State, Local Leaders Discuss Pressing Concerns at Delta Kappa Gamma Education Panel

Published Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 6:46 pm

By Kaitlan Morehouse

How much do you know about education in North Carolina? Did you know there’s an International Society for Key Women Educators?

The professional society, Delta Kappa Gamma, brought a group of local, regional and state leaders together last week for an important discussion on some of the most crucial issues facing public education in our state.

The Reich College of Education on the campus of Appalachian State played host to the forum, “A Snapshot of Public Education,” on March 17, which featured eight panelists:

  • North Carolina State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson
  • Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliot
  • Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. David Burleson
  • North Carolina Teacher of the Year Keana Triplett
  • Interim Dean of the ASU Reich College of Education Dr. Robin Groce
  • Caldwell Community College Professor Caleb Marsh
  • Watauga Teacher of the Year Allison Sparks
  • Avery Teacher of the Year Michelle Dellinger

Panelists and audience members laughed, cried, learned about the prestigious honors society and a few of its members and heard various perspectives on some of the most challenging concerns in North Carolina’s public school system.

DKG opened the forum to the public, inviting guests to hear straight from these leading practitioners and raising awareness for the issues facing public education in N.C.

Little and Panel

Recent DKG Past President Linda Little opened the program. Each panelist had an opportunity to introduce themselves and their professional experiences, and then had six to eight minutes to answer the following questions:

  1. What are you doing at your level to prepare students to become productive citizens?
  2. What would make it easier for you to reach your goal?

Here’s what they had to say:


Dellinger tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as she talked about her most accomplished students.

“I had students who had no other options. They wanted to be dropouts, and now, they are visiting college campuses.”

She pinpointed the root, in her opinion, of the issues that hinder some of her students in becoming accomplished and productive citizens of tomorrow.

‘What I found over my 25 years among all of the hurtles and road blocks in my students lives, the one roadblock that was keeping them from having hope and having a better future was the ability to read. Not just the ability to read, but the ability to read at their level and to get through the day and their academic forces.”

Dellinger gave the following advice to the audience, current and future teachers and everyone in between.

“I guess what I want to say is don’t let the naysayers break you. Know that everything you do will make a difference,” she emphasized. “Every single effort will make a difference. When you see the big picture, you get smothered. Know that you can do one thing and make a difference for one child.”


Sparks discussed the need to place greater emphasis on parental involvement in the classroom.

“We need to partner with our families,” she said. “We can’t do it without them.”

She also addressed a need for more of the following:

  • Teacher support
  • High Expectations
  • Instructional Mind Growth (Intentional and planned)
  • Writing
  • Social skills
  • Pre-K for all
  • Smaller class sizes
  • An assistant in every room
  • Extra planning time (to help the families involved)

“When you’re one step ahead, it helps,” she said.

“If we are going to send children out into this world, they have got to be communicators.”


Triplett advocated for more parental, community and political support.

“It takes all of us,” She said. “The whole purpose of public education in the first place was to create productive citizens, and when we collaborate together, what a beautiful picture that is.”

She wanted the community to know how deeply the panelists and all educators care for their students and their futures.

“Those meaningful relationships with the students that teach them those soft skills that they need to be productive citizens, to be able to walk out and say, you know, I don’t agree with you, but let’s talk about this.”

Triplett noted that it’s important for teachers to understand each student’s individual circumstances.

“That’s how you make strides in reading, that’s how you make strides in math, that’s how you teach them to write is you meet them where they are, and you take them from there and you give them what they need, whatever that takes.”

She agreed with other panelists that community support, parental involvement and high expectations are important.

She also said:

“Entitlement has been a huge issue in the education field, where a lot of times, we’ve said ‘oh, it’s okay, you don’t have to do this. It’s been a tough day,’ but that’s not the reality of life, and that’s not being a productive citizen. It’s that life is hard, life is tough, and there are trials and tribulations that come your way, and you have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep living life, and that’s the most important thing, I think, that we can teach our students in the classroom and our teachers across the state is that there are tough days, there are days where we don’t feel like we are backed by our legislators…I would challenge community members, parents, universities, community colleges, we’re in silos (a mindset where certain sectors or departments do not wish to share information with others in the same company) in education, and we don’t need to be anymore. It is the 21st century, and it’s time for us to join together and educate our kids united. We are so good at being divisive, but if we could just put an ounce of that energy into uniting our efforts, what an amazing future our children have.”


As a community college math instructor, Marsh quickly pointed out that many students and people in today’s culture rely too heavily on smartphones for tasks like calculating tip, which could easily be done in their heads.

He said that even the community colleges are beginning to reach and engage not only with students, but trying to engage with legislators, stakeholders, parents and other institutions, such as Watauga High School and App State, and, in doing so, the college is discovering new ways for the students to be successful.

He also said, “This college is not just some college in your community, but we are your communities college.”


Groce explained that the best institutions are those that help students grow into model citizens.

