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VSU education students visit Winchester schools

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Randi B. Hagi
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Virginia State University education majors toured several classrooms at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, where students receive half of their instruction in Spanish.

Education majors from Virginia State University in Petersburg toured Winchester Public Schools on Friday. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Around two dozen VSU students spent the day in Winchester talking with teachers and administrators and checking out classrooms, including a few at Frederick Douglass Elementary.

[small students talking in the hall]

COLLEGE STUDENT: Oh, they're so little!

The visit was part of the school district's recruitment efforts towards a more diverse faculty. VSU is a historically Black university in Petersburg, and one of the actions outlined in Winchester's strategic plan is to, [quote] "foster and secure pipelines with universities and other agencies for diverse teaching candidates."

According to a Winchester Star article from last November, about 84% of Winchester's school administrators and teachers are white.

Frederick Douglass Elementary, though, prides itself on providing a multicultural experience – preschoolers through fourth graders receive dual language instruction. About half of their staff is comprised of native Spanish speakers, including ESOL teacher Samuel Chavez.

SAMUEL CHAVEZ: Can you guys say "hello" in Spanish to them?

SECOND GRADERS: ¡Hola!

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Randi B. Hagi
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Jasmine Dailey, left, and Jayla West are both seniors at VSU.

Jayla West, a VSU senior who's studying middle school math education, especially enjoyed talking to the teachers on Friday.

JAYLA WEST: They were very willingly answering our questions and just giving us insight on their first year compared to now, so I think that was the highlight for me.

Senior Jasmine Dailey is studying to become a high school history teacher. She's not sure yet where she wants to work.

JASMINE DAILEY: I was thinking about Richmond Public Schools, and/or Winchester Public Schools, because both of them sound like great opportunities, but I also want to be able to give back to my community, which is RPS students.

VSU has offered teacher education since it was founded in 1882.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.