‘Leaders with vision make it so’

Augusta University reaching out to area school districts to see how it can help

For centuries, governments have reached out to spread around state-of-the-art agricultural practices like so much intellectual fertilizer – in modernity, through Extension Services often run out of universities.


Well, Augusta University’s College of Education is using a similar approach to till the field in education.

One shining example is the department’s outreach to Wrens Middle School.

As we noted last week, the school’s Junior Beta Club recently brought home a national Beta championship in robotics, after constructing a fully functioning robot from scratch.

But it’s going to get even better.

At AU’s invitation, Wrens has accepted the university’s help in implementing an integrated “STEAM” curriculum – covering various subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics.

It’s part of a regional outreach philosophy under the direction of Zach Kelehear, dean of AU’s College of Education. He calls it their “commitment to being responsive and relevant to the needs of the CSRA school districts as the college seeks to prepare innovative and inspiring teachers who are prepared to offer rich and relevant content to children.”

Indeed, AU is helping Wrens Middle School teachers become STEAM certified at no cost to the teachers – and is even taking the program to Wrens so the teachers who live in rural areas can get to the training easily.

The university had hired Dr. Ashley Gess, who Kelehear says received a Ph.D. in Integrative STEAM Education from Virginia Tech University.

“She immediately traveled to districts in the CSRA to assess the needs and interests” of area education leaders,” Kelehear said. It just so happens Jefferson County’s Dr. Molly Howard was among the first to jump at the chance to partner with AU.

“Our college and university responded immediately,” Kelehear added, “so that we might take our university out to Jefferson County and work with the teachers in their schools, in their communities.

“What is remarkable is that in a day when public schools are often criticized for not being relevant or effective, there are actually some excitingly effective and relevant things happening – because leaders with vision make it so. …

“We plan to ride the crest of the cyber tsunami on the platform of innovative, inspiring and responsive teachers for all children.”

This is truly exciting stuff. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Augusta University and the state’s other colleges and universities offer to the entire region. Classrooms aren’t the only place where learning happens.

Kudos to Kelehear and his charges – and for Dr. Howard in Jefferson County for seeing the no-lose situation for her school district.

It’s a wry old dig at government to joke, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

In this case, nothing could be truer.



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