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Veterinary Technology program head receives Batten fellowship for technology and leadership

Tidewater Community College Professor Megan Taliaferro, DVM, is the recipient of the 2021-2023 Batten Fellowship for Technological Innovation and Leadership.  A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Taliaferro is program head for the Veterinary Technology and Veterinary Assistant Programs at the college. 

The Batten Fellowship is funded by a 2005 gift to the TCC Educational Foundation from Frank Batten Sr. of Virginia Beach. This highly competitive award is the most prestigious technology-related award offered by the college. The fellowship is awarded to the faculty member who presents the most creative, compelling and potentially beneficial project involving technology to improve learning.

Dr. Taliaferro teaches students how to intubate a dog.

“I’m extremely proud of the work Professor Taliaferro put into developing this innovative project,” said Dr. Michelle Woodhouse, vice president of Academics and chief academic officer. “Megan’s dedicated efforts will ensure students succeed even when they face barriers to learning.”

Taliaferro proposes to modify a classroom and laboratory space to support a blended style of learning that meets the scheduling and logistical needs of working students enrolled in TCC’s Veterinary Technology programs. The classroom will be configured as a flexible space where she can engage students in the classroom and on Zoom simultaneously, providing tablets to in-person students so they can actively interact with remote students in group activities.

The proposal also sets up the laboratory space to support self-paced labs available to students when they can be on campus. Additionally, the lab will allow students to practice a particular skill until it is mastered and will also provide multiple clinical skill stations and tablets preloaded with instructional videos to support this activity.

The lab stations will also contain a veterinary virtual simulation model and all needed supplies to practice until proficiency is acquired. The room will remain locked, and students will use their student ID to enter. Instructors will be able to access door key information to verify required student attendance.

This blended learning model will apply to other disciplines that require hands-on training and lab exercises such as biology, chemistry, physics and the health professions. The outcome of this blended learning model is to increase student retention and graduation rates when other student life issues cause barriers to academic persistence.

“I love working with all of the clients and animals. It really is the best job”

Jane Gray has had plenty of jobs from managing a Wendy’s to working as a dog groomer.

Today, thanks to Tidewater Community College’s Veterinary Technology program, she has a career she enjoys.

“This is where I belong,” said Gray. “I tried a distance learning vet tech program, and it didn’t work for me, but I knew I was drawn to this work.”

TCC’s Vet Tech program launched in 2018 and is the only program of its kind in Hampton Roads.

Gray is in the second cohort, which started in fall of 2019. She will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology this summer.

“One of the best things about the program is that we are all in this together,” said Gray of her classmates. “We are all on a group text and we lean on each other often.”

Gray recently received a scholarship from the Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians. She is the only student in Virginia who earned this award for 2021.

Gray is already at work in the field as a supervised assistant vet tech at a Chesapeake animal hospital.

“The work I do now I can only do because of my degree program,” Gray said.

Gray started as a receptionist and is now in the back using the skills she is learning in school on the job. She does everything from assessing animals to monitoring anesthesia to placing catheters to administering drugs and IV fluids.

An animal enthusiast, Gray found her passion for the field when her own dog got sick. “My dog Socks had heartworms and I almost lost her. A year later she got a serious infection, and it was scary. It was then that I decided I wanted to be there for other families to help educate them on conditions and treatments.”

“Our pets can’t talk, so it’s important that families are fully involved in their care,” Gray added. “I love working with all of the clients and animals. It really is the best job.”

Gray’s journey to an associate degree has been challenging due to a learning disability that affects her reading comprehension. “When we went online because of the pandemic, it was really tough for me,” Gray explained. “But my instructors and classmates rallied around me and were there whenever I had questions. The college also offered some accommodations that were really helpful.”

When Gray is not at school or work, she is still surrounded by animals on her five-acre farm in Chesapeake. She and her two children care for seven horses, a donkey, some chickens, two pot-bellied pigs, a hog and five dogs.

Gray with her horse Tucker at the farm in Chesapeake.

Gray says she learned a lot from her favorite TCC instructor Megan Taliaferro who is the program head, a licensed veterinarian, and an avid horse enthusiast.

“We both love horses and talk about them often. What could be better than that!”