A life of administering from the heart

Anderson couple brings years of caring to new positions
Dr. Eric and Tracey Anderson

by S. Rotan Hale

Imagine the mounting complexities faced by today’s teachers. Simply handling the ‘students of today’ with all their issues and attitudes alone is something most people of reasonable stability really wouldn’t want to deal with–especially on a daily basis.

In addition to the pandemic and the challenges of virtual learning, throw on the personal struggles of daily life in these trying times and it all quickly becomes quite overwhelming.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) projects there being a demand for approximately 300,000 new teachers nationwide and a struggling supply of just over 100,000 by 2024.

Using 2020 data from enrollment estimates, the National Center for Education Statistics predicts the number of students entering public schools (kindergarten to grade 12) to be 48.1-million. Doing the math, results in some rather grim statistics that really make no sense.

Additionally, shortages of administrators is a burdening issue as well. It’s a known fact, that like many other industries, education in America has taken a hit and those numbers tell a disturbing story as well.

However, in the midst of all the disparaging facts one may find encouragement in the life of such education ‘super heroes’ as Eric and Tracey Anderson, a husband and wife team who have taken new positions moving up the local education chain.

Eric, a Fleming graduate (‘90) is the new Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education for Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) and Tracey starts the school year as principal of William Fleming High School (WFHS). She speaks highly of the prospects regarding her new position and looks forward to the job.

“I’m very excited and proud to take on a new level of responsibility as Fleming’s principal,” she said. “I already know a lot of the students and parents. There’s a lot of pride in the school and the community and I feel the family atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to the new level of responsibility working with older students.”

Lucky are those couples that share a common thread particularly if it’s education – which is a chief element, among others, that binds their relationship.

Dr. Eric and Tracey Anderson on the job during an RCPS back to school event. – Photo courtesy RSPS

The Andersons have been together for 30 years, married for 25. Imagine their dinner table conversations alone, that most likely are shaped by the collective energies – born of their strengths and daily experiences as seasoned educators on the front lines. Together they have created a force that has allowed them to flourish over the years.

As principal, Tracey, described as “classy and feisty” by her peers, follows Archie Freeman whose rein lasted for eight-and-a-half years and now is Chief Academic Officer of city schools. Tracie credits her mother Claudine Smith and other strong women for the principles through which she achieved success.

“Tracey has the background and experience to become a strategic principal at William Fleming. She’s knowledgeable and really cares about student success,” said Freeman.

“When I say strategic, I’m saying she promotes an “Individualize Education Program” for every student not just those with special needs as the program was designed to do. As administrators we strive to tailor our instructions based on every student’s needs,” he added.

Tracey came to the area from Richmond. She and Eric met as students at Virginia Tech and were soon married. She first taught at James Breckinridge Middle School in northwest. Encouraged by a coworker she obtained her master’s degree at University of Virginia, UVA. Tracey then made the shift to administration, first as assistant principal at William Ruffner. She then became principal back at Breckinridge for 14 years until her latest appointment.

Eric is a product of RCPS from kindergarten on. He pursued a degree in psychology and had intentions to go into business management. After graduating from VA Tech he spent years managing stores like Kroger and Glassners Jewelers. He worked with Junior Achievement as a volunteer in schools, yet without teaching credentials. However, he still interviewed at several schools and was offered a job teaching while pursuing his credentials. Once licensed, he continued studying while teaching special education for the next three years and later taught science (third grade) after being certified as a teacher.

With his sites on administration, Eric still wanted to excel. After his fifth year of teaching he spent a year as assistant principal at Glen Cove Elementary in Roanoke County then returned to the city as principal at Noel C. Taylor Academy. He has served as program director, Forest Park Academy for the last thirteen years and expresses joy in achieving his present position.

“Eric is wise beyond his years. He understands the ebb and flow of whatever environment he’s in and doesn’t flaunt his Doctor of Philosophy degree in anyway,” said Jarrell “Tank” Rhodes, founder, Renaissance Academy who has also been a special friend and associate for years.

Rhodes said Eric is firm on being fair and he understands and respects authority, a trait learned from his mother Pastor Martha Anderson. “His years at Forest Park were a ministry to him and he administered from his heart.”

There are many good educators and then there are great educators, who change student’s lives in a very special way due to their effectiveness. Through their level of caring, great teachers have a way of unlocking potential and tapping into characteristics in certain students that are often unnoticed by others. Race is not an issue for them as they intrinsically operate above the color line.

Eric Anderson with his third grade teacher Mrs. Francis Bowling.

Eric, for instance, tells a particularly touching story of his continued connection with a teacher who has inspired him for years. Mrs. Frances Bowling is one of those “great” teachers and Eric lights up at the mention of her name.

Bowling, now reportedly in her 90’s, was Eric’s third grade teacher at Huff Lane Elementary School and he says they still maintain contact to this day.

“This woman cares enough about me that every birthday she calls my phone. If she doesn’t know my cell phone number she’ll call and find out the office I’m in.

One birthday she sent him a card with a photo of only the two of them. On the back she had listed the names of every student in his third grade class.

“That’s just how conscientious and sharp some of these teachers are,” he said. “I was a little brown boy in this predominately White school and this lady saw something inside of me and believed in me. When I say it touches my heart, I really mean it,” Eric said.

“We are so lucky to have Dr. Eric and Mrs. Anderson as part of the Roanoke City Public Schools’ family. Both are experienced and dedicated educators who care deeply for all of our students,” said Verletta White, Superintendent, RCPS. “They have impacted thousands of students during their careers, and they will continue to impact even more students and families in their current positions.”

The Andersons reside in Roanoke County, along with their two children, Erica, 22 and Tre, 14. They have achieved happiness through a committed life of loving, teaching and living life to the fullest.