Dr. Valerie Jarvis McMillan, an associate professor of family and consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at North Carolina A&T University, was named a recipient of the University of North Carolina System’s 2019 Board of Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
McMillan, an Orangeburg native, was recognized during the university’s Celebration of Faculty Excellence program on May 7.
A seasoned early childhood professional of more than two decades, McMillan is the daughter of Anthony L. and the late Miriam B. Jarvis of Orangeburg.
McMillan said she was "elated and overjoyed" by the award.
“Oh my, it is such an amazing feeling. I am so deeply honored to receive such a high, distinguished award. It’s the top award that is given in the UNC System. They choose one per university within the UNC System, and to be selected as one of the 16 that they give across our system was fantastic and definitely a high honor,"McMillan said.
Her father said he was very proud of McMillan’s achievement.
“She's always been studious and worked hard at her studies. She liked to get up early in the morning to do assignments. I mean 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning when she was younger. She was our only child,” said Jarvis, who said his daughter's teachers also helped her succeed.
“She came from a string of teachers in my family. We didn't do all this. She had good teachers and a string of aunts that taught school. Her grandmother was a teacher, not to speak of her mother and her father. She has a string of training in that light,” he said.
"As a parent, you're proud of what your kids may decide to choose as a career. All you want them to do is like what they choose to do, work hard and be successful. If that happens, then parents are normally happy and I'm no different,” Jarvis said.
McMillan has facilitated and fostered numerous undergraduate and graduate students’ successful entry into the early childhood workforce in careers such as teachers, center directors, child development specialists and extension agents.
“The most rewarding aspect of teaching is that I absolutely love when I see a student that I have taught over these 22 years I’ve worked in high education get it. You can actually see their light bulb go off. They have transformed from this person that really didn’t know a lot about working with children to learning something about children and demonstrating that they know how to work with children and families and actually become a professional themselves,” she said.
McMillan develops and teaches courses designed to prepare students to meet the unique needs of young children and families.
“I see myself as like a gardener, and I see myself as one that really cultivates my students’ knowledge, their skills and their disposition in working with young children, families and those in the community. I think cultivating those type of competencies will equip the students with the necessary competencies that they need to kind of construct their own path to their professional career,” she said.
McMillan added, “Doing papers and doing well on tests and all that stuff is important. I definitely value that, but what I find is it’s a process that students go through that they really learn the most.”
She said her education in Orangeburg has definitely been a catalyst for her career. She attended Felton Laboratory School and Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School before receiving a bachelor of science in child development/early childhood education and master of education in elementary counseling from South Carolina State University. She later earned a Ph.D. in human development and family studies (early childhood education) from Iowa State University.
“I had some outstanding college instructors there in Orangeburg that really were great models for instruction and way of learning. I model a lot of what I do now based on what I was exposed to by my instructors there. They were tough, their standards were high, but they definitely would support students to reach their high expectations,” McMillan said.
McMillan, who began her career in education as pre-K teacher at Rivelon Elementary School in Orangeburg, said she is proud of her hometown and the lessons she learned there.
“Orangeburg may be a small town, but it is definitely a town that has some pretty powerful people in it, people that are progressive thinkers and doers that passed that on to the younger generation. I really think that I benefited from that and know that if it had not been for my roots in Orangeburg, South Carolina, I wouldn’t experience the success that I have now,” she said.
McMillan and her husband, Vaughn McMillan, have three children, DeVon, Kyle and Brittne.