over thirty years and I didn’t know how she would feel about being coached—she’s embraced it and loves it. So it’s making a big difference.”

Cheryl Jones, expanded-impact teacher: “I think the teachers are very, very satisfied with the Opportunity Culture because it gives us an opportunity to work together; it gives us time in our schedules to work together, to collaborate. … You can see [students] begin to believe in themselves because they have so many people supporting them and believing in them, and then they’re setting goals and making strides to be successful and reaching those goals. So the students are motivated; they’re developing a mindset that they can grow.”

Carnetta Thomas, principal (above): “I love it, I just can’t express enough about Opportunity Culture.  It is the best thing that has ever happened to L.B. Yancey [Elementary School]. I cannot express how my kids love coming to school.”

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