“We engage in education as good citizens, nationally and internationally.”

She also spoke of the importance of the four Ls: listening, learning, loving and laughing.

She expressed her appreciation for the hardworking people behind the ASU College of Education:

  • Peacock, who listened to the needs of international student teaching.
  • The alumni, who generally love this institution.
  • The staff and faculty, many of whom were in attendance, who are really engaged in what do at the community level and beyond, nationally and internationally.
  • The reading faculty and reading clinic, who serve the community and is a model for the state and national for reading instruction
  • The graduate program – “We’ve responded in a drop in enrollment in our graduate programs and is going to pick back up because we have demonstrated a graduate education in teaching is important and valuable and can lead to other opportunities,” Dr. Groce said.
  • The administrators, who sponsor events for faculty, staff and students and listen and respond with necessary funding
  • The public school administrators who meet with each other to talk about administrative issues


Dr. Elliot used his perspective to tell the audience a little bit about what he thinks as he goes about his position in Public Education and spoke to what he thinks we should do to encourage our students to grow and be good citizens.

He told the audience that he always remembers and uses the quote, “Someone in this room thinks that what you do is more important than someone else, and someone in this room thinks that what you do is less important than someone else, and it is my job to remind you that both of you are wrong that everyone’s job is important.”

He said that he thinks about three ideas in his role:

  • Creating the right organizational conditions for great people to do great things by listening and empowering teachers, such as Sparks
  • Being an advocate and cheerleader and telling the truth about what is done and said
  • Helping to frame a perspective for the students, teachers and community members, such as teaching leadership and the importance of it at any and all levels

“Public education is what holds us together,” He said. “It’s what sets us apart from other countries where we are going and spending billions of dollars.”


Dr. Burleson started off with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “For a nation to be ignorant and free is something that never was and never will be.”

He spoke on what a small, rural school can do to get students ready for the world.

“The first thing we do is we jump start early. We got to get our students on an equal playing field.”

He discussed the significance of Avery County’s mobile PreK program, and agreed with other panelists that more attention should be paid to developing fundamental reading skills.

“If a child can’t read, they can’t read fill-in-the-blank.”

He noted his school system’s effort to do just that, which includes a partnership with the App State reading lab and the fact that more than 40 of its teachers hold reading specialist or master’s degrees.

“We believe in reading,” he said.

He spoke about new programs, like robotics competitions, and noted that North Carolina should be hiring the best and brightest teachers and paying them adequately.


Dr. Atkinson spoke on her hopes and dreams for education in North Carolina.

She used the story of a first-grader named London that she met on a bus ride as an example for every student in the state.

“London really exemplifies what I want to happen to every student in NC. I want London to continue to love to learn. I want London to have great teachers. I want London to be among the 100 percent graduation rate.”

She noted that the graduation rate reached a high last year, increasing from 68 percent in 2004 to 86 percent.

“I want London to have personalized learning so that she can be among the students who get college credit while she’s still in school.”

In last year’s graduating class, she noted that 35 percent of students earned a diploma with college credits under their belts.

“I want London to have access to technology so that she can solve problems that we don’t even know exist today. I want London to keep that creative and problem-solving spirit.”

To get to that point, it takes quality teachers, she said.

“We need to continue on our journey to make sure our teachers are treated as professionals and get the support they need,” Atkinson said. “My hope and my dream is that as we travel there will be billboards everywhere saying, “Thank you public education for what you do for our children.”

About DKG:

Delta Kappa Gamma is a professional honors society of key women educators in the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America and Japan.

Its mission is to promote professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education, and its vision is to lead women educators to impact education worldwide.

Established in 1929 by 12 women who were inspired to unite, recognize and help advance women educators, DKG provides quality professional and personal growth opportunities for women educators, which include leadership development.

2011-13 DKG Eta President Linda Little

“Dr. Annie Webb Blanton, our founder, established herself as a strong believer in equal rights for women,” Little said.

DKG has involvement with the United Nations, specifically UNICEF and the schools for Africa project, Fulbright Association – bring promising young women in from developing countries to universities in the US and Canada so that they can go back to their own countries and make significant contributions to society – and special projects including forums on legislative issues.

“A key purpose of Delta Kappa Gamma [is] we are to inform members of current economic, social, political and educational so that they may participate – and this is a key word – effectively in world society,” said Little.

Dr. Lyn B. Schmid is the International President and Sheila Groves is the President of the North Carolina Chapter Eta.

“This chapter worked diligently to pull this together, and we are so appreciative of their efforts. We are honored to have other guests – besides you all – our North Carolina State President Sheila Groves, and other members who are guests – again besides you all – Jay Fenwick from Watauga Board of Education and County Commissioners Billy Kennedy and John Welch, “ said Linda Little, the 2011-13 past president of the NC Eta chapter of DKG.

Phipps is hoping that other chapters of DKG will hear how successful the forum was and have one of its own.


Phipps and panel

Some Delta Kappa Gamma Members


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