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The student teacher

Last fall, Joanna Schimizzi enrolled in the master’s of education program at Northeastern’s graduate campus in Charlotte with one goal in mind: professional development.

“I had some gaps in my knowledge that I wanted to address,” explained Schimizzi, a biology teacher at the David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C. “I didn’t feel like I had enough exposure to current education research and knew I couldn’t teach myself.”

She focused on education literacy, taking a combination of 11 online and face-to-face courses ranging from teacher development to linguistics. One of her favorite courses explored culture’s effect on access to education, social mobility, and personal identity, lessons from which she has already applied to her classroom.

“Now,” she said, “I’m more aware of the importance of student diversity and have the tools to help me reach all students.” One such tool is the digital portfolio, which she implemented this fall in order to help her students “track their achievement and take ownership of their work.”

Schimizzi will graduate from the master’s program on Saturday, becoming one of the first two alumni of Northeastern-Charlotte. A MacFarland Scholar, she is a thriving example of the university’s ongoing commitment to training professionals in fields that are vital to the growth of the greater Charlotte region.

The Charlotte campus opened in October 2011 and is based on a hybrid delivery model that integrates online and classroom learning. Earlier this year, the campus launched 10 new degree programs in areas ranging from energy systems to information assurance—which more than doubled the campus’ academic offerings. Northeastern-Charlotte is the first, and only, institution based outside of North Carolina that has been approved to offer doctoral programs—of which Northeastern offers three, including the master’s of education program.

The hybrid approach is ideal for working professionals like Schimizzi because it combines the traditional benefits of face-to-face instruction with the flexibility of online learning, which, she said, enabled her to “interact with people across the nation and around the world.”

Building collaborative partnerships has been a key component of Schimizzi’s career success. A few years ago, she launched a mentorship program in which high school students discuss their academic goals with community members.

“It’s not a tutoring session, but an opportunity for students to talk to someone outside of their parents and teachers,” explained Schimizzi, who was named a 2012 MeckED Teacher of Excellence as a result of the program’s success. “Some students get lost in the crowd and end up finding support and motivation by working with a mentor.”

Schimizzi was also selected by the nonprofit education group America Achieves to participate in last year’s NBC Education Nation Summit in New York City, which convened more than 300 of the country’s thought leaders in education, government, business, philanthropy, and media. But the recognition paled in comparison to the joy she derives from fostering student success, the greatest of which, she said, is “having the opportunity to help each of my students reach their potential.”