Published on January 8, 2019 by Sara Roman  

Five teachers from Terra Nova Academy, a school founded by Samford University School of the Arts alumna Alisha Damron-Seruyange ’05, will receive on site intensive teacher leadership training through a partnership with Orlean Beeson School of Education in January. The training is made possible by the Hull Grant for seminar development. 

The teachers were chosen after Amy Hoaglund, associate professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education, traveled to Kampala, Uganda, last summer to provide professional training in comprehension, phonics, English language learning and instructional strategies for teachers at Terra Nova Academy. Her experience inspired her to collaborate with fellow Samford education professors to apply for the Hull Grant for Seminar Development to continue the training stateside.

“This project is truly an example of God’s provision if we dream big, have faith and work together to share our gifts and resources as a community of believers,” Hoaglund said.

Terra Nova Academy was founded by Damron-Seruyange and her husband Abdul in 2013. Their goal was to establish a creative, safe place for children to grow and learn in life and faith at an affordable rate.

Uganda is one of the world’s youngest and fastest growing populations. The rapid growth and lack of education infrastructure has led to overcrowded and drastically underperforming schools. According to Damron-Seruvange, due to the 1:43 teacher to pupil ratio and lack of funds, having school provided meals is very rare. Additionally, most schools have limited supplies and many students do not have books. Most alarming is the utilization of physical punishment in many of the affordable education options. Terra Nova was established to provide a place where children could ask questions freely and be imperfect without fear of physical abuse. 

Since its founding, Terra Nova has expanded to two campuses with 150 students and it is actively providing a holistic educational foundation by incorporating spiritual formation, academic excellence and artistic development into the curriculum.

The grant funds, generously provided by the Hull family, have enabled the five selected teachers to continue online training through 2018. In January, the Ugandan teachers and Damron-Seruyange will travel to Samford University to partake in a 20-day extensive teacher leader training and spiritual formation with Orlean Beeson School of Education faculty. The teachers will be engaged in coursework and visits to local schools as well as spiritual retreats and cultural activities. 

“Our hope is that we will be able to establish what we call a 'Train the Trainer' model. We will enable these teachers to go back and share what they have learned with their fellow instructors, building a sound professional development curriculum for all Terra Nova teachers,” Hoaglund said.

Hoaglund hopes that Terra Nova will eventually become an internship placement for Samford education candidates enrolled in her Elementary Education with a concentration in Christian Education and Missions program.

As for what is needed to continue this endeavor, Hoaglund asks for prayer. “We need faithful prayer warriors who will commit to praying for our team before, during and after their visit,” said Hoaglund.

The Samford community is invited to join Orlean Beeson School of Education for a farewell reception honoring the teachers on Sunday, Jan. 27, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Cooney Hall Regions Room.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.