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TEACHING PASSION

by Daniel Schere

Lane moving back to classroom at UNCSA high school

daniel@yesweekly.com @Daniel_Schere

Jill Lane, the dean of UNC School of the Arts’ high school academic program, has announced that she will step down from her position at the end of the academic year. She will remain at the school but focus on teaching, which she says she prefers.

“I realized that without teaching, nothing can exist,” she said. “Everything stops. If there’s no transfer of knowledge, of information, of skills, of technology, from one generation to the next we start over. And so teaching from that perspective is fundamental to human development.”

Lane has been at UNCSA for 20 years, with the last eight being spent as the school’s leader. She has taught math in public school in addition to her time there. She has also conducted support workshops for MS Office products and helped the staff get oriented with email during her early days at UNCSA.

“We had some older faculty who had never used email,” she said.

Lane is originally from Rural Hall and has degrees from Wake Forest University, the College of William & Mary and the University of Missouri at Columbia. She says she knew she wanted to be a teacher from an early age.

“I would read stories to my stuffed animals as I child, so I really wanted to teach,” she said.

Lane said she chose math to teach because she liked the idea that you could use it to solve problems. She tells her students not to be afraid of the subject, but to embrace the challenges it commonly brings.

“I spend a lot of hours encouraging students to come in for tutorial,” she said. “I spend a lot of time working with students one on one. As a math teacher you have to be almost over encouraging to students because it’s a foreign language and it looks scary. So my first goal is to get past being afraid of it, and then we can engage in it and have some confidence going into a setting.”

Lane said it was an eighth grade teacher and a college professor of religion that provided the biggest inspiration to her as a student. Before that she had dreamed of becoming a doctor or a veterinarian. But it was realizing that education is a force powerful enough to change someone’s circumstances that spoke to her most loudly.

“That was a really strong influence on my decision to teach, because it was what I could do to give back,” she said.

Lane said she finds she sometimes has to be over encouraging and puts a high priority on arranging one-onone tutorial sessions for students with questions. Her commitment to teaching is something that stands out to fellow math teacher Wanda Coyle, who has been at UNCSA five years longer than Lane.

“She always puts the students first and she’s always wanted to be a math teacher since a long time ago,” Coyle said. “And that’s because she loves math and she wants to pass her love of math on to students to help them to not only learn the math, but also to love it themselves.”

Coyle said Lane felt that even during her time as dean, she made every effort to spend time in the classroom and even taught a couple sections of AP calculus when the department was short-staffed.

“Through all of the years she’s been a dean, she was adamant that she’s been in the classroom because of the feeling of the connection to the students,” she said. “That’s like a job and a half. If you’re just an administrator you kind of forget what it’s like to be in the classroom every single day.”

Coyle called Lane a “problem solver” and said one of her strengths as a leaders is bringing faculty together in a room when attempting to set program goals.

“She’s really good at helping us, define problems number one, and then try to solve them,” she said.

When asked what accomplishment she was most proud of, Lane said she wasn’t sure. She said she is always ready to take on a challenge.

“Teaching is always challenging, and you always get to start over,” she said.

“So if you didn’t do well last time you get to try it again.”

Lane said her motivation to become dean came from a number of faculty departures and a sense that things needed to be healed. After eight years, she says she is ready to go back to doing what she loves most.

“I think it’s time,” she said. “The department is strong, they’re great faculty. I would characterize myself as a healer. I’m a maintainer. They’re ready for someone to push them. We’re ready for someone with a strong vision of growth for the program.”

There are currently about 270 high school students at UNCSA, and Lane said she hopes to communicate the message that the school offers a high school academic program in addition to the main campus that houses undergraduate and graduate students.

After Lane steps down from her position at the end of the academic year she will take some time off before returning to the math department. She said she will be able to retire in 2019, after she has given 30 years of service as a state employee. Then she said she would like to begin a second career, which she hopes will be farming.

“I want to have goats and make goat cheese and grow food, and nobody’s going to call me on the phone,” she said. “It’s going to be great.” !

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