Alumna Tabatha Chitwood ’19 knew she was always meant to be a teacher.
“I did a co-op my senior year [in high school] and loved it, but I had children first before going to college,” she explained. Chitwood spent her pre-college years working as a restaurant manager, server, and bartender, but never lost her drive to educate children.
She attended Virginia Western Community College for regular classes, and dabbled with becoming a nurse, but ultimately decided to pursue her teaching dream by enrolling as a non-traditional student in Ferrum College’s teacher education program. She graduated in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.
“I was a single mother of two boys that played soccer and football. I was busy working two jobs full-time. But I found balancing everything easy because I am used to doing everything on my own,” she said.
In fact, Chitwood found higher education to be so manageable and worthwhile, she has enrolled at Liberty University to pursue a master’s degree in administration and supervision, with the goal of eventually becoming a principal or administrator. “But I will be teaching for a long time first, because I enjoy it,” said Chitwood.
After graduating from Ferrum, Chitwood was hired as a third grade teacher at Ferrum Elementary School.
“It was evident from the first day of school that Tabatha made instant connections with her students and throughout the year formed a bond that helped every student be successful,” said Jennifer Talley, principal at Ferrum Elementary. “Her classroom is a fun and engaging place for students to learn. She provides a variety of hands-on activities to enrich the learning experience for every student.”
Little did Chitwood know that her first year teaching would be so unusual. On March 13, 2020, Franklin County Public Schools closed abruptly for the remainder of the school year to tamp down the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“Transitioning to virtual learning was hard,” said Chitwood. “We continued using Google Classroom, which is something that we did from the first week of school. That part was easy. Technology is easy and fun for me. The hard part was not seeing my students in person.”
“I am sure she never expected her first year of teaching to transition so quickly from a typical classroom to a virtual classroom. Not only did Tabatha accept the challenge, she embraced the opportunity to provide the richest experiences for all of her students,” said Talley.
Chitwood worked diligently to conduct weekly Google Meets for her students to stay in touch. She also made the work interactive, assigning virtual field trips and hands-on projects like building solar ovens so students could harness the sun’s power to make s’mores.
She said transitioning to virtual learning during her first year of teaching went smoothly, thanks in part to the teaching strategies she learned at Ferrum College.
Chitwood is looking forward to hopefully returning to her in-person classroom in the fall. She is using the summer to continue dreaming up unique and creative ways for her next class to learn, noting “I just hope my students will look back and say I had a positive impact on their lives.”
Learn more about Ferrum College’s teacher education program, including the new elementary education major, here.