State leaders brainstorm scholarship program similar to NC Teaching Fellows

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There's bi-partisan support in North Carolina to establish a new state funded scholarship program for future educators. Lawmakers think it will attract local high school students to become teachers. There's been a steady decrease in the number of students enrolling in school of education programs at universities across the state over the years, says UNC System officials.

Lawmakers have a template to work off of, the state's former Teaching Fellows Program. The North Carolina General Assembly voted in 2011 to do away with the program. It paid for a student’s education at several North Carolina universities, as long as they committed to teach in-state for at least four years.

Gov. Roy Cooper brought up a teaching scholarship proposal during the State of State address Monday night. Cooper wants to start the "Best and Brightest Scholarship," which according to his website would provide, “$10,000 per year for four years to students who commit to teach in a North Carolina public school after graduation.”

Republican leaders have also filed S.B. 252, which proposes providing forgivable loans to teachers who chose to teach math, science or special education in public schools.

A Guilford County Schools teacher, Sabrina Peacock, was recognized during the State of the State address, because she is a recipient of the former Teaching Fellows Program. Lawmakers are highlighting her success story to show why state funded teaching scholarships can attract local students to teach in-state long term.

Peacock is from Blounts Creek. She was interested in becoming a teacher or a nurse when she was younger. What convinced her to commit to education was the Teaching Fellows program.

When attending Aurora High School, Peacock’s guidance counselor informed her about the scholarship opportunity. Peacock applied and was accepted to receive the scholarship.

“My mom was a single parent and I knew paying for college was going to be a stretch for her. So my grades were always great, because I knew if I was a straight-A student, that was a way for me to earn a scholarship and be able to attend college,” Peacock said.

She majored in education and graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro debt free. Peacock entered the Guilford County school system, where she has been an educator for more than 20 years.

She's a math teacher.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching math, it’s always engaging. And one level of math builds on another, and I like to strategically plan things. You learn by doing, creating and using numbers in a variety of ways. And I like helping the children to think outside of the box in how they create things with numbers,” Peacock said.

She thinks starting a new state-funded teaching scholarship program will be an incentive for people to go into the education profession.