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Faculty member, Clarke County students reconnect on campus

  |   Anika Chaturvedi   |   Permalink   |   Outreach,   Service and Community,   Students and Faculty

Morgan Faison, a clinical associate professor in the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s Department of Educational Theory and Practice, saw a familiar face on the first day of class in the spring 2023 semester.

While going down the roster, she recognized a name from her work with the Athens Community Career Academy (ACCA), a program where Clarke County School District students can take high school-level career pathway classes, like teaching as a profession, or dual enroll at Athens Technical College in career pathways like early childhood education and care, criminal justice, hotel and hospitality management, business management, and more.

The student was Aida Bermudez (B.S.Ed. ’24), an Athens native majoring in elementary education who participated in the early childhood education career pathway.

“We’re doing introductions and she shares that she’s from Clarke County and she knows me, and we have this whole hugging and tears in the middle of class because we had had this really fabulous connection that one year,” Faison said.

Bermudez met Faison at the ACCA as a sophomore in high school, where Faison served as professor-in-residence and advised students for an hour each week. Faison and students would discuss topics like next steps after high school and how to pursue a career as an educator. Though many of Faison’s students went on to study education at other colleges, Bermudez is the first to choose the University of Georgia.

“I feel like I’ve always kind of known I wanted to be a teacher, but Dr. Faison really helped me,” Bermudez said. “Like the way she would talk about teaching and her experience as a teacher, it made me really excited to become a teacher and it kind of finalized my decision.”

Faison’s research interests include exploring career pathway programs at school districts across Georgia and developing “grow your own” teaching programs. Recently, she met students at Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals high schools for information sessions about the teaching as a profession pathway.

Her current research project, “‘Growing Our Own’: A Mixed Methods Study of Black Youths in High School Early Childhood Education Career Pathway Programs,” funded by the Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars Program, focuses on Black students enrolled in pathway programs and the factors that affect their technical and professional skills.

While professor-in-residence at the ACCA, Faison helped to recruit and retain local students, like Bermudez, into education-related career pathways. She also led a summer teaching program in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 for high school students in the district to learn about teaching and gain classroom experience.

“We spent time together talking about what it would be like to become a teacher, what’s the pathway to becoming a teacher? What are some of the theories that teachers study, and what is it like to study becoming a teacher,” Faison said.

In fall 2023, a similar situation took place when Faison ran into Ikeoluwa Ojo (B.S.Ed. ’27), an intended elementary education major from Athens who participated in the summer program in 2019.

“I was going to my FYOS which was in Aderhold last semester, and then I saw her in the parking lot,” Ojo said. “And she looked at me and I looked at her and it was like, ‘wait a minute, I know you.’”

Ojo said Faison sent her photos from their time at the program. Now they check in with each other on a monthly basis, and Ojo said Faison sends her motivational messages.

Similarly, after taking her class last spring, Bermudez and Faison have stayed in touch and rekindled the mentor-mentee relationship they first created several years prior.

“When I saw her name, her being my professor, I was just so excited but also a little bit nervous because I was like, ‘I don’t know if she’ll remember me,’” Bermudez said. “But then I went through the class and she immediately remembered me, and it was just really exciting because it was nice to have a familiar face in the program.”

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