Inspiring Future Teachers

Kathy Fox excels in world of teaching


KATHY FOX, professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy, and Special Education, always knew she would be a teacher. “I loved playing together,” she says of her large extended family of siblings and cousins. “I played school from first grade through higher grades when I was much too old to be playing school,” she laughs. “Teachers were my role models. I wanted to be smart like they were. Sitting at my desk, my dream was that someday that would be me.”

Fox was born and raised in Statesville, North Carolina. She attended the University of North Carolina Greensboro where she earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. “I always had the desire to help someone else learn, to share knowledge,” she says.

In 1979 after graduation, Fox joined the Peace Corps in Lesotho in southern Africa as a horticulture extension officer and focused on child development and nutrition. During those two and one-half years she met her husband, and after their service, they moved to California. Fox taught for the next twenty-three years, first at a Head Start facility followed by kindergarten, first and second grades. She completed her master’s degree in elementary education with a focus on literacy from California State University, Northridge and earned her Ph.D. in education with a multicultural emphasis from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Fox joined the faculty at UNCW in 2003 and is currently teaching education courses including reading foundations, a literacy course with emphasis on writing and a children’s literature and media course. “We are learning together,” she says. “I design my teaching to be a back-and-forth conversation.”

Fox says her motivation comes from children. “Children are filled with wonder in their early ages. They want to be in school. They get so excited, even about a new book. I tell my UNCW students to remember the wonder of childhood. It’s that wonder that rejuvenates me. It’s magical,” she says.

Fox recently received two awards, Distinguished Teaching Professorship Award and Board of Trustees Teaching Excellence Award. To be eligible for these awards, individuals first must be awarded UNCW’s Chancellor Teaching Excellence award which Fox received in 2012.

Fox gets emotional when talking about the awards. “When I accepted the nomination, I thought no way would I win, but if I don’t try, what does that say to my students? I work very hard to keep learning and remain current. I want my students to know that teaching is valued work,” she says. While the main selection criteria is teaching methodology, Fox had to submit a portfolio including a syllabus of classes, records of scholarship and publications, a record of service involvement on campus, participation in community and professional organizations, and her philosophy of education statement detailing her teaching beliefs.

As with all UNCW faculty, Fox has the responsibility to research. Her interest lies in family literacy. “Learning is bidirectional. Teachers communicate with parents and it comes back to the classroom making connections with students. Families are a child’s first and forever teachers,” she says. Fox’s classes always have a component that teaches students how to engage with parents. She believes children learn a lot at home. “Teachers need to capitalize on that,” she adds.

Fox’s most recently published book is one she edited with her colleague DR. LAURA SZECH titled “Family Literacy Practices and Home School Connections: Perspectives from a Year at Home.”

Outside of the classroom, Fox loves to dance, attend concerts, bake, and spend time outdoors. She and her husband biked from North Carolina to California and she has backpacked in almost all 50 states. “I see it all as a whole. All engaging, all connecting. I can find something to teach from each of these experiences,” she says.

To Fox, the best thing about teaching is that it’s never the same. “Teaching is a powerful way to connect with people. Once a teacher, it never leaves your soul,” she concludes.

To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to

Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for our WILMA newsletters and announcements.

Categories: Women to Watch