Alumni Profile: Deanna Isley



Full Name: Deanna "Anna" Rakes Isley
Program(s): All from UVA: College of Arts and Sciences double-major in History and American Studies; Master of Teaching - Elementary Education; Education Specialist - Administration & Supervision
Hometown: Roanoke, VA
Graduation Year(s): '06, '06, '14 (Curry: '06, '14)
Occupation: Principal - Clark Elementary School, Charlottesville City Schools


What initially drew you to UVA?

My older sister started school at UVA when I started kindergarten, so from the time I was a small child, I'd spent time at the University. I set a goal at age five to be a Wahoo too, and I never wavered in that pursuit! In high school, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. The opportunity at Curry to earn my bachelor's and master's degrees simultaneously while attending such a well-respected and prestigious school became an even greater draw to UVA. 

What do you think makes the Curry experience unique?

In both my degree programs at Curry, I found the professors to be so approachable and genuinely invested in my success and future. They were there for me not only while I was a student at Curry, but long after. The day I found out my father had a heart attack just before class, Dr. Joanne McNergney comforted me and checked in on me. She stayed connected and we communicated for years after I graduated, her following up on where I was teaching and how I was doing. Our paths crossed again when I had a student teacher under her direction. I'll never forget the day my then boyfriend now husband left UVA upon graduating and moved out of state to pursue his career. Dr. Stephanie Van Hover asked about how I was doing that morning before class even started because she knew me so well and was aware of the transition. While I learned so much from these brilliant professors, the way they made me feel as a student and person was just as impactful as what I learned. While teaching and in my administrative internship, Dr. Robert Tai even came to my school for hours to help carry out a school-wide STEM challenge I designed. In my Administration and Supervision program, I found Curry to be unique in the blend of professors who were full-time at the University and acting practitioners in the field. Again, the connectivity and investment that lasted beyond the years at Curry has been so powerful. Because of this network, I reach out to those professors for advice and mentorship and even speak at classes at Curry myself. Curry feels like another family to me.

How did your education influence your career path?

The education at Curry is foundational in helping any teacher be successful wherever they go. To start, having the teaching associateship in the fall allows student teachers the opportunity to establish a classroom community from the start. The December graduation allowed me to serve in a long-term substitute capacity, gaining additional experience during the remainder of that school year before beginning in a full time position. My first full-time position was in Texas. Despite being in another state with different expectations and assessments, the skills I learned at Curry translated beautifully there and I had a very successful start. The balanced Teacher Education program at Curry gave me experience in all areas of instruction and classroom management. In the Administration and Supervision program, having instructors who were professors and practitioners made for a balanced program. While learning about research and theory, qualities of leadership and big ideas with those at the University, we were able to balance that with how those policies and the research played out in actual educational leadership positions with those who were practitioners. Again, the Curry network allows students to stay connected.

What was the most helpful aspect of your education?

First, a comprehensive program: The Teacher Ed program gave me a good dose of each aspect of teaching, laying the groundwork that my experience would build upon. Instruction in instructional methods, reading, classroom management, assessment, special education, and content specific curriculum gave me a well-balanced experience to build on when I entered the classroom. In the Administration and Supervision program, it was definitely the balance of the theory and research -- knowledge and policy balanced with real-life practitioners sharing how that research and knowledge played out in the field. For both degrees, I think the realistic and scaffolded placement of field expectations was also a benefit. In Teacher Ed, the placements built on one another and were connected to the coursework we were in. In Administration and Supervision, many required internship experiences or tasks were imbedded into the coursework in timely ways to capitalize on the instruction at hand, versus waiting to do all of those requirements at the end of the program during the internship.

What advice do you have for a prospective student?

Apply to UVA/Curry! UVA is so special; think of Curry as a tight knit family within that greater community. Your professors will get to know you and you them. The relationships and connections you make with them will last well beyond your years on Grounds. Like any family, members invest in you and you invest in them. Perhaps one of the greatest, yet unexpected outcomes of my time at Curry has been the ability to go back and to impact students myself, even though I'm working full time. I've had practicum students and student teachers in my classroom, published articles and chapters with folks at Curry, served on panels and reviewed resumes, recruited at the Ed. Expo for my division, spoken at classes and more. In these different roles and opportunities, I continue to learn from Curry. I am always so proud to share I am a triple Hoo and double Curry graduate!