When a social media campaign focused on Longwood alums who are teachers went viral last August, staff in Alumni and Career Services knew they were onto something.
Partnering with Admissions, they had planned to give out “cheer kits” filled with Longwood swag to the first 100 teachers who agreed to use it to decorate their classrooms. In less than 24 hours, 500 teachers had signed up, and 600 boxes of swag eventually were shipped.
After the cheer kit tsunami, Alumni and Career Services staff started thinking about creating alumni communities anchored in shared careers. Educators were the obvious choice for a pilot program.
In November, Longwood alumni and education faculty celebrated Alumni Educators Appreciation Week, which started with five days of sharing memories on social media and concluded with a daylong We Teach to Enlighten summit on campus exploring trends in education. Plans are already in the works to do it again next year.
The social media activities were organized by Ashley Jones ’12, assistant director of engagement communication, and Amber Litchford ’17, program specialist for alumni engagement. Alumni teachers shared memories of their mentors (#MentorMonday), were given a virtual campus tour (#TuneinTuesday), provided updates on their careers and how Longwood prepared them (#WhereWednesday), submitted their favorite stories and photographs from their Longwood days (#ThrowbackThursday) and showed off their Longwood spirit by wearing Longwood gear (#FabuLoUsFriday). The activities generated an overwhelming response on social media.
About 75 educators participated in the on-campus summit, which included a panel discussion on combating the teacher shortage in rural Virginia that was moderated by Dr. Sarah Tanner-Anderson ’02, M.A. ’07, assistant professor and program director of educational leadership.
“Some of the activities were celebratory while others were more informational,” said Tanner-Anderson. She also led one of the seven roundtable discussions, which involved Longwood faculty members and provided what she called “smaller-scale opportunities, more intimate opportunities to engage.”
“It was an incredible inaugural event—one that has needed to happen,” she said, adding that alumni K-12 teachers who attended earned reaccreditation points.
Members of the panel on the teacher shortage included Dr. Jan Medley ’97, M.S. ’03, principal of Amelia County Middle School; Dr. Martha Eagle, M.S. ’01, superintendent of Nelson County schools and an adjunct in Longwood’s educational leadership program; and Dr. Christopher Jones ’93, M.S. ’94, associate professor and director of special education at Longwood, who led one of the roundtable discussions. Campus tours, including tours of the new Upchurch University Center, also were on the summit’s agenda. “Some alumni hadn’t been back to campus in some time, and they said it looked more unified—and beautiful—than before,” said Tanner-Anderson.
“This was a great beginning that we hope to build on by piloting a digital community for alumni educators and Longwood education students that will give them the opportunity and the mechanism to connect with each other,” said Katie Trammell, associate director for professional communities and operations in Alumni and Career Services.