Although she came to Wake Forest uncertain of her major, Lilly Parker ended her college career completing an exceptional amount of work and has shown incredible dedication to her elementary education studies. Throughout a turbulent senior year — during which the majority of her degree work was to be completed — Lilly Parker showed perseverance and exuded excellence.
The university’s courses taught Parker the requisite skills for teaching children in person, but when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, difficulties in adapting to online learning arose.
“The biggest challenge was accepting that you’re not going to have a normal teaching experience,” Parker said.
Dr. Laura Bilton related a specific story about Lilly’s perseverance in the face of the challenges presented by the pandemic.
“She was in EDU 203 when the pandemic sent everyone home. In that course she had to do an assignment where she video-taped herself teaching a story to students,” Bilton said. “Her energy came through the camera, as she was the only student to bring in additional props to help make connections to the book. Lilly is an amazing and engaging student.”
The education department gave students the opportunity to choose whether to complete teaching experiences with local schools in either the fall or the spring. Parker would work at Brunson Elementary School for her education lab, which was worth 10 credits. This course was equivalent to the 8-hour work-day of a full-time teaching position. Lilly’s mentor, Kylie White, the first-ever recipient of a Master’s degree in Education at Wake Forest, was an excellent role model and helped with her work at Brunson Elementary.
Parker’s work continued with an assignment for a teacher preparation assessment and project that ultimately gives education majors the ability to graduate with a teaching license. Lilly wrote over 20 pages and developed four strategies for her second-grade lesson plan on how to identify even and odd numbers, with an additional 30 pages of commentary featuring video recordings of teacher-to-student feedback.
For an individual as passionate about education as Lilly Parker, this task was a joy to complete.
“Coming into school at Wake, I knew there was a lot of work to be done with the different local schools,” she said, “There’s a lot of change that needs to occur in the field over time.”
Parker was set up for success by the instruction and mentorship of several professors within Wake Forest’s Education department. Dr. Pat Cunningham, who met weekly with Parker, praised her love of teaching.
“I have been teaching elementary education majors for decades,” she said. “I have had many smart, dedicated, hard-working students. Even among this large group, Lilly is outstanding.”
Parker was also mentored by Dr. Danielle Parker Moore, with whom she researched the impact of school closures during the COVID-19 crisis on Winston-Salem families. The research stands as another example of Parker’s ability to adapt to different challenges, as her original summer plan was to work at the CDF Freedom school to prevent reading loss with Dr. Moore. Despite the cancellation of that opportunity, Parker still organized a school supplies fundraiser for the kids enrolled in the program.
Outside of the towering body of work within her elementary education major, Lilly Parker still found a crucial role to play in the enrichment of the community around her. In her sophomore year, Parker was the vice president of service in the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. She was then elected president of APO during her junior year and has served countless non-profit organizations and charities throughout her college career.
After she graduates, Lilly plans to teach elementary school through Teach For America in Atlanta, Ga. Though she is happy to be doing what she loves, Parker spoke of the precious time she was able to spend on campus during her senior year.
“I wasn’t able to spend much time on campus, but when I did I was extremely reflective. I was walking from the Banshees show the other night, and I feel like I should have been walking into Collins (freshman dorm) right after,” she said.
To other elementary education majors and to underclassmen in general, Parker offered some valuable advice.
“Reach out to the Winston-Salem community,” she said. “My college experience has made me reflect on all the different ways Wake grads can help change the world around them.”