Ryanne Hilliard

Ryanne Hilliard

My name is Ryanne Hilliard, and I will graduate with a BS in Secondary Mathematics Education and a BA in Mathematics from ECU on May 4, 2018. I am currently an intern at Ayden-Grifton High School in Pitt County, which I am absolutely loving! My experience as a student teacher has been much like that of my own high school education, except I’m playing the opposite role. I received my education at Halifax Academy in Halifax County from kindergarten through 12th grade. This meant I was surrounded by the same people in every class, every year, for thirteen years. The deep sense of community I developed goes without saying. In many ways, I have experienced the same support and comradery through involvement in my program at ECU. I have grown to know my classmates and professors very well, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I came to ECU as a freshman with the plan to become a high school math teacher and to coach volleyball, softball, or basketball as soon as the opportunity would arise. Four years later, I am proud to say I’m almost there!

My high school career prepared me for my time in the MSITE department more than I could have imagined. I worked very hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA while playing three sports (volleyball, basketball, and softball) every year since 7th grade, and holding leadership positions in four organizations — Student Government Association (SGA), Color Guard, Junior and Senior Beta Club, and the Octagon Club — each year in 9th – 12th grade. Little did I know, my efforts paid off in the form of scholarships and awards. As a senior in high school I received the Academic Athlete Award, SGA Leadership Scholarship, the Halifax County Farm Bureau Academic Scholarship, and the Jordan Family Trust Scholarship, each of which provided me with financial awards toward my college education. When I began my undergraduate academic career, I sought ways to become invested in my higher education. I joined a campus ministry and became a leader; participated in the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM) Gamma Chapter meetings and assumed the role of Eastern Region Student Representative; took the opportunity to tutor students in college algebra in the MATH Cave; and held the office of Chair to the COE Dean’s Junior Advisory Board for two years. As I became more involved with ECU’s clubs and organizations, I was given even greater opportunities than I could have dreamed. As a first-semester freshman, I received recognition from the College of Education as an ECU Excels recipient for maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Later I was awarded the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Mathematics Education Award, the Craig W. and Margaret T. Joyner Family Scholarship, and the Noyce Scholarship, and I was nominated to be NCCTM’s Outstanding Mathematics Education Student. I cannot thank the faculty of the ECU MATH and MSITE departments enough for the honor it has been to be involved in such an amazing community of scholars.

I truly am overjoyed at what my experience in mathematics education has been. It has not been easy, but my passion for this career has made every challenge all the more worthwhile. I have learned not only a great deal of math, but how the world around us is shaped by mathematics and why it is important to teach young minds. As a Pirate teacher, my goal for students in my class is never just a grade, but growth. I can say with confidence that my professors in the MSITE department have made every possible effort to ensure that I reach my greatest potential as an educator, and I have made it my mission to pay it forward by encouraging my own students.

Today, I hold a 3.963 GPA and will be graduating Summa Cum Laude in a few short months. In every aspect of my life I strive to be my best while understanding that, though perfection is not always attainable, the end result is always something to be proud of, knowing I put forth my absolute best. I have learned, and will teach my students, that there is always room to improve; tomorrow, we can all be better than today. I am thankful that I chose to become a high school math teacher; I am thankful I chose ECU, and I am thankful for my future, which will provide me with unbounded opportunities to instill in my students the joy of seeking to capture what they see on their horizon!

Go Pirates!


Katrina Turlington, MAEd student in IT

Katrina Turlington

Congratulations to Katrina Turlington! Katrina is an MAEd student in Instructional Technology and the recipient of the 2016 Diane Kester award. We asked Katrina to discuss her work as a teacher and an Instructional Technology Facilitator.

Teaching is more than a career for me; it is my passion. I knew I wanted to go into education for as long as I can remember. My maternal grandparents were both teachers and education was always a top priority in my family, which is what inspired me to become a teacher.

I grew up in Williamsville, New York. After graduating high school, I moved to North Carolina to attend Campbell University. I graduated from Campbell in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. For five years, I taught 4th grade at Wayne Avenue Elementary School in Harnett County.

