Retired provost Zoe Locklear returns to lead School of Education

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Dr. Zoe Woodell Locklear
Dr. Zoe Woodell Locklear

Former UNC Pembroke Provost Dr. Zoe Woodell Locklear has come out of retirement to lead the School of Education.

Locklear, who will serve as interim dean, is no stranger to the university or the School of Education. She was the founding dean. This latest appointment marks the fourth time she has served in that role. A career educator, Locklear served more than 30 years with the state and the university before retiring as UNCP’s chief academic officer in 2017.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Zoe Locklear has agreed to return to UNCP to serve as our interim dean for the School of Education,” said Provost David Ward. “Throughout the more than 25 years of her lengthy career at UNCP, Dr. Locklear was a significant force in shaping our university.” 

The Pembroke native said she considers it an honor and a privilege to step in and serve her alma mater. 

“I have a great deal of allegiance and dedication to this university and to southeastern North Carolina and the region we serve. My desire has always been to serve this university. The School of Education has been very committed to serving school districts as far north as Harnett County, as far west as Anson County and east to Columbus County. We are certainly a regional university.”

She joined the faculty in 1988 teaching special and birth-kindergarten education and chaired the education department. Throughout her four dean appointments in 1999, 2005 and 2012 and she has continued to provide oversight and leadership to the university-wide teacher education program and to the offices for Licensure, University-School Partnerships and Clinical Practice, First Americans’ Teacher Education Program and academic departments. 

“Having previously served as faculty, chair and dean in the School of Education in addition to provost, Dr. Locklear’s familiarity with the university will serve her, and us, very well,” Ward added.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Locklear as we bring the School together to shape a strategic future focused on high-quality and innovative teacher preparation.”

Locklear lists enrollment, recruitment and retention of students in teacher education programs among her list of priorities heading into the fall semester.

“We are going to address these areas at both the undergraduate and graduate level.”

She plans to meet with the superintendent from of the 15 school districts in the university’s service area.

“I want to meet with school personnel and administrators to determine their needs in terms of helping them grow and develop teachers. We are here to serve the public schools with regard to professional development and service project opportunities. We will be working with school districts to establish teacher cadet programs at the high schools which will serve as a pipeline to either a community college or they can come directly to us.

“The biggest challenge is meeting the high need for teachers in North Carolina. With the continuous population growth, there’s a constant demand to meet employment needs. Our challenge is how can we encourage and support students to go into teaching. We must also continue to work collaboratively with the school districts to retain the teachers they have.”

Before becoming dean in 1999, Locklear was the associate superintendent for Leadership Development and Special Services with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She served as a member of the North Carolina State Board of Education from 1999 to 2002. She previously served as an assistant superintendent with the Public Schools of Robeson County, an associate superintendent at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and held position with UNC System’s General Administration.

In addition to her undergraduate degree at UNCP, Locklear holds a master’s degree and doctorate in special education both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A search for a permanent dean will begin in the fall.