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Appreciation Starts with Our Words: Celebrating Educators for Teacher Appreciation Week with Adam Dovico

May 8th marks the start of Teacher Appreciation Week. 

Adam Dovico
Adam Dovico

For Adam Dovico, this week still holds meaning even after almost 20 years in education. Adam’s life work is dedicated not only to serving as the best educator he can be, but also to supporting fellow teachers and administrators to grow to be their best selves. 

He obtained his Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Wake Forest University and holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and a MEd in School Administration. Adam also completed his Doctorate in Education through University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Throughout his graduate studies, Adam has stayed active within schools and compiled his knowledge and experience into several books for educators.  

Adam recently rejoined the Wake family as an Academic Director at Wake Forest SPS. He oversees the operations of two Master level programs (Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership) while also working as a Curriculum Facilitator for Guilford County Schools. 

In this Q&A, Adam shares with us his insights on major changes coming to education, where positive change for teachers starts, and concrete ways to celebrate educators for the upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week. 

Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies (Wake SPS): You chose
Elementary Education early on in your career when you were at Wake. What was it about education that made you say, “I want to pursue this”?

Adam Dovico (AD):  It was the kids. Every job I’ve ever had has always revolved around working with kids, from camp counselor to coach to referee. That’s always just been my career path. 

I’m really good with teaching – with helping people learn and understand things. Now, in more of an admin role, I get to support teachers no matter what point they’re at in their career. For starters, I try to keep new teachers above water. But also making sure they grow, making sure that they are held accountable, and making sure that they are supported in ways that they need support.

Wake SPS: What’s it like to be back at Wake? Going from student to Program Director?

AD:  It’s actually my second go working at Wake because I had a clinical professor spot for a few years. That was really nice being back on campus, and I feel that again. Now it’s a part time role, which is great because I get to be at school during the day and then do SPS stuff “after school.” 

Specifically being at the School of Professional Studies, I like the people at SPS, and I think these programs are going to be great. 

Wake SPS: The pandemic shifted education forever. From your perspective, what’s changed in education because of it – maybe for the better?

AD: Having a lens on the student beyond the numbers became a hyper focus because of the pandemic. It made us realize that there are certain situations that our kids are in sometimes that  we didn’t necessarily know or fully understand prior to the pandemic, but then we actually saw it on camera.

We saw inside of what a lot of students go home to each day, and that’s definitely an eye-opening experience for a teacher to see. That insight is powerful.

From a more superficial standpoint, I also think there’s now more technology available. In the district I’m in now, prior to the pandemic, our school just had a computer lab with 30 desktop computers. All of a sudden everyone goes virtual, and we realized not everyone has a device. We had to figure something out to supply every student with a device. We went from a 1:20 ratio to now 1:1. That access to technology changes how teachers can approach the classroom and instruction.

Wake SPS: When you think about what’s coming in education, what’s exciting for you to think about?

AD: I say this with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, but ChatGPT. Honestly, I think that’s going to dramatically change the landscape of education in the next few months. Right now, it’s just peeking its head through the hole, but it’s going to burst out before we know it. It’s going to be one of those situations where you have to adapt or perish. 

But ChatGPT is really just a part of the larger conversation around AI and what the capabilities of that are. I think that while ChatGPT is going to be the main conversation piece, we can also leverage some of the more powerful AI tools for enhancing educational opportunities across the board. 

Wake SPS: As we prepare for Teacher Appreciation wake, what’s something you really appreciate about teachers?

AD: I’m always amazed at and truly appreciate the skill sets that teachers bring to the table. 

Being a teacher means that you are a counselor. You are a psychologist. You are a treasurer dealing with money. You are a planner. You’re a doctor, a nurse. You’re a mechanic. You are a home resource officer. Your skill sets are so beyond just what society picture what a teacher is.

Wake SPS: What are some ways administrators, parents, school communities can show their appreciation during this week?

AD: First and foremost, how we speak about the profession–what you put out there on social media about education and teachers, how you speak to your friends about teachers, how you speak to your children about your teachers, how you discuss issues with teachers. Speaking with respect to the profession is huge. 

Beyond the scope of just our words, there are more concrete actions we can take, especially during Teacher Appreciation Week. 

Wake SPS: That’s very true. What are some examples of concrete actions administrators, districts, parents can take during Teacher Appreciation Week?

First, a cook out. Personally, this is something I always do for my staff. I load up the grill from my house, go to Costco to get hamburgers, hotdogs, and then grill food for everyone. We work to make sure everyone has coverage at some point to come enjoy the food. 

Second, look to partner with local businesses. They’re usually very giving this time of year for teachers. Use them to provide treats or see if they’ll donate some simple things and have a daily drawing. 

Third, something else I always do is have an old school call-in contest. I’ll get on the intercom and say, “The 13th classroom that calls in will win an ice cream party.” Then, the teacher gets some prize also. 

Fourth, one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of is hosting a Teacher/Staff Car Wash. You have parents and principals sign up to help detail and wash all the staff member’s cars. It’s a little thing, but it really goes along with teachers. 

Finally, a Room Service Cart. I do this throughout the year, but it’s a great one to do for the first time during Teacher Appreciation Week. I take a rolling cart, load it up with drinks and snacks, and just go room to room for teachers to take what they want. It’s amazing what a bag of chips and a Coca-Cola can do. 

Wake SPS: Finally, there’s a lot that gets thrown at teachers – AI, politics, kids, parents, pandemics.  What would you tell that new teacher in this day and age to help, encourage, or support them? 

AD: In some ways, this advice hasn’t changed over my career. I still tell them to build a classroom culture first; build relationships between you and parents, you and your colleagues, you and your students. 

But I also think that for teachers coming right out of college, younger teachers, there’s some nuances to that that are a bit more optimistic. Telling them, “you know, you understand a lot of the language students speak. You understand the TikToks and the technologies better than maybe some of your colleagues. Yes, you might be green in areas of instruction or classroom management, but look at yourself as a leader in other areas. Look for ways to leverage your knowledge to be an asset in your classroom and in your school.

Thinking beyond the new teachers, I would encourage educators, no matter what point they’re at in their careers, to be proud of the work they do. 

The next time someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” avoid saying “I’m just a teacher.” Don’t underestimate yourself and the impact that you have on not only those students’ lives in your classroom, but for generations to come. 

I believe that teaching is truly the greatest profession in the world, and every kid deserves a dedicated, passionate, and loving teacher in front of them.

To learn more about Adam and his work, visit his website.  

To learn more about Wake’s graduate programs for educators, visit the Curriculum and Instruction program page or the Educational Leadership program page.