During my first year as a 4th grade teacher, I worked closely with the Instructional Technology Facilitator (ITF) at my school. I attended every workshop she offered and collaborated with her to learn how I could integrate technology into my lessons. Over the next few years, my interest in creating technology-rich lessons grew. My ITF became a mentor for me and inspired me to study Instructional Technology.

In the fall of 2014, I began working towards my MAEd in Instructional Technology at ECU. This program has not only prepared me to work as an ITF, it has also helped me grow as an educator. Last year I accepted a position as an Instructional Technology Facilitator at Benhaven Elementary School in Harnett County, which has provided me with the opportunity to apply what I have learned from my courses at ECU. Every week, I meet with each class in grades K-5 for a 45-minute lesson during which I teach students their grade level curriculum through the use of technology. I also coach teachers on how to integrate technology into their lessons by offering workshops and modeling lessons with their classes. My ECU courses have changed the way I approach my instruction so that I am designing more effective instruction for both students and staff.

As I continue on in my career, my goal is to improve upon my instruction and learn about new educational technologies that I can share with the staff at my school. I frequently seek out opportunities to learn more, whether it is attending workshops and conferences or reading about current research on best practices, so that I can meet the needs of the students and staff at my school. Eventually I would like to work at the district level as a technology coordinator.

Passion and Drive: Our Student Spotlight, Rebekah Currie

It takes special qualities to become a successful teacher: a commitment to learning, a passion for serving, and a drive for personal excellence.   Rebekah Currie, a mathematics education student who was recently honored with the NCCTM Outstanding Mathematics Education Student award ,embodies these qualities.  Read her interview to see why MSITE is proud to feature her as our latest Student Spotlight.

Tell us about yourself:

I was born in Fayetteville, NC and lived there until I was three years old. We moved to Lumberton, NC and stayed there until I was seven. After that, we moved to Tarboro, NC where I have lived ever since. I went to Tarboro High School, where I took all honors classes. I did a bunch of volunteering and was a part of the National Honors Society. I didn’t play any sports. I came to ECU in 2011 after graduating from high school at the top of my class and decided to major in mathematics education and mathematics.

Why do you want to become a teacher?

I want to be a teacher because I feel like that is where I can make the most difference. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and doing math. This is a career where I can combine both. I see teaching as a career that will keep me on my toes. I don’t want a stagnant career. Every year I will be able to meet new people and possibly make a difference in their lives. Each student is going to be different and have different learning styles, which will cause me to have to think outside the box and come up with better and more engaging activities and lessons to reach my students. I can’t imagine a better career.

Tell us about any awards that you have received.

I recently won the NCCTM Outstanding Mathematics Education Student award for the Eastern region and was presented with my award at the conference in October. I am a member of several different honor societies at ECU including the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Golden Key International Honour Society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, just to name a few. I am also vice president of the ECU Gamma Chapter. I am also a Maynard Scholar.

What key qualities do you have that make you a teacher?

I believe I possess patience, empathy and a passion for learning. I have patience because I know some students may not be able to comprehend everything the first time. They are going to need time to let things sink in. My students are also not always going to be the best behaved. I know this from personal experience. I have been in their shoes, which is why I am able to empathize with them. Not all math is easy. I’ve had my fair share of being frustrated because I don’t know how to do something or don’t understand something. I know math may not be their strong suit, so it will be my job to make the math accessible to them, so that no matter the level, they are able to learn math. This brings me to my passion for learning. I want to be the type of teacher that keeps up with the times. If a new method of doing something comes out, I want to try it to help out my students. Things are constantly changing and an effective teacher continues to learn, not only for her sake, but for the sake of her students to make their learning experiences richer and more meaningful.

What are your career plans?

I plan on teaching for at least four years to pay back my service scholarships and then, who knows? I haven’t decided if I will stay in the classroom or pursue higher degrees to become an administrator.

Why did you choose East Carolina University?

I chose ECU because I have always had an obsession with pirates. I think they’re so cool and interesting, especially Blackbeard. One of the school colors happens to be my favorite color (purple). Also, I knew I wanted to become a teacher, and ECU is the best place to learn how to become an educator.

Who has inspired you? Or Who has been the biggest influence on your career? Or Who is a role model for you in your professional life?

