GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The Guilford County School District is getting more teachers with the help of a new program.
Guilford County Schools, High Point University and North Carolina A & T State University partnered together for the Teacher Quality Partnership. It’s a federal grant that helps get highly qualified teachers into high-needs schools.
The grant awards more than $4 million to get 25 participants into an accelerated program. In this program, they will learn what they need to be an effective teacher while applying the skills simultaneously in their own classroom with the help of a mentor.
“I never thought I would be in the classroom. People have been telling me for years, ‘Oh, you’d be a great teacher,’” Rashida Queen, one of the participants, said.
Queen is one of the 23 students studying elementary STEM education at High Point University. Two other people are studying high school math through North Carolina A & T State University. She’s previously been in the classroom as an assistant teacher. This school year, she’ll be the one in charge.
“So it’s kind of nervous, a little nerve-wracking, but exciting at the same time,” she said.
The Teacher Quality Partnership starts with intense course work at either High Point University or North Carolina A & T that’s meant to prepare the future educators for their own classroom at the beginning of the school year. After work, they’ll be taking more classes through the two universities while getting support from mentoring teachers.
“So they are everyday taking what they learned in their courses and getting opportunities to apply that information directly in classrooms with teachers and getting feedback from a teacher, a mentor teacher, as well as university faculty who will go into those classrooms with them for the next twelve months and give them coaching and feedback,” High Point University School of Education Dean Dr. Mariann Tillery said.
Dr. Tillery helped bring this partnership to Guilford County Schools. She is also teaching 23 members of the cohort in elementary education.
“We have some in the group that this is their first opportunity. Their other employment was not in a teaching-related position. We have some that were teaching assistants, and we have some who were lateral entry teachers who were in the classroom previously,” Dr. Tillery said.
Musarat Bahadur was a lateral entry teacher.
“I taught for three months. And learning all of these things is amazing because I was shocked. Because I was like, ‘I did this thing but I didn’t do it the right way,’ so now when I’m doing it, when I will be going to class, I will be doing it in a more understanding way, like what’s going on in the kid’s brain and making them more excited to learn,” Bahadur said.
Bahadur and Queen did not start their careers in education. They both have backgrounds in STEM fields, which is a big part of the program.
“It’s helpful because now I’m comparing the education with the science and I see how I can teach all that science to the kids by learning all of these strategies in the classroom so it’s been really helpful in that perspective,” Bahadur said.
It’s an opportunity many of the people who are in the classroom might not have had before this program.
“I think it’s a great opportunity. I love that it’s free. We don’t have to worry about working around our schedule. I can go to work, work, come to class, learn, and then come implement what I am learning in the classroom in my own classroom. So as I’m working, I am also learning and I can modify based on what I am learning,” she said.
After they complete the course, the participants are obligated to teach at a low-performing Guilford County school for at least three years. So at the end of the year, it’s putting a highly qualified teacher in a classroom that needs it the most.
“Seeing the impact on the students’ lives that you interact with every day. Everyone’s home background is different and everybody doesn’t get the same thing, some of us are more fortunate than others,” Queen said.
This is the first group to go through the program. At the end, they will earn a masters degree in Elementary Education with a STEM concentration from High Point University or a High School Math Degree from North Carolina A & T University.
The grant is funded for four years, and recruitment for the next group of 25 will start at the end of the year.