Staff: Sarah Sconyers | Beaufort County Now | Sarah Sconyers worked as a teacher for 12 years, laying the foundation as students planned for college or careers.

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Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Ken Buday.

Photos: Rhett Butler

    Sarah Sconyers worked as a teacher for 12 years, laying the foundation as students planned for college or careers.

    "In that time, only a handful of students expressed an interest in becoming teachers themselves," Sconyers said. "Good teachers are so important to our collective future and to the success of each individual student."

Sarah Sconyers works on a training video in her office in Speight.
    In East Carolina University's College of Education, Sconyers serves a key role in helping prepare future teachers. She came to ECU two years ago to work as the college's coordinator for edTPA, the portfolio process that students must complete successfully to become licensed teachers in North Carolina.

    "I was drawn to ECU's history as a teaching college, the reputation of the educator preparation program in the state and ECU's commitment to regional service," she said. "I met some great faculty members during the interview process, and when my husband and I visited campus, I could immediately picture myself here."

    She grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City.

    "I remember lots of playing outside until the streetlights came on, making bike ramps, roller-skating, playing freeze tag, walking to the library - that sort of thing," she said. "I'd go fishing with my dad or we'd go hiking as a family or visit the local nature center on weekends."

    She was working toward a degree in international studies at Cedarville University in Ohio when she volunteered to teach English to immigrant families and decided to add a minor in teaching English as a second language.

    "That really ignited my passion for teaching," Sconyers said.

    She taught English overseas and later moved to North Carolina, completed a master's degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and obtained a teaching license in 2007, embarking on a career in education. She became a National Board Certified Teacher before the opportunity to help future teachers brought her to ECU.

    "I know how inspirational it was for me, as a veteran teacher, to see enthusiastic new teachers enter the field, bringing energy and fresh ideas," Sconyers said. "I have known many amazing first-year teachers who positively impacted their students from day one, and I have seen the difference those teachers have made in the lives of their students, students' families and colleagues. So, watching our candidates graduate and become teachers makes me incredibly hopeful both for them and their future students."

    The edTPA assessment is complex process involving reports, assessment of classroom teaching and videos that highlight a teaching student's abilities in the classroom. Sconyers helps hundreds of students each year as well as faculty in the College of Education understand the nuances and requirements of the assessment. She created a library of videos and instructional materials for faculty and students to help with the process, provides technical support to students, tracks their submissions, analyzes score reports, disseminates those results to faculty and ensures records are up to date. The pandemic only complicated matters.

    "When COVID-19 forced many of our candidates to teach in virtual or hybrid environments, I worked to create webinars, videos and instructional guides on completing edTPA in a virtual classroom, and worked with individual candidates to make sure they could complete the assessment in their virtual context," Sconyers said. "Completing edTPA virtually due to COVID was definitely a huge challenge this past year, for candidates, for faculty and for our office. It took a lot of collaboration and communication to coordinate all the moving pieces."

    Working in the Office of Assessment, Data Management and Digital Learning (OADD), Sconyers also has a role in the college's upcoming Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accreditation report. The team is working to compile and analyze data, produce written narratives on the program's partnerships, initiatives and improvement efforts, and prepare for an in-person visit from accreditors.

    "It's been a lot of work, but as a relatively new addition to the COE, it has helped broaden and deepen my understanding of the work happening across the Educator Preparation Program," she said.

    Despite the hard work, she takes joy from working with her OADD colleagues.

    "We get a lot done each day and we have a good time doing it, even while teleworking this past year. Our meme and GIF game is strong," she said. "I also get to be creative, which I love. Making videos, designing materials, putting together presentations and virtual courses, learning new software - I feel like I'm always learning or applying some new skill."

    Sconyers said she finds inspiration from scripture and her parents.

    "They are both creative people with tremendous work ethics," she said. "I strive to live up to the example they have set for me."

    She also draws inspiration from her former students and the ones she helps every day at ECU.

    "They are the reason I am in this field," she said. "Seeing how they are contributing to the world and what they are making of themselves renews my commitment to education every day."


QUICK QUIZ

    First job: I worked in a warehouse at a local publishing company in Kansas City, fulfilling and packing orders. I also worked special exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and worked some summers at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.

    Guilty pleasure: Staying in my PJs until noon while reading a book or binge-watching a good show.

    Favorite meal: That's a toss-up between my mom's pineapple chicken and my dad's lasagna.

    Last thing I watched on TV: I love travel shows, so I just finished watching a series on Netflix about interesting vacation rentals. And we always have time for some classic "Dr. Who."
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