When I was in high school, I had a teacher named Ms. Robinson, and she was amazing. She put so much time and effort into her classes and made learning fun. Her classroom felt like family because there was so much love. She would stay after school and even stayed extra late on occasion to make sure students were able to come get the help they needed. She even devoted some of her weekends to doing Saturday academy for struggling students. She gave so much of her time and energy which is what inspired me to become a math educator. I hope to be as caring and understanding as she is and to be as good of an educator.

What do/did you like most about ECU?

I love being a part of the ECU Teaching Fellows and Maynard Scholars program. Freshman year we all had to live together in Umstead. That experience allowed me to make friends with all sorts of people because we were a little community. I’m especially close with the other math education majors. We’ve been there for each other through the tough math classes that made us question if this was the right path for us. If it wasn’t for Teaching Fellows and Maynard Scholars, I don’t know if I would have had that kind of support network. I have also enjoyed how caring the math education department is. I feel like no matter what, I can come to one of them with a problem and they’ll do their best to help. I don’t know if I would have had that same experience at another school. The campus isn’t bad to look at either.

In what ways has ECU prepared you for your field? (opportunities, hands-on approach, molding education professionals)

In terms of preparation for teaching, I feel like ECU has done a pretty good job. Sophomore year, we all have to take an observation class where we just take notes and do some light tutoring. Junior year, we take an apprenticeship class which is a little more hands on. We don’t just take notes on what happens, but we also plan a lesson and teach it to our apprenticeship classroom. We are also supposed to see a little more of what goes on behind the scenes before actually teaching the students. This is supposed to help prepare us even more for senior year. During senior year, we’re supposed to teach a minimum of 3-4 lessons the first semester. After doing that I feel a little more prepared for next semester, especially since one of the lessons I had seen only a couple hours before, and then had to teach to my fourth period, which I had never taught, while my clinical teacher tended to some business. I was so nervous, but after that, I’m not as nervous. I’m ready for senior II when I’ll be teaching full time. I feel like this is a great way to get into the groove of how things are going to be when I get a teaching job of my own. When I get a job, I will basically already have a year of experience thanks to the internship. In addition to the internship, I was able to attend the NCCTM conference to learn new approaches to mathematics in the classroom. There have also been a number of workshops and professional development days available on campus that I was able to take part in.


Beth Wantz, our Latest Student Spotlight, Plans to Teach for the Next 20 Years

Beth is a senior, graduating in May of 2015,  and majoring in Elementary Education with a concentration in Science.  She graduated from Holly Springs High School in 2011. She is currently the president of the Science Education Club and is employed as a student worker at the ECU Center for STEM Education.  She has been on the Chancellor’s List for maintaining a 4.0 GPA for the past three years and has received scholarships from the ECU College of Education for the past two years.   She has been a camp counselor at the ECU Summer Science Camp and when not busy with school, she enjoys going to Pirate football games and spending time with her friends and family.

What key qualities do you have that make you a teacher?

Qualities that I have that make me fit to be a teacher are that I am flexible, empathetic, and upbeat.  These are all qualities that I believe an effective teacher must have, especially in the elementary grades.  I am also a driven and motivated person who will always give 110% for my students.

What are your career plans?

After graduating in May of 2015, I plan to be an Elementary teacher within the state of North Carolina.  After a couple years of teaching elementary school I plan to return back to school to receive my Master degree in either Science Education or Educational Administration.   I am planning to teach for about twenty years and then proceed to a job that is higher up in the field of education.

Why did you choose East Carolina University?

I chose ECU because of the beautiful campus, school spirit, and the reputation of the College of Education.  I also loved the fact that ECU is located in a college town.

Who has inspired you? Or Who has been the biggest influence on your career? Or Who is a role model for you in your professional life?

Mrs. Tammy Lee has inspired me in so many different ways.  She has pushed me with my assignments and lessons throughout my college career because she knows what I am capable of doing.  Mrs. Lee has given me many opportunities outside of school that will greatly benefit me as a teacher, such as taking me to the National Science Teacher Association Conference in the fall of 2013.  With doing this, Mrs. Lee has given me the confidence that every effective teacher must have in order to benefit their students.  Mrs. Lee has also taken the time to teach me how to be a good teacher and a good person.  She is my biggest influence and my role model.

