Virginia Ed Strategies

School of Professional & Continuing Education (SPCE)
Pictured from left to right: Sandy Wilborne, Darla Edwards, Carol Fleming, Jennifer Stevens, Melissa M. Lubin, and Amanda Adams.

We love our newest partner, Virginia Ed Strategies, and all they are doing around the state for children and teachers! Here is a conversation with Executive Director, Jennifer Stevens. 

How long have you been an affiliate organization with PCE?

Almost 2 years.

If you could describe your organization’s purpose and what it provides for the community in three sentences or less, how would you describe it?

Virginia Ed Strategies, in collaboration with K-12, business, and community stakeholders, develops and implements innovative best practices to align education with employer needs and assist schools in improving academic and career outcomes for students. 

What is your geographical scope of your organization?

Entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

How do you see your organization benefitting from your partnership with JMU? What strengths and opportunities do you see within that partnership?

As a nonprofit affiliated with a major university, we have the best of both worlds – independence to set and follow our own agenda while benefiting from the resources and credibility of one of the best institutions of higher education in the nation. Our role in addressing the challenges of K-12 education and employer needs is consistent with the research and outreach roles of JMU, and our work is being strengthened by our connection with the university. 

How have you seen your organization succeed, adapt, and/or grow over the past year?

Not unlike others, Virginia Ed Strategies has had to pivot with the ever-evolving impacts of COVID-19, but our ability to adapt to a negative situation has fortunately resulted in a number of positive outcomes for our organization. Despite the major changes in the way students are being taught around the Commonwealth, the Rural Math Innovation Network (RMIN) is still going strong – in fact, we announced its expansion this past summer and have extended the i3 grant into 2021 to assist math teachers all over the state as they collaborate in this virtual network to solve their OWN problems of practice! Participating teachers' immediate concern is with improving student engagement during remote instruction, so they are engaging with professional development and resources geared toward virtual learning like Bitmoji classroom, Pear Deck for Google Slides, and Jamboard, among others.

Northram_and_VAEdStrategies.pngWhen Governor Northam closed schools in March, we immediately began considering how our team could best assist K-12 divisions statewide, and it did not take us long to recognize that the work we had been doing for the past three years in RMIN had prepared us well to be a partner for the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) and its members. By mid-April, VASS and Virginia Ed Strategies began offering a series of virtual events on COVID-19-related topics, allowing school superintendents to gain new information from experts and discuss with one another in private breakout sessions.

Tell us about one recent (within the past 1.5-2 years) accomplishment that you wish to highlight.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Ed Strategies announced on February 10, 2021 that the nonprofit has been awarded an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $10.8 million over the next five years. Grant funds will support the creation of the Professional Learning by Choice Community or CHOICE as the organization has named the project. CHOICE will allow for teacher-directed professional development opportunities for up to 2,100 secondary science, mathematics, and computer science teachers across the Commonwealth. The ultimate goal of the CHOICE community is to produce a cadre of highly-effective teachers, the vast majority of whom teach in rural school settings, who will build school-, division-, region-, and state-level capacity in a variety of learning environments (traditional, virtual, hybrid, etc.) and demonstrate a positive, sustained impact on student learning and achievement.

How do you see your partnership with PCE growing and evolving even more over the next few years?

We believe that we will be able to support PCE with expanding its youth programming farther out into the state by offering more virtual sessions as well as in-person camps and activities through our partners. We would also plan to continue conversations with Kai about the DACUM analysis for businesses who need it. In addition, the CHOICE grant may offer opportunity for PCE to provide new training for teachers in Virginia who will have the funds from the grant to pay for it.

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Published: Thursday, April 1, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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