Substitute teaching helps doctoral student find his calling

Alfred Vann poses for a picture on the steps of his home.

After completing his undergraduate degree in urban planning, Alfred Vann II fully intended to go to law school and pursue a career as an attorney. Working part time as a substitute teacher in the Richmond and St. Louis public school systems, however, changed all that. His experience in the classroom showed him that “true impact is made on the front end, in education.”

“If we can’t strengthen the foundation of how we’re approaching students’ education, they’ll never have the resources to transition from their current situation to a place where they are stable and independent,” Vann said.

As a result, Vann’s career path steered him toward the VCU School of Education, where he is currently an Ed.D. student in the Department of Educational Leadership.

“I feel like I fit at the VCU School of Education,” Vann said. “Here, I have the opportunity to hone my skills, improve my own capacity to be an effective leader and to make a difference through my work in the community.”

In addition to his coursework, Vann also works as a senior social worker for Richmond Public Schools. Recently, his determination and hard work earned him the Mary Ann Wright Scholarship. Seeing a need for more efficient education models in the state, Vann hopes to do consulting work or become a university administrator after graduation.

In particular, Vann sees young boys in urban communities as an underserved population, an issue he’d like to help address.

“All these boys have a story to tell and nobody really takes the time to listen,” Vann said. “Part of moving forward is helping them navigate their own circumstance and shape their personal story so they can have some authority and governance over their future.”