NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – After completing her undergraduate degree in agricultural sciences at Tennessee State University, Felicia Taylor took an internship with the agricultural extension service in West Tennessee. Her career path seemed to be set, until she started working with youth in the 4-H program.
“Going to 4-H camp and working with the students is what inspired me to want to go into education and to teach. So I came back to TSU, and I majored in education, with a concentration in administration and supervision,” she said.
Taylor, who was born in Tennessee but reared in New Orleans, said her journey as an educator started by working as a substitute teacher.
“I was a substitute teacher for two years while working on my master’s degree. While I was an interim sub, a teacher at one of the schools where I was subbing didn’t return,” said Taylor, who is currently a doctoral student pursuing her Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction at TSU. “The principal asked me if I wanted the job. I said yes, and so I have been at my school, DuPoint Hadley, the entire time, since 1999.”
After noticing the low literacy rate of students in Tennessee, Taylor, who has an Ed.S. in administration, set her sites on helping students become better readers.
“My goal ultimately is to do curriculum development and even work on a collegiate level as well,” she said. “Being an educator and a literacy teacher, I am able to see some of those deficiencies that students have, and I am looking to help develop a curriculum to address some of the issues that the students are facing.”
Taylor said a great deal of her research focuses on helping students with reading across all content areas. She said Dr. Clara Young, professor and department chair for Teaching and Learning in the College of Education, has been instrumental in providing students like her with the support necessary to make progress on her dissertation while teaching full-time.
Young, who has worked in higher education for nearly 24 years, said she sees Taylor as a committed and enthusiastic educator who can make a meaningful contribution to higher education.
“The fact that she has been a teacher for 20 years, in addition to completing this degree, will better equip her to move into higher education to become a teacher educator and to actually teach people how to become teachers. So this will definitely be an opportunity for her,” Young said. “She can bring her experience to future teachers, and I think that will be really important.”
According to Taylor’s sister, Leah Dupree, education has always been central in their family.
“Education has always been very important. It wasn’t, ‘Are you going to college?’ or, ‘Are you going to school?’ It was, ‘Where are you going?’ It was never an option for us,” said Dupree, a TSU graduate and director of Legislative Services for the Tennessee Department of General Services. “It was just a way of life, and most of the people in our family have multiple degrees because we truly value education, but we also value the service.”
Taylor and Dupree, both members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., credit their father, Eric Dupree, who oversees the family’s Century Farm in Alamo, Tennessee, for having a great influence on their academic pursuits.
“My father was definitely an influence on my career. He is also an educator, and he just encouraged me to always make a difference in the lives of people and students if I could,” Taylor said.
Dupree, who also serves as vice president of the accounting board for the TSU College of Business, described her sister as a “phenomenal teacher who connects with her students.”
“Her personality is just so vibrant, and I know TSU is probably the reason for so much of that. Some of the connections she made, the mentors that she still has today, came from TSU, and I just hope that people know how much she loves TSU, she loves her community, and she loves education,” Dupree said.
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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.