Teaching Fellows program develops teacher-leaders for S.C.
A group of 36 education majors at CCU is in training to become teacher-leaders through the state Teaching Fellows program. The prestigious program recruits talented students into the teaching profession and helps them develop leadership qualities.
“Teaching Fellows at CCU are held to a very high standard,” says Amanda Darden, director of the program in CCU’s Spadoni College of Education. The college began participating in the program two years ago and now has 21 freshmen and 15 sophomores enrolled.
The fellows receive a $6,000 annual scholarship ($24,000 over four years) funded by the South Carolina General Assembly. Each fellow is paired with a public school teacher for a mentor relationship that entails spending two hours every week in the mentor’s classroom and participating in a series of professional development seminars.
“By working with my mentor-teacher at Homewood Elementary, Sandy Norris, I am able to see what it is like in the classroom from the teacher’s point of view,” says Alex Del Castillo, a junior math major and communication minor from Myrtle Beach. “I am able to understand the struggles that a teacher must face.”
The overall goal of the program is to develop teachers who will have the skills and the background to become leaders in their communities, according to Darden. Fellows are required to teach in South Carolina public schools upon graduation for each year they receive the fellowship. Homewood Elementary School has been an important partner in the success of the program, as well as Carolina Forest Elementary. The program will expand to other local schools in the future.
The professional development component of the program includes seminars, conferences and “Hill Day,” a senior-year visit to the state capitol to meet with education leaders. An international opportunity is being planned as part of the fellows’ junior year experience.
“Through the seminars and field experiences, I have been given the tools to be an effective educator in the future,” says Zakira Felder, a sophomore special education major from Gresham, S.C.
The fellows are recruited during their senior year of high school through a competitive interview process involving the S.C. Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention & Advancement (CERRA). The prospective fellows give their top three choices of the South Carolina colleges and universities they prefer to attend. For the 2016-2017 academic year, 868 students applied for 200 openings. CCU is allowed to accept up to 25 students a year. Eleven higher education institutions in the state participate in the Teaching Fellows program.
According to Darden, about half of the CCU fellows are from Horry County, and three fellows from other S.C. universities have transferred into CCU’s program. Upon graduating, teaching fellows are highly sought after by state school districts.
“Teaching Fellows get real experience in the classroom so much earlier than traditional education majors do,” says Bailey Lewis, a sophomore early education major from Rock Hill, S.C. “The program is definitely preparing me for a future in education by giving me plenty of opportunities I would not have otherwise had, which will help me be the best teacher possible.”