Dr. Cheresa Simpson, Program Director and Coordinator, M.A. Teacher Leadership in Curriculum & Instruction at Gardner-Webb University, SC

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Cheresa Simpson, Program Director and Coordinator, M.A. Teacher Leadership in Curriculum & Instruction

What programs do you teach at Gardner-Webb University? What drew you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?

I am the program coordinator for the Master’s of Teacher Leadership in Curriculum and Instruction. I am qualified to teach all of the courses in this program, however, I mostly teach at least one section of the first course offered and titled, Philosophy, History, and Methodology of Curriculum and Instruction for teacher Leaders (with various concentrations) so that I may get to know our newest candidates and be of assistance as they begin a new journey.

I have been in education for over 20 years now, and like so many educators, I hold the story of always wanting to be a teacher since childhood due to being inspired of some of my very own childhood teachers. After teaching in K-12, I soon realized I wanted to make an impact exponentially by becoming a teacher educator.

The continuum in meeting phenomenal in-service teachers and the excitement pre-service teachers bring to the classroom are two things that really keep me most excited about the field and my profession!

How will your program better prepare/equip educators for the current climate we’re in, specifically with COVID-19 and the move to online/hybrid learning?

The professional and emotional support our instructors are providing the candidates in this program is not only preparing them to become better teachers and colleagues, but also equipping them with self-care strategies so that they are able to cope with the overwhelming demands that so many teachers are currently facing.

This program was offered completely asynchronously online prior to COVID-19, so nothing changed regarding the method of learning. However, we are focusing on reaching out to our candidates remotely in small groups and individually to provide as much support as needed during these times as they are currently teaching, studying, and supporting their own family and children in many facets. This is a bonus that other teachers not in our graduate program may not be receiving.

What attracted you to Gardner-Webb University to teach at? What sets them apart?

Gardner-Webb University is a faith-based university and the ability to be able to publicly acknowledge a higher power to seek guidance would probably be the most important thing that attracted me. With this, so many of our programs encourage our candidates to emerge themselves in positive service-oriented programs and community projects to make a long-lasting impact across the globe while enrolled and beyond graduation.

What really sets Gardner-Webb University apart is the genuine authenticity of the faculty and staff towards assisting and encouraging every candidate and each other to walk into their greatness. The support I receive from my colleagues as we work for our candidates’ greatness has been some of the best I have ever received from any place of employment.

What is your professional background (including degrees) as an educator?

I am a former elementary teacher who taught grades: kindergarten, fourth, and fifth. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, I later earned a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in elementary.

I served as a Director of Recruitment and Advisement for five years, recruiting and advising education degree-seeking majors and licensure candidates while serving as an adjunct teaching diversity education courses.

Soon after, I was determined to impact the field of education as much as possible by becoming a full-time teacher educator focusing on leadership. Therefore, I pursued and received a Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies with a concentration in Multicultural Education in 2010. I have been fulfilling this goal of preparing teachers and teachers as leaders ever since.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you become interested in education?

I am probably one of the most extroverted, creative, and service-oriented people anyone would ever meet. I believe that we are all at a particular point and place at that time for a reason, even if we ourselves are unsure why. With that being said, I believe the paths crossed for me to become a teacher first, teacher educator, and teacher leader in order to impact as many educators as teachers and candidates in an effort to exponentially impact so many K-12 children has been one of the most self-rewarding accomplishments in my life.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher in elementary school. I did not realize I wanted to become a teacher educator and teacher leader until after teaching for a few years and wanting to affect more lives in a year than just one classroom at a time. Teaching in higher education causes an exponent of impact to the highest degree.

What would you tell prospective candidates considering your program about yourself? What’s something that candidates and colleagues should know about you?

I would tell all prospective candidates considering this program that I too followed this same path of being a teacher and receiving a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction. The empathy I have for them because I have been down the same exact road is a great benefit! I understand the role as an in-service teacher as well as the role of being a graduate candidate in a curriculum and instruction program. I get it!

Most know that I am very free-spirited and always willing to assist both candidates and colleagues professionally and personally. I believe in work-life (and school) balance as well as self-care. Work, life, and school all affect each other. Many candidates and colleagues struggle with this and I am always willing to help them in this area.

What advice do you have for candidates interested in pursuing their teacher leadership degree? How can people stand out in this field?

I believe the most beneficial advice I can give candidates pursuing their teacher leadership degree is to surround themselves with as many positive teacher leaders currently in the field. The experiences they will be afforded will provide them with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to want to become a part of the impact. The impact may include both enhancing what they are already a part of and being the change they wish to see.

I believe the teacher leaders that most stand out in this field are those with the innovative ideas and are not afraid to present and try the creativity that is flowing within. The professionals who are constantly searching for how to do things differently and who do not become content and complacent with the schooling process are the ones who stand out in the field.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would share that the courses in our program create the best, well-diverse teacher leader in the profession! The required practicum component in the last three courses provides each candidate with real-life experiences of being a teacher leader. These experiences generate and influence them with eagerness to become the best teacher leader that can be produced!