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Dr. Rochonda Nenonene

Dr. Rochonda Nenonene

Written by Anna Rose Redgate '20

As UD continues to grow and shape into the University for the Common Good, the campus community often turns to face the leaders of UD to ask how they, too, can find a place in this more inclusive vision. Dr. Rochonda Nenonene, assistant professor in the School of Education & Health Sciences, First Year Student Experience Coordinator, and Founding and Co-Director of the Urban Teacher Academy, not only serves as a strong leader, but has dedicated her entire career to shaping future educators who will help to build more inclusive and equitable educational environments for all, especially for students in urban settings.

Growing up in Cleveland, Dr. Nenonene recognized the importance of having committed urban educators firsthand. Having teachers who were both compassionate and demanding provided the framework for her to understand what she wanted to contribute to her community and pursue as a profession: education. After teaching in both Cleveland City Schools and Dayton Public Schools, Dr. Nenonene decided that she could make the greatest impact in education by helping to train future teachers.  After receiving both her masters and doctorate from UD in Educational Leadership, Dr. Nenonene became the Director of the Urban Teacher Academy, an organization dedicated to equipping School of Education graduates with the skills, training, and network necessary to succeed as urban school educators. When Dr. Nenonene first began as the Director, only about 10-13 percent of graduates were taking jobs in urban school settings. Today, roughly 70 percent of education graduates choose to take urban school teaching jobs.

Dr. Nenonene’s incredible growth of the Urban Teacher Academy did not come without challenge. Working with a UD student population who has primarily attended suburban public schools or private schools, Dr. Nenonene had to work for teacher candidates to see the need for committed educators in urban schools and to really consider urban education as a viable career path. “We really had to work to take away the mystique that urban is scary… urban students are just like any other student, all students have needs and challenges. When new teachers walk into an urban school, they are still going to see the same thing that they would see in any other school setting: students who want to learn”.  Nenonene continues, “What urban schools need are teachers who care enough about their students to teach them with respect and an appreciation for who they are”.

While some education programs based in urban settings may struggle with retention rates of teachers, graduates of the Urban Teacher Academy have a 70 percent retention rate of veteran teachers. These graduates have continued to grow professionally in educational settings, becoming principals, vice principals, counselors, and board of education members. Some of that success can be attributed to Dr. Nenonene’s dedication to being a valuable resource for  all her students and helping guide them in any way she can.

In essence, education has  a domino effect. When one strong leader influences another, there truly is no end to the positive impact that can be made. Dr. Nenonene has certainly lived and led in a way that stretches her impact far beyond campus and into communities everywhere, especially in the Greater Dayton area. Through the lens of social justice and equity, culturally responsive teaching practices have been the cornerstone of Dr. Nenonene’s leadership and has equipped students to become successful teachers who create inclusive learning communities for the students and families they serve. “Always go back, and give back to people,” Dr. Nenonene said. In a time where education strategies that prioritize diversity and inclusion are more important than ever, Dr. Nenonene has laid a strong foundation that future educators and students alike will be able to build on to make the future a place where everyone has a seat at the table.