Roanoke City [Virginia] Schools recently announced that their graduation rate had jumped from 57 percent to 87 percent—thanks in large part to the work of Forest Park Academy and its Program Director, Eric Anderson. Anderson, a doctoral candidate in Regent University’s School of Education, has been hard at work, turning the school into a welcoming learning environment for at-risk students who struggled to learn in the larger classroom environments of the city’s traditional public high schools.
“I believe all students can learn and, with the right support systems in place, they can accomplish anything,” Anderson said. “As the leader of this building, I constantly remind the staff of the power of relationships. In many cases we are the only positive role models in our student’s lives.”
Anderson’s emphasis on relationships has led to smaller class sizes, as well as teachers who devote more one-on-one time building relationships with their students. The results speak for themselves—in May, Forest Park graduated its 1,000th student.
After college, Anderson initially pursued a career in retail management. But, while volunteering with Junior Achievement in the Roanoke City Public School System, he noticed a big need for male African American role models. He made the leap into education and hasn’t looked back. Anderson has held a number of different roles within the education field, including teaching special education and third grade. He eventually transitioned into administration and was named program director of Forest Park in 2008.
Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Tech. He has a master’s degree in teaching from Hollins University and earned an Educational Specialist degree from the University of Virginia. Even with all of these diplomas already in hand, he found his doctoral work at Regent—K-12 School Leadership—was exactly what he need to help him develop as a strong Christian leader.
“Regent taught me how to connect my personal belief system with my professional life,” he said. “Although I don’t walk around with a bible, much of what I do on a daily basis is ministry. I am spreading hope to a group of individuals who desperately needs encouragement.”
Anderson has been awarded the VAST At Risk Students Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Phi Delta Kappa Adult Role Model Award, the American Red Cross Hero Award, the NAACP Citizen of the Year in Education, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Drum Major of Justice Award, the Sams Teacher of the Year, and the RCPS Ray of Hope and Beacon of Light Award.