A scholarship a half century in the making, the School of Education’s 50th anniversary award is already paying dividends for one student in VCU’s Richmond Teacher Residency (RTR) program.
Luke Evancoe, a former Marine currently pursuing a Master of Teaching degree in biology education, was selected as the inaugural recipient of the newly-founded 50th Anniversary Urban Education Scholarship earlier this year.
“The director of recruitment and student affairs for Richmond Teacher Residency, Ann Cherry, always encouraged us to look for scholarships through the VCU School of Education that we qualified for,” Evancoe said. “The urban education one just hit the nail on the head for me — I like the sense of community you get from living and working in the city, and wanted to be a positive influence for the kids growing up here.”
After calling time on his nearly five-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he rose to the rank of sergeant, Evancoe moved to Richmond to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology from VCU.
While finishing his undergraduate work, Evancoe volunteered at John Marshall High School and Richmond Community High School, doing both full classroom work as well as closely mentoring a pair of assigned students — experiences Evancoe claims helped steer him toward a career in education.
“I like the sense of community you get from living and working in the city, and wanted to be a positive influence for the kids growing up here.”
“I was doing things like creating assignments and grading them, working in Blackboard and helping with labs and lectures,” Evancoe said. “It was really my first time getting my feet wet in education and I found it was a challenging but fulfilling experience.”
Likewise, Evancoe also credits his time in the military with teaching him about leadership.
“As a squad leader, I showed the younger men how to do their jobs as a Marine — teaching intangible things like discipline and attention to detail,” Evancoe said. “It may be different than teaching biology, but the essence is the same.”
Now, Evancoe finds himself back in the role of mentee, thanks to the unique format of RTR. The program pairs residents with an experienced Richmond Public Schools teacher, with whom they meet with and teach alongside four to five days a week.
Evancoe, who is completing his student teaching at Franklin Military Academy in the city’s East End, has been paired with Matt Wester, the school’s lead science teacher and a 2013 Richmond Teacher of the Year finalist.
“Matt has been great to learn from,” Evancoe said. “He has very refined lesson plans and a very refined management style. Everyone is different as a teacher, though, so I hope to be able to pick up some of these things from him, and form them into my own version.”
Founded as part of the School of Education’s anniversary celebrations last academic year, the 50th Anniversary Urban Education Scholarship supports promising students pursuing careers that improve educational opportunities in high-need environments.
“Many of our students work full-time jobs in addition to their coursework, so the opportunity for additional support through scholarships is critically important to them,” Dr. Diane Simon, senior associate dean for student affairs, said. “We are fortunate to have donors who provide this much-needed assistance for our students.”
For Evancoe, however, the scholarship is about more than just financial assistance – it also represents a sense of community.
“The monetary aspect is very helpful, and I’m very grateful for that – we all know how high student loans can get,” he said.
“But beyond that, receiving the scholarship really made me feel appreciated. There was a nice ceremony where I was presented with the award, and it felt like the whole School of Education came out to attend. It was a really great start to my M.T. program — I really felt at home.”