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Friday Fellow of the Month: Hope Dugan

Friday, February 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Robert Frost famously penned the quote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This is a mantra that Hope has always lived by. At the age of four, Hope started her arts career by appearing in a stage production of Godspell. From that moment on she knew that she would live a life in the arts. (And at that very same moment the adage Man plans; God laughs came into play.)


Hope hails from the great state of Wisconsin. As a child she moved regularly and in 1984 ended up in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the age of 14 Hope began her professional career working for The Charlotte Shakespeare Company as an actor, house manager, props locator, box office manager, and other sundry duties.  She graduated with a BCA in theatre from UNC-Charlotte and shortly thereafter moved to Wilmington, North Carolina where she worked in theatre and film and opened her own theatre company, Big Dawg Productions. In 1996 while maintaining her theatre company, shooting small parts in film, and performing with The Comically Impaired (comedy improv troupe) she began her career in education as a theatre teacher at Willison Middle School.


Hope comes from a long line of distinguished educators. Her paternal grandmother was one of the first graduates from the Milwaukee State Teachers College, and many of her relatives have careers in education including her uncle who was the Wisconsin State teacher of the year. More importantly, her mother was a nationally recognized teacher and district leader in gifted education. Because of the large number of teachers in her family, Hope vowed that she would never enter education as a profession but as her winding road to career happiness made a turn, she found herself in love with teaching. Some say that teaching is a calling, and after her first year she knew that she would remain an educator for life.


While teaching in Charlotte, Hope was also an advisor for Playing for Others, a not-for-profit organization for teens who are committed to creating positive community change through the power of the arts. PFO’s core values include: maintaining an attitude of gratitude, acceptance of others, accountability for one’s choices, and taking action. These core values guide teens to become effective leaders of self and others. PFO teens made a huge impact in Hope’s life, and it was with sadness that she left her position to return to grad school for the last time (to date, that is).


In 2008, after a three-year tenure as a grants manager for the education arm of the Arts & Science Council, she returned to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) for 9 more years. On her first day she learned that one of her job responsibilities included online learning. With no experience in digital learning she was curious about the potential and what it could mean for students. After a lot of research, she began to understand the medium and saw the possibility to create alternative, personalized pathways to graduation. One of the proudest moments in her career was working with incarcerated students to earn credits towards graduation while they were in Charlotte’s Jail North facility. The ability of digital learning to transform the learner experience on a per pupil level is what propelled her to finish her degrees in Education Leadership with an end goal of being the principal of a fully virtual school serving marginalized/underserved youth.


Hope spent five years as the Director of Virtual Learning and Media Services for Charlotte–Mecklenburg Schools. Her passion for empowering schools to think innovatively about effective learning strategies and to assist schools in creating and implementing personalized education plans that meet individual student needs became a driving focus. She was a co-creator and blueprint author of the CMS Virtual High School, (e-Learning Academy) and a co-creator of the first fully blended school in CMS, (iMECK). As a provider of professional development for blended learning, she developed and realized a formalized 2-year program to support teachers and administrators in implementing blended learning. As part of her media services responsibilities she transitioned school libraries into a learning commons model with the inclusion of maker spaces for the purpose of better supporting 21st century learning. Additionally, the role of school librarian was transformed to that of information and technology leader.


Hope has been an educator for over 20 years serving in a variety of capacities including teacher, professional development provider, grant maker, and district leader. As of January 2018, Hope’s circuitous path has finally come full circle. She is currently the Vice President for Innovation and School Implementation for Zia Learning, a provider of professional learning for personalized and blended school models. In this new role she will expand her reach to assist districts in creating, implementing, and evaluating online and blended programs for the purpose of supporting facilitated personalized learning. Hope is also an adjunct at Wingate University, teaching M.A.ed. and M.A.T students.


Hope believes passionately in the power of education to be a leveler. Living in Charlotte, one of the cities with the worst rating for upward mobility in the state, she is committed to using her education background to change that. She continues to campaign for internet access for all and is a proud and staunch supporter of creating opportunities for those in need. In 2015, Hope became part of the organization Race Matter for Juvenile Justice, a collaborative leadership group working within our community to reduce disproportionality and disparate outcomes for children and families of color through institutional organizing, education, and workforce development. She is a member of the Democratic party and has served in several volunteer capacities including pole sitter, phone caller, voter sign-up, and campaigned for Wildacres alum, Jennifer Roberts, in her first Charlotte election.

Hope has been a guest speaker at the Virtual Schools Symposium, The Alliance for Excellent Education and The Southeast Evaluation Association. She is a member of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning and a former member of both The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) Technology Advisory Board and the NCVPS Advisory Board. She also served on the CMS Technology and Blended Learning Task Force, a community and district partnership convened to inform the 2018 CMS Strategic Plan, For a Better Tomorrow. Hope holds a BCA in theatre, an MA in Arts Administration, and both Ed.S and Ed.D in Education Leadership.


Hope resides in Charlotte with her husband, 2 amazing teens, and one very spoiled dog.


Each month a new Friday Fellow from the 2017-2019 class will be featured. This is the fifth feature in the series. The first is available here; the second is available here; the third is available here; the fourth is available here. The full class announcement is available at this link.

Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.