Vasti Rodriguez ’11 ’15 Named First Year Teacher of the Year

Vasti7336When ECU alumna Vasti Rodriguez left the Dominican Republic for the United States, she already had an idea of what she wanted to do. Driven by her knowledge of the difference between the countries’ two different education systems, Rodriguez wanted to help students who need more individual attention.

“My experiences as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic helped [me] understand English language learners and ESL students,” said Rodriguez. “I understand the importance of using differentiation during a lesson and providing testing accommodations to students.”

Already 13 years old when she moved, some would think Rodriguez would struggle. But instead of struggling, Rodriguez has flourished. She currently works as a teacher at Wake County Schools and is already getting noticed for her hard work, as she was nominated for the county’s “First Year Teacher of the Year” award.

“I feel honored and surprised to be nominated for the “First Year Teacher of the Year” award. This whole year has been a learning process in instruction, classroom management, and developing my leadership skills in the classroom,” said Rodriguez. “Fuquay-Varina Middle School has a group of teachers that collaborate and enjoy teaching; their care for students’ education is contagious and motivates me to continue to grow as a teacher.”

Rodriguez is not only a great teacher, but also a devoted pirate. She completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ECU and credits a lot of her success to the time she spent at her alma mater.

“[ECU taught me about] “differentiation” and how we all learn differently. I need to provide different ways to teach a lesson and allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge in their best capabilities,” said Rodriguez. “I continue to use strategies from my experiences as a graduate assistant and from my internship.”

With the early success and recognition it may be easy for many to stay focused on the present, but not for Rodriguez. She’s already focused on other goals, and hopes to achieve her dream job: a university professor position at ECU.

“I plan to continue working as a teacher while pursuing my doctorate degree. So far, I am interested in international comparative education and education psychology,” said Rodriguez. “I still haven’t decided [about leaving Wake County for ECU]. It would be a privilege to return to my alma mater as a university professor.”

With a successful start to her career, everything is looking up for Rodriguez. She had a message that she wanted to share with her fellow Pirates:

“I thank God every day for the support I received from teachers in the College of Education who helped me graduate and persevere through difficult circumstances,” said Rodriguez. “ECU is a great school! Take advantage of the opportunities!”

By Michael Avila

Dr. Brock Womble ’94, ’96, ’01 to Lead NCCAT

NCCAT_m_brock_womble_2This past October, East Carolina alumnus Dr. Brock Womble ’94, ’96, ’01 was selected to become the next executive director of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).

Despite being executive director for only a month and a half, Womble already has a vision. He plans on using his position to help improve teacher appreciation and give teachers more opportunities for professional development.

“Teachers need to be reminded of how thankful we are to have them educating our children. Teachers are tremendous role models and leaders for our students,” said Womble. “The goal is to provide high quality professional development to teachers in an environment that values teaching profession.”

Womble’s appointment comes as no surprise, as his body of work and education makes him a perfect candidate for the job. Womble attended ECU after graduating from Appalachian State University. During his time he was able to receive his masters, educational specialist, and doctorates degrees.

“I began my professional teaching career in Hertford County and the proximity and reputation of the educational program led me to choose East Carolina University,” said Womble. “The educational leadership faculty had a wealth of experience in public school leadership and the value of those experiences provided me with insights to lead various schools and school districts.”

Womble has a decorated resume, bringing 22 years of education in numerous local, state and national leadership roles. Some positions he has held include serving as a member of the NCAT Board of Trustees and as a superintendent in four different regions of North Carolina.

Despite the experience, Womble also credits his success to the relationships he formed at ECU.

“My fondest memories at East Carolina University are the relationships I established with classmates and professors,” said Womble. “The friendships established at East Carolina University have helped me become successful in my professional career.”

By Michael Avila

Alumnus Makes History


Joshua Gaskill ’10 is teaching history – and making it.

As a history teacher at Pamlico County High School in Bayboro, NC, he is a fourth generation educator and ECU alumnus. He was recently honored as the 2014-2015 Pamlico County Schools District Teacher of the Year and the Southeast Regional Teacher of the Year for North Carolina.

“As a result of becoming the district teacher of the year, I received the George R. Brinson Honored Educator Scholarship which allowed me to attend the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. I am very humbled by these accomplishments and am happy to have found my true calling through teaching,” said Gaskill.

Aside from teaching history, Gaskill is the social studies department chair as well as the driver’s education coordinator. He serves on the school’s improvement team and he leads his department’s professional learning community.

Gaskill is a 2003 graduate of Pamlico County High School and a fourth generation Pamlico County educator. He is also a fourth generation ECU College of Education alumnus. While at ECU, Gaskill earned his master in teaching (MAT) in history and was a member of the Pirate Club.

“I was actually enrolled in a doctoral program at ECU after receiving my bachelor’s degree from NC State. However, after a semester in the program, the coursework left me unfulfilled. With so many teachers in my family, I knew firsthand and had experienced what a positive impact the profession had on the lives of others. From there, I made the decision to enroll in the MAT program and it was the best decision of my life,” said Gaskill.