Why do you want to be a teacher?

I want to be a teacher for those “ah-ha” moments that children have as soon as they learn something new.  I live for those moments.  It is an indescribable feeling when you see a child get excited or feel proud of him or herself when they learn something new because of you.  I also want to be a teacher because of my love of children and in order give back to my community.

What do/did you like most about ECU?

I love the ECU spirt that every pirate fan shows.  When you are walking around to the different tailgates on game days you can feel the energy and excitement in the air.  There is no other school that has the same school spirit and dedication that ECU has.  If you go to ECU or you went to ECU, you are part of the purple and gold family.

In what ways has ECU prepared you for your field? 

The professors within the College of Education, and the courses that they teach, are fantastic .  The course material that I am learning is directly related to my career as a future teacher.  They truly care about their students and want us to succeed within our teacher career.  I have had many professors who offer to spend time outside of class in order to help me and my peers with assignments and lesson plans.  The ECU College of Education also has many practicum experiences where we are out in the field working and observing in real classrooms.  These practicum experiences start as early as sophomore year.

Katherine Yu Collins, a MAEd in IT student, is our Student Spotlight

After being nominated by one of her professor’s for  innovation and creativity with the use of technology in the classroom, Katherine was chosen to receive the Diana Kester Award.  Having a 4.0 average helped, as well!

Katherine works full-time with students and teachers as a Digital Learning and Teaching Coach at Clyde Erwin Elementary Magnet School and Bell Fork Elementary in Onslow County.  She says that she is able to use a lot of her assignments from ECU in her job. That is probably one of the reasons that she says, ” East Carolina University  offers the BEST instructional technology program for educators.”  The IT faculty also enjoy having Katherine in their program agreeing that, “Kat is constantly present in her online work, a dedicated student who is not only engaged in  her classwork but energizes her classmates, as well.”
Katherine grew up in Jacksonville, NC.  and works in the same county that she went to school in.  In fact, she was a student in Clyde Erwin 25 years ago. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from UNCW in 2005 and then taught for 8 years in classrooms in grades 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  She currently lives in Surf City, NC.  That makes for a 62 mile day for driving on top of working, going to grad school, and being a mom!   But the peppy and enthusiastic “Kat” wouldn’t have it any other way.


Read below for Katherine’s answers to the following interview questions.

What key qualities do you have that make you a teacher?

Qualities that make me a teacher are that I have unconditional love for my students.  I am able to balance multiple tasks at one time.  I promote students to make positive choices.  I provide engaging lessons and activities that make learning interesting for students.

What are your career plans?

I plan on continuing to support teachers and students with the use of technology in the classroom. I want to provide professional development for teachers across the county.   I am currently a Digital Learning and Teaching Coach for Onslow County Schools.  Once I am finished I will have a facilitator title.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

My former principal, Helen Gross, has inspired me to do what I do today.  She pushed me to grow as an educator and be a support for teachers.  She is hardworking and has a drive for all that she does.  It has inspired me to have that same drive in all that I do as an educator.

Why do you want to be a teacher?

I have taught for 8 years, 2 of those were in Pitt County.  This is my second year supporting teachers and students as a Digital Learning and Teaching Coach.  I wanted to become a coach/facilitator because I felt I had gained a lot from being in the classroom and wanted to push it up a notch and be support for teachers and students.  I love working with others and I like to get my creative juices flowing with integration of technology.

What do/did you like most about ECU?

What I like best about ECU is the Pirate spirit!  I love game days!  The entire city is painted with purple and gold. Even when I am away from Greenville I see those who are Pirates or are former Pirates that continue to support the Pirates and show Pirate pride.

In what ways has ECU prepared you for your field?

ECU’s Instructional Technology department has done an outstanding job with providing courses that are directly involved with what I do in my position at work.  I am getting the best training with discussion board assignments, reading assignments, projects, reports, and through quizzes. I am able to have hands-on interactions with strategies and models that are directly linked with instructional technology.