Future educators began filling its classrooms and meeting spaces this semester, but a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday made it official: Seacobeck Hall is the new home of the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education and Office of Disability Resources. A years-long renovation transformed the building – which served as a dining hall for decades – into a state-of-the-art learning facility to primarily nurture budding teachers.
“It’s so much more than a building. It’s about what happens in here,” Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera said during the event. “People gathering, connecting, working together… and helping people prepare for life matters so much to the health of our communities and to the future of the Commonwealth and the future of this world.”
UMW President Troy Paino, College of Education Dean Pete Kelly, Board of Visitors Rector Heather M. Crislip ’95 and Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken also spoke, as did Mary Washington junior Katya Stafira, who is studying special education.
“You’re actually able to put yourself in the space of being a real teacher,” Stafira said of Seacobeck’s specialized rooms and dynamic details that help students see themselves leading a classroom from the start of their education. The Office of Disability Resources, formerly located in Anne Carter Lee Hall, now has more space, including rooms for students who require more time for test-taking.
UMW’s College of Education offers initial licensure, master’s degree, professional development, endorsement and certificate programs. It partners with area K-12 schools to create mentorships and improve teacher retention, and participates in the Teachers for Tomorrow program, which helps attract young people to the teaching profession.
“Good teachers make a difference,” Kelly told the crowd, which included state legislators and administrators, area superintendents and local elected officials. “This building loudly proclaims that teaching matters.”
Here are six snippets about Seacobeck.
- Customized Classrooms
Seacobeck’s spaces include group stations that maximize teamwork, features like a painting sink and kidney table that simulate a real elementary classroom, a curriculum lab filled with teaching materials and manipulatives, a greenroom-like “Imaginarium” and more.
- Maker-Space Magic
A Maker Space allows education students “to think innovatively,” Assistant Professor of Special Education Kevin Good said in a Mary Wash Giving Day video. Filled with gizmos and gadgets – 3D printers, sewing machines, a Cricut cutter – it’s a hub for hands-on learning and a place to design and create tools that facilitate teaching and inclusive classrooms.
- Stepping Up
An open and airy two-story forum with “stadium stairs” cuts through the core of the building, where a kitchen cranked out hot meals during Seacobeck’s former life as a dining hall, from 1931 to 2015. The spacious focal point lets natural light pour through the building and provides a unique circle of ascending seats where students can gather for study sessions or just to relax and reflect.
- Preserving History
Hanbury Architects worked closely with UMW’s Department of Historic Preservation, Whiting-Turner Construction and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on the $24-million renovation to ensure original features were saved. Corinthian-style columns, ornate crown molding, mammoth arched windows, a marble fireplace and an ornate ceiling cut-out were all preserved.
- Beaming with Pride
Shhh … this one’s a secret of sorts. Last spring, with Seacobeck’s renovation in full swing, a ceremony welcomed alums back to campus to reflect on their time in the building once dedicated to dining. They spoke of linen-clad tables and frozen yogurt machines, and – along with College of Education students, faculty and staff – signed a steel beam that was hoisted onto the roof. It’s no longer visible, but those who added their names know it’s there.
- Keys to the Future
A gift from an anonymous donor in the form of a Steinway piano set music in motion, allowing Seacobeck’s 150-seat Flex Event Space to double as a small performance hall. Assistant Professor of Music Theory Robert Wells and College of Education Assistant Professor Melissa Wells traveled to New York to pick it out. “It blew us away with its very responsive touch and crystal-clear tone,” Melissa Wells said. The two will present a “A Seacobeck Soirée,” telling the story of the building’s roots as a Native American village through the works of women and indigenous composers on April 23 at 8 p.m.
- Customized Classrooms
“It’s an enormous amount of work to move into and prepare a building for an event like the ribbon cutting,” Kelly said. “The pride and sense of ownership for Seacobeck that faculty and staff have demonstrated throughout has been truly remarkable.”
Today at 4 p.m., an exhibit honoring Dr. Venus Jones ’68, a neurologist who was a chemistry major and the first Black graduate of Mary Washington, will be dedicated in Jepson Science Center. The mural traces Jones’ life and career, and pays tribute to other trailblazing Black women in medicine.