“This is a family legacy, and I believe in the quality education I received through the MAT program,” said Gaskill. He recognizes Dr. Allen Guidry for contributing to the valuable education he received from ECU.

Gaskill is still involved with ECU today. “I have been trained to serve as a clinical teacher to host student interns within the Latham Clinical Schools Network through the ECU College of Education,” said Gaskill. “I am proud to be an ECU Pirate!”

By Sara Strickroot

ECU Night at UNC-TV is March 21


Calling all Pirates! The East Carolina Alumni Association invites you to volunteer with fellow ECU alumni and friends at ECU Night at UNC-TV on Saturday, March 21.

As a volunteer, you will answer phones and take donor pledges that will help North Carolina’s public television station continue to provide quality, educational programming for North Carolinians. ECU Night is our night of UNC-TV’s annual “Festival” Telethon to show the state how Pirates give back!

All volunteers will receive a short orientation prior to answering phones and accepting pledges. Dress comfortable and casual in your Pirate purple and gold! Do let us know you’re coming by registering for the event.

Volunteers work off-camera while UNC-TV staff and guest stars host the evening’s segments. Occasionally, the camera will show a general shot of the phone room, but will not focus on any one person. Help us fill the room with Pirates! Those who do not wish to be on TV at all can be seated at a phone station out of the camera frame.

Please plan to arrive at the studio at 6:00 p.m. and stay until 11:30 p.m. Dinner will be provided for this event.

Limited transportation will be provided for volunteers traveling from the Greenville/Pitt County area. Reservations for the shuttle are required in addition to registering for the event.

For those with transportation reservations made, please meet at the Belk Building parking lot (off of Charles Blvd., across from Clark-LeClair Stadium) by 4:00 p.m. We should return to Greenville after midnight.

Please contact Shawn Moore at 252-328-5775 for transportation reservations and any further questions.

If you’re not able to come and volunteer, be sure to call in and make a donation to UNC-TV. A fellow Pirate will be the one to take your pledge!

Alumna named Special Needs Art Educator of the Year

By Jackie Drake

Alice Zincone ’89, ’98 was named the 2014-2015 Special Needs Art Educator of the Year this past fall by the North Carolina Art Education Association.

“As anyone would be, I was very happy, pleased, and proud,” said Zincone, who teaches art and music to visually impaired students at Governor Morehead School in Raleigh.


In addition to her teaching duties, Zincone brings various artists and performers to her school through the Artists in Schools program from the United Arts Council. Each summer, she runs a three-week summer program for visually impaired students from all over the state.

“I try to give students unique art and music opportunities,” she says. “It’s very rewarding to give these students opportunities that they probably wouldn’t have in their home communities.”

“My favorite part is interacting with the kids,” she continued. “We’re a residential school where the students stay from Sunday night to Friday noon, so we’re like a big family.”

Since her mom worked as a physical therapist for those with special needs, Zincone was able to see the importance of learning adaptations and modifications for people of all ability levels.

Zincone initially earned a bachelor of fine arts in design from ECU in 1989. After working as a jewelry designer for seven years, she wanted to switch gears and try something new. She decided to get an education degree. As a Greenville native, she knew ECU would again be the right choice.

“I had the art background and wanted to teach. I thought it would be a good next step. I’ve always enjoyed learning and gaining new experiences,” she said.

Since she had completed all her general course requirements, it didn’t take her long to complete her second degree.

“Campus was still fairly similar. I just slid right back in,” she said.

She taught elementary school in Johnston County for three years and in Wake County for five years before starting at Governor Morehead School in 2006.

She became a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired in 2009 and earned National Board Certification in early and middle grades art in 2010.

Alumna is NC Regional Teacher of the Year


By Jackie Drake

North Carolina’s Northeast Regional Teacher of the Year is Jami Dickerson ’08, a third grade teacher at Eastern Elementary in Greenville. The announcement was made during a special ceremony at the school on December 9. Dickerson qualified for the honor after being named the 2013-2014 Pitt County Teacher of the Year in March.

“I’m honored; it’s very humbling,” said Dickerson, who is in her fifth year of teaching. “It’s also mind-blowing. I still can’t believe it happened. It’s been a long process, but it’s gone by fast. I’m excited for things to come.”

Originally from Roanoke Rapids, Dickerson grew up playing soccer and came to play for ECU. “I visited on a recruiting trip and loved the campus and the town. I loved everything about ECU.”

Dickerson had long wanted to be a teacher, but her mother, also a teacher and ECU graduate, counseled her to try other careers first to be sure. Dickerson studied exercise physiology for a year before realizing that her heart lay with helping children, to her mom’s delight.

“I am very happy and proud I went to ECU,” Dickerson says. “Now I have ECU students doing their student teaching with me. The relationship that Pitt County and ECU have is great. I love how our kids that are eight or nine years old all get excited about our university. I’m glad that I have first-hand experience of ECU to share with them.”

Dickerson said her favorite part of teaching is her relationships with the kids. “Nothing is better than a happy child. I love seeing them having fun and enjoying learning.”

Dickerson is one of nine finalists for the the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, who will be announced this spring.