Meredith’s Department of Education faculty went “back to school” this fall, visiting the classrooms of beginning teachers who recently graduated from the College. These visits, which occurred during teacher workdays before the start of the new school year, were just one way Meredith College is supporting new educators.
Meredith’s Department of Education has had a Beginning Teacher Support Program for more than fifteen years. This year, Field Placement Coordinator Donna Kocur has planned a series of events designed to keep new teachers connected with the education faculty at Meredith. This effort started with classroom visits, which Graduate Programs Manager and Admissions Counselor Tyler Ellis helped coordinate.
For the teacher workday visits, faculty members from Meredith’s education department went to the classrooms of beginning teachers in Wake County Schools, Johnston County Schools, Franklin County Schools, Durham County Schools, Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools, and Mecklenburg County Schools. The beginning teachers are graduates of Meredith’s undergraduate and graduate programs (MAT, Early MAT) in education.
Teachers were provided with a gift from Meredith, Kocur said. “We filled 28 tote bags with school supplies, candy, materials about our M.Ed. program, and an invitation to our Wetonah Rice Parker Teaching symposium and luncheon.”
The visits helped to assure Meredith’s recent graduates that their faculty are still here for them.
“Having a professor show up in your new classroom communicates to these beginning teachers that we really are committed to helping them navigate their first years in the profession,” Kocur said. “Most of us put quite a few miles on our cars in order to be physically present with our recent graduates that week. They loved the free teaching supplies, especially since they spend their own money on classroom materials, but I think they loved the visit the most. It says a lot that we were willing to travel to see them in their new classrooms and offer words of encouragement.”
Critical Support System for New Teachers
Kocur and Ellis, who are both former teachers, believe support for early career teachers is critical.
“We know that with support, our graduates are more likely to stay in the profession long term,” Ellis said. “We know that they will face challenges, and we want them to reach out to us to help them overcome any difficulties.”
Kocur said all of the faculty members in Meredith’s education program can relate to the challenges that beginning teachers face because they’ve all been there.
“All of us in the Department of Education were once classroom teachers and are currently licensed in North Carolina. We experienced the challenges of being a beginning teacher,” Kocur said. ”We are committed to doing what we can to keep high-quality teachers in the classroom, and this commitment continues after our students graduate from Meredith College and enter the teaching profession.”
Many schools have started the academic year with vacancies, and the current climate for public school teachers is challenging. Kocur said Meredith is finding ways to show that teachers are valued.
“[During the visits], we reminded them to share good news with us so we can celebrate their successes. A bulletin board in Ledford Hall will feature our beginning teachers. When these teachers come to campus, they can see that we really do value them,” Kocur said. “It is often said that teaching is a thankless job, so we are also committed to being their encouragers and reminding them that ‘Strong Teachers Change Lives.’”
Early career teacher June Burