PIQUA — For Nancy Luce, the desire to educate runs deep in her blood.
“I come from a family of educators — my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt, so education was always a part of our lives,” Luce said. “As I looked at career choices, I also was very interested in psychology, so initially I blended the school psychology and teaching and administration together as I took coursework. It just progressed from there.”
Luce, who has been the superintendent for the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua for the past 12 years, will retire at the end of the month. She began her pursuit of education at Marietta College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in psycholog and education in 1976; from there she earned her master’s in education with an emphasis on school psychology and special education in 1977, and her PhD in education with an emphasis on administration and school psychology in 1982, both at The Ohio State University.
Her professional experience began as a graduate research assistant at The Ohio State University and includes titles such as school psychologist at Columbus School for Girls and Bexley City Schools, coordinator of special education, director of special education, director of pupil services and director of student, parent and community services at Delaware City Schools, and pupil services director and executive director at Delaware Area Career Center.
“As I look back from forty-odd years, I think that so much of education has certainly become more regulated and more prescriptive. However, saying that, I think also it has expanded in the sense that there are more options for students and certainly that’s a good thing, as far as being able to make career choices within high school and receive training,” Luce said. “I would also say that there are more services, so as students have needs that might be from the physical to the social-emotional, the schools have become a center for the provision of those services and meeting those needs.”
One of the biggest challenges Luce has faced in her career as an educator came this year: as the coronavirus continues to impact schools across the country and force many classrooms to switch to remote learning, Luce feels that the situation has been an eye-opening experience for her students.
“They went from being invested in their programs to then, totally remote, to now back full-time, and I think that experience of being remote really created an awareness that school is a good place to be, and that the alternative is really far from ideal. I think there’s been a renewed appreciation on the part of the students for having the opportunity to be here and actually work with their teachers, engage in various hands-on learning opportunities, and so forth,” Luce said.
Luce also noted that the staff at the UVCC has done an excellent job in transitioning their teaching styles to fit remote learning, and then transitioning to hybrid and full in-person instruction.
“They have just really dedicated themselves to making sure that students are engaged and really focused in on the learning experience,” Luce said. “It’s been challenging, because kids just aren’t as invested when they’re not here, and so that’s why we made the decision to go back full time, because it was the best for the students.”
The UVCC, formerly known as the Upper Valley Joint-Vocational School (JVS), has evolved over the years, not just in name but in programs and services offered; according to Luce, this sets both students and employers up for success in the long-term.
“If you try and stay in the same place, then you’re going to be further behind. As we’ve grown over the years, we’ve really become more invested in working with our business and industry partners, as well as our associate schools and post-secondary partners. Students really have benefitted from those experiences, and really have been even better prepared for either post-secondary options, work-based options, apprenticeships, et cetera. It’s been an evolution,” Luce said.
For Luce, her biggest accomplishment is the fact that she and her team at UVCC have been able to increase access to programs by adding programs at the main campus, as well as satellite programs at associate schools.
“(It) enables more students to explore, discover, and really create an understanding of what their chosen pathways might be,” Luce said.
As retirement approaches, Luce joked that she’s most excited about having a second cup of coffee in the mornings over the newspaper. She looks forward to spending time with her one-year-old granddaughter and her family as a whole, traveling more, and volunteering more in the community. She also plans on taking classes, from art history-related courses to German, to physical-related classes at the YMCA.
“I don’t want to overschedule, because I want to reflect and enjoy and see where to go from here,” Luce said. “I’m just going to enjoy a change of pace, and from there I’ll move forward.”
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