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CCU Atheneum: Jessica Handy, left, is graduate programs manager over the educators-in-residence program. Sarah Vicini is a grad student in the MAT program doing her student teaching this semester.
Jessica Handy, left, is graduate programs manager over the educators-in-residence program. Sarah Vicini is a grad student in the MAT program doing her student teaching this semester.

CCU launches educator-in-residence program in Georgetown

by Mona Prufer
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Coastal Carolina University is halfway through the first year of its pilot educator-in-residence program in Georgetown, the first of its kind in South Carolina, and it's already getting great early reviews from all concerned - from the graduate students, high school students and teacher mentors alike.

Through this innovative program, CCU's Master of Arts in Teaching students live near the schools where they are assigned to student-teach, get closer to initial licensure, complete a master's degree and get a head start on their teaching career - all while living on Georgetown's charming Front Street in renovated apartments. There are four apartments, set up to house two students each.

The 14-month program pairs a rigorous classroom apprenticeship with master's-level education content. Modeled on the idea of medical residencies, teacher preparation programs provide residents with both effective teaching experience and a two-semester, in-school “residency” in which they practice and hone their skills alongside an effective teacher-mentor in a high-need classroom. New teachers-in-training receive stipends as they learn to teach, and are encouraged to take jobs in those districts after graduation. Participants are selected through an application process.

“There's no guarantee of a job after this,” says Sarah Vicini, an enthusiastic grad student participating in the program this spring along with three other teacher aspirants. “But I would definitely consider teaching here. I love my students and the fellow teachers I work with.”

Jessica Handy, graduate programs manager, who has coordinated the program since her arrival on campus in August, says the idea is to lodge the grad students and let them bond together while getting experience, taking education courses and gaining an affinity for the community.

“The vision is to replicate this in counties across the state,” says Handy. “If we can integrate them in the community first and get them to stay, it's a win-win for all involved.”

Participants in the educator-in-residence program receive a 20-hour graduate assistantship for fall semester as well as a stipend. During the spring internship, the graduate assistantship is 10 hours with a smaller stipend. Eventually, after-school tutoring will be available for the high school students in the downstairs classrooms on Front Street, but that component hasn't been set up yet.

Living in Georgetown allows the grad students to participate in curricular and extracurricular activities at the school they teach in, including club meetings, athletic events, theater shows and meetings.

Students return to CCU's main campus for the summer sessions and, if needed, are guaranteed housing on campus during the summer sessions.

This semester, there are four grad students participating in the program. Nelda Glaze is a first-year teacher at Georgetown Middle School. Vicini, who is originally from Lexington, Ky., says she feels as if she has won the lottery in grad programs. “It's not often that grad schools offer housing!” she says. Christopher Johnson and Isaac Barber are also in the program.

On a normal day, Vicini leaves her apartment by 6:30 a.m. to drive to Carvers Bay High School, 30 minutes away. Throughout the school day, she observes and student-teaches U.S. history and sometimes stays after school for sports games or club meetings and events.

“It's helped a ton to have roommates in the same situation as me,” says Vicini. “In the evenings and on weekends, we get together and talk about what we did during the day. And we do our homework together. We have a close-knit community here.”

That's just what Handy and Ed Jadallah, dean of CCU's Spadoni College of Education, have in mind: that these grad students become closely tied to the Georgetown community and consider teaching in the area after they graduate.

“Recruiting and retention of teachers is an issue in South Carolina and nationally,” says Jadallah, who has been working on an effective and, hopefully, long-lasting solution to the problem with Amanda Darden, director of the Center for Excellence, Academic Advising ad Student Services. “With an educator-in-residence program like this, they become part of the community, and it increases the probability of getting hired.”

Beacause of their experience, the grad students start their permanent job at a higher salary than students fresh out of college, and they've established a mentor relationship with teachers already in the schools. “By having this 14-month residency, there is more time for them to get to know their mentors and their students,” says Jadallah.

In addition to student-teaching, Vicini and her colleagues are also students themselves, taking three graduate-level education classes on CCU's Conway campus every Tuesday and Thursday during the fall semester. During their assistantship in the spring, they only student-teach and do not travel to campus for classes.

Living in downtown Georgetown on the waterfront has definite advantages, Vicini is quick to point out. The attractive apartments with exposed brick walls and wooden pine floors are the first perk. Each has a large living area, a kitchen and dining space, and two separate bedrooms with private bath. The view in two of the apartments allows the students to see Coastal's three research boats that are usually docked at he harborwalk.

Last semester's educators-in-residence had the perfect spot for watching the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. They watched from the outside deck of the Buzz Roost restaurant next door to their building. They also were able to have a front-row seat for viewing the holiday boat parade, a popular tradition in Georgetown.

“This is the perfect stepping stone between college and career,” says Vicini. “Because we're doing all our work here, we're already a familiar face to the students and teachers here. We are building rapport with the kids and faculty, which is a huge advantage. It has given us time to find our footing in the education world. We don't have to start from square one. The grad assistantship pairs us with faculty in education, and we are able to assist in different research projects and get paid for it. We have a fantastic apartment, a job, and we're student-teaching!”

Georgetown high schools that have hosted the CCU grad students include Andrews, Carvers Bay, Georgetown and Waccamaw.

Dean Jadallah and Handy are now working with Dillon County school superintendent and administrators to identify a similar facility that might work for an educator-in-residence program there where there are several teacher openings in the school system.

“We're trying to address this head-on,” says Jadallah. “Hopefully, we'll get people from Dillon or people who want to work and live in Dillon.”

Recruitment is now underway for the 2018-19 academic year. Eventually, there's hope that the educator-in-residence program can be duplicated in the five-county region - Williamsburg, Dillon, Georgetown, Marion and Florence (Districts 1 and 5), according to Jadallah.

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