Effects of Richneck Felt on Campus

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times


It’s been one month since the shocking incident at Richneck Elementary School when a 6 year old student shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, in the chest with his mother’s handgun. In that month accusations have been leveled at the administration for inaction the day of the incident (something that now former Richneck principal Briana Foster Newton denies involvement with), Zwerner filed a lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools (NNPS), and the Newport News School Board ousted Superintendent Dr.George Parker III. 

The whole world watched this unfold, publications from the BBC to The Times of Israel were writing about the shooting. But how has this incident, and the greater issue of school violence, affected the programs here at CNU that prepare the teachers of tomorrow?

The program for future educators here at CNU is the Teacher Preparation Program, directed by Dr.Jean Filleti. The National Council on Teacher Quality reported in 2021 that the program is one of the best in the state for preparing the next generation of teachers. 

Newport News Public Schools and the Teacher Preparation Program have had a working relationship for years. All future educators do at least 80 hours of their student teaching at one of the city’s public schools. 

On the day of the incident, no student teachers from CNU were at the school as they were still on winter break. However, students did go back to begin their internships at Richneck when the school reopened on Jan. 30. 

Filleti praised the student teachers for their professionalism in the wake of this incident. Filleti also emphasized that the program’s relationship with NNPS will continue and she hopes that it will strengthen with the city’s new leadership.

She says, “I think it is an amazing school district with diversity that a lot of teacher preparation programs cannot expose their students to.”

Virginia has been one of the states hit the hardest by the teacher shortage, something the state government is desperately trying to solve. Low pay, political interference in the classroom, and school violence all factor into why teaching has become a seemingly undesirable profession.

Filetti, a former public school teacher herself, pointed out several problems that she thinks schools should fix. For example, she believes that the student-teacher ratio in classrooms needs to be decreased and that the classes who lost classroom time during covid need more attention than before. 

“We continue to put a lot on our teachers’ plates,” says Filletti. 

Regardless of all of the problems within the world of education, Filleti, and the many CNU students who seek to become teachers, hope that the program is going to prepare the teachers of tomorrow with the best strategies to make a positive difference in this extremely complicated time.