Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2011
Davidson County Community College News Service
Andrea Packer’s former instructors and current employers at Davidson County Community College describe her as goal-oriented, self-directed, and a “lifesaver.”
As a teacher assistant in the Early Childhood Education department, Packer gets paid to do what she loves — help guide and instruct students who, like her, want to teach young people.
Studying to be an elementary school teacher, Packer attends classes on DCCC’s Davidson Campus where she is enrolled full-time in Catawba College’s baccalaureate degree program in education.
While a DCCC student, the 20-year-old Thomasville resident won the DCCC Presidential Scholarship and graduated with honors in May 2010 with a degree in early childhood education.
Packer began working toward her four-year degree from Catawba in August 2010. Her classes on the Davidson Campus take place from 6 to 9:45 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The accelerated schedule allows students to complete one Catawba class each month, and tuition is comparable to that of state-supported colleges, although Catawba is a private college. Financial aid is also available.
In addition to Catawba classes, Packer works 29 hours a week as a teaching assistant for instructors in the DCCC Early Childhood Education program. She is buying a house that she shares with her younger brother, a freshman at DCCC.
Her accomplishments at such a young age, combined with her high energy, enthusiasm and creativity are greatly appreciated by several full-time faculty members, six part-time adjuncts and the DCCC students she tutors, said Jody Lawrence, associate dean for the DCCC School of Arts, Sciences and Education.
Lawrence supervised Packer’s internship at the DCCC Child Development Center and was impressed by her intelligence, motivation, patience and professionalism.
“She is our lifesaver on many days,” said Lawrence, who praised Packer for helping plan and organize logistics for a statewide conference at DCCC March 24-25 that is expected to draw 100 early childhood educators from community colleges across the state.
Packer said teaching has been her goal since she was a child growing up in Pennsylvania. Due to the convenience of earning her undergraduate degree without leaving the DCCC campus, she also plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching from Salem College. Salem’s teacher education classes are also offered on the Davidson Campus.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher since the third grade,” said Packer. “I want to be the best teacher I can be. The instructors in the early childhood program cultivated and developed that interest. Now that I’m working for them, I am learning even more but they also feel like a part of my family.”
Packer said she likes the convenience of leaving her teaching assistant’s job in one DCCC building and walking only steps to her Catawba classes in another building where she is taking history, education and statistics.
As a teenager, she moved with her parents, Lester and Dawn Packer, to Thomasville, where she was homeschooled through high school graduation. While being homeschooled, she attended a few college classes at DCCC where she immediately clicked with the Early Childhood Education curriculum.
At DCCC, Packer enjoyed combining the concepts she learned in the classroom in real-life settings with children under the supervision of her instructors. Her course work included childhood growth and development, the physical and nutritional needs of children, the supervision and care of children and communication skills with parents and children.
Now, as she tutors other students in the same curriculum, she is certain teaching is her dream profession. “I love the light bulb moments when a student finally gets something you are trying to explain,” she said. “That’s what you aim for; that’s what it’s all about. I can’t believe that I get to do something I love this much for the rest of my life,” she said.
She anticipates a December 2011 graduation from Catawba where she will earn a bachelor of arts degree in education and She anticipates a master of arts degree in teaching from Salem College in 2014.
“I have full confidence that not only will she finish her bachelor and master’s degrees, but that she will someday pursue her doctoral degree,” said Lawrence. “She is one of the most outstanding students I have had in all my years of teaching.”
The following bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees are offered on DCCC’s Davidson Campus through partnerships with Catawba and Salem Colleges.
• Bachelor of arts in birth-kindergarten education from Catawba College.
• Bachelor of business administration degree from Catawba College.
• Bachelor of arts in education from Salem College.
• Bachelor of arts or science with teacher licensure from Salem College.
• Master of arts in teaching from Salem College.
Tuition is comparable to public North Carolina universities, and financial aid is available. Classes meet in a block format that allows students to enroll full-time and complete one course per month. The bachelor’s degree can be completed in four semesters.
For more information about enrolling in classes on the DCCC Campus to pursue a bachelor’s degree in birth-kindergarten education or a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Catawba College, visit www.davidsonccc.edu or call Catawba College’s School of Evening Studies at 704-637-4772. More information about pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education or a master of arts in teaching from Salem College may be gained by calling Salem College at 336-721-2658.