SOE building world-class partnerships

Dr. Cole broadens experience and skillsets of OSE team

Dr. Joshua Cole and Dr. Amanda Hall of the VCU School of Education's Office of Strategic Engagement.
Drs. Joshua Cole and Amanda Hall of the VCU School of
Education's Office of Strategic Engagement.

The VCU School of Education’s Office of Strategic Engagement (OSE) is a resource for regional, national and international partners who want to prepare their educators to work effectively in high needs schools. The OSE team combines unique skillsets and experience to deliver solutions that meet individual needs – and the addition of Dr. Joshua Cole, who joined the team as its executive director in January, will take the office to a new level.

Dr. Cole previously worked for Chesterfield County Public Schools, serving as principal of Ecoff Elementary School for eight years. Prior to that, he taught in rural Michigan, inner-city Detroit, and internationally in Australia, which gives him a unique local-to-global perspective of students, their families, and their communities.

Along with Dr. Amanda Hall, a current assistant director within the university’s Division of Community Engagement, who joined the office in June 2018 as the interim coordinator, the OSE team has national and international experience in teaching and administration, in both urban and suburban areas, from K-12 to higher education.

“I’m really excited about our team. We’ve been in the trenches in the classroom, and we understand the bigger issues that teachers face. We can also easily move from one of these extremes to the other along the educational continuum, which is truly unique,” said Cole.

Hall has overseen the launch of several ongoing initiatives in the office, including Substitute Teaching the VCU Way and the Urban Educator Collaborative Partnership.

Substitute Teaching the VCU Way was created to address the shortage of substitute teachers in the Richmond region, specifically in high-turnover schools. To tackle the problem, the OSE crafted a program that trains VCU students from any discipline to substitute teach in area elementary and secondary schools.

"We've been in the trenches in the classroom, and we understand the bigger issues that teachers face."

Hall said that the program has two important goals.

“Our primary goal was to meet the need for substitute teachers, mainly in high-turnover schools,” she said. “We also wanted to expose university students from a variety of disciplines to our Master of Teaching program, as well as expose them to an education career path, inside or outside of their discipline, that they had not considered before.”

The Urban Educator Collaborative is a three-year teacher development and retention program that offers peer-to-peer professional development and instructional coaching to teachers who are either new to the profession and/or provisionally licensed. Hall said that the program addresses the needs of teachers at a critical time in their careers.

“We know that teachers want to relate to their students, they want to feel supported, and they want to have resources. That’s why we make sure that the relationship between coaches and teachers doesn’t feel punitive. It’s a reciprocal relationship; we’re there for support and growth,” she said.

The OSE is scheduled to launch VCU’s first annual U.S. PK-20 Program in April, which will provide high quality instruction and field-based observation to students from China, focusing on the U.S. educational system from early childhood to higher education. Students will be offered four weeks of intensive training combined with full-day pre-K12 classroom observations and weekly cultural experiences. The OSE will manage much of the logistical support for the project and is eager to be a part of the initiative.

“We’re building a world-class pipeline of professional training and development, so that people know they have a source for that type of support when it comes to urban and high needs schools. These programs enable us to meet people where they are, whether it’s in the Richmond area or internationally,” Cole said.