Lateral entry teachers turn school lessons into life lessons at Guilford County Schools

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Thousands of students are back in school ready to learn from their teachers. The majority of teachers for Guilford County Schools are traditional teachers. Meaning they have a degree in education and are certified. But 4 percent of teachers are like Nicole Carter. Carter is going into her second year at Ferndale Middle School.

“I really didn't know what to expect last year,” Carter said. “But I developed a great relationship with the students.”

Carter is a lateral entry teacher. For 20 years she worked for a major Greensboro financial institution. Carter eventually became assistant vice president. But the title didn’t fulfill her.

“It had gotten to the point where I wanted to explore a passion that I had when I was younger, teaching,” Carter said.

So she left the corporate boardroom and joined the classroom.

“It’s such a passion of mine helping people understand they all have skills,” Carter said. “We need to tap into those skills and share them with others. That makes you a great leader."

Carter teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade business classes. It’s her background of planning and management that really makes her eighth-grade class special. The class is about entrepreneurship. At the end of the course, the eighth-graders will have the tools they need to run their own business.

“Going around mowing grass, that's the start of entrepreneurship and being able to manage that money,” Carter said. “So I have a great opportunity to share my business skills with my students.”

Lateral entry teachers can turn school lessons into life lessons. Ferndale Middle Principal Quincy Williams began his career as a lateral entry teacher. His success and Carter’s positive first year are due to creating partnerships.

“The one thing I would say is leaning on others, taking advice from experienced teachers and gather information from their experiences," Williams said.

Carter participated in Guilford County Schools Alternative Certification Track or GCS ACT. GCS ACT is a teacher certification program for lateral entry professionals. On average about 80 professionals enroll in the program.