For the first time, CodeVA has offered training for Southern Virginia teachers at IALR, and one of the hosted sessions garnered the highest registration rate in the state.  CodeVA partners with schools, parents and communities to bring computer science education to all of Virginia’s students.  Traditionally, training sessions were hosted in Richmond, where CodeVA is located, but this year—thanks to funding from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission—they held sessions in seven hubs across Virginia for more accessibility.  IALR’s Advanced Learning division partners with CodeVA to serve as the hub for Southern Virginia activity.  Staff member Jessie Vernon worked with the Institute Conference Center to coordinate hosting three sessions in Danville for Southern Virginia teachers from July 9-13 and one on July 12.

The session titled “Elementary Coaches Academy,” which awarded educators a certificate as a CodeVA Elementary Computer Science Coach, had the highest registration in the state with 48 participants.  Phyllis Meade, a K-5 STEM Coordinator for Henry County Public Schools, says that she will be using her knowledge from Elementary Coaches Academy to help with professional development and modeling lesson plans with computer science and the core curriculum incorporated at the nine elementary schools in Henry County.  

“We began introducing coding in our schools two years ago,” said Meade.  “The students have such interest in the coding activities and are really excited about Robotics and design.” 

Advanced Learning at IALR is accomplished by an approach that supports talent development from childhood through employment.  Dr.  Julie Brown, IALR’s Director of Advanced Learning maneuvers a myriad of partner organizations to ensure a collaborative approach that supports a regional advanced learning strategy.  This involves inspiring, developing, credentialing and supporting learning opportunities within the region.  

Inspiring a region to invest in workforce development does not start on the shop floor of a business or industry - it starts by transitioning a region’s appreciation and desire for these opportunities.  It requires collaboration with many organizations in the region’s footprint.  This is evident in IALR’s partnerships for the Career Choice Expo to inspire students at an early age and developing STEM interest with camps, field trips and a STEM Summit that provides educational workshops and exploratory sessions.  Advanced Learning is traveling the region in a mobile Inspiration Lab to inspire students by exposure to drones, 3D Printing and computer gaming.  

Development of a strong advanced learning strategy requires creative professional development opportunities.  This can be seen in IALR’s work with CodeVA and the computer science professional development programs for the region.  It is also evident in the EXCITE Program – Exploring Careers through Industry Teacher Externships – a weeklong immersion experience for teachers into industry environments.

Strengthening work skills involves a strong credentialing program for the region that is respected and leads to higher wages and opportunities.  Dr.  Brown has worked to develop partnerships like the Dan River Region Collaborative to support initiatives such as ACT’s Certified Work Ready Community and the National Career Ready Certification program that has spread across the southern portions of Virginia.  IALR also works with the Healthcare Collaborative to support training for community health workers, a new certified position in Virginia.  Another effort involves analysis of apprenticeship models for the region, assessing industry need and replicating national and international programs of excellence.

The IALR team considers strong leadership to support advanced learning, service and career opportunities a priority.  It can be seen in support of the public school systems in the region by hosting the Piedmont Governor’s School for Math, Science and Technology and the Academy for Engineering and Technology.  It is also evident in the Lifelong Learning Classes in computer training and in IALR internships in industries as well as scholarships for STEM students across the service region.  IALR also works to weave in opportunities for service learning through the Dan River Year AmeriCorps program and understanding the importance of community engagement to the region’s advanced learning strategy.  The IALR Advanced Learning team recognizes their critical responsibility in partnering with you to elevate the region.  

Photo: Dr. Julie Brown showing the passion required to implement Advanced Learning with Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and IALR Executive Director Mark Gignac

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (Institute) is pleased to announce Gov. Ralph Northam’s appointment of John E. Mead to the Institute’s board of trustees for a three-year term. As the founder and CEO of Master Gage and Tool Company, Mead will lend keen industry insight to economic transformation efforts. 

“Mr. Mead has served as a tremendous resource to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research over the past years,” said former Delegate Donald Merricks, chairman of the Institute’s board of trustees and chairman, president and CEO of Virginia Bank and Trust Company. “He brings a robust business background to the board of trustees that will prove valuable as we move forward with more technical programs and partnerships in the future.”

Mead serves currently on the board of trustees as well as the workforce services advisory board at Danville Community College. He helped champion the development of the Pittsylvania County Machine Technology program and the Capstone program, a third-year advanced machining curriculum. In addition, Mead serves on the GENEDGE board of directors.

“Mr. Mead is recognized in our community and throughout the state as a strong leader in technology and economic development,” said Delegate Danny Marshall. “He has contributed significantly to our area through his leadership and never-ending efforts to promote our region across the commonwealth and the country.”

Mead joins the following fellow board members who accepted reappointment for a second term: Charles H. Majors, reappointed by the City of Danville; former Delegate Joe May and Merricks, both reappointed by the House of Delegates; and Joyce Wright, reappointed by Pittsylvania County.

The Institute is governed by a 15-member board of trustees consisting of the presidents or their designees of Averett University, Danville Community College and Virginia Tech; the chairman or his designee of the board of the Future of the Piedmont Foundation; one resident of the City of Danville to be appointed by the Danville City Council; one resident of Pittsylvania County to be appointed by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors; and nine citizens representing business and industry and residing in Southside Virginia, three to be appointed by the governor, three to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and three to be appointed by the speaker of the House of Delegates.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research serves Virginia as a regional catalyst for economic transformation with applied research, advanced learning, conference center services and economic development efforts. The Institute’s major footprint focuses within Southern Virginia, including the counties of Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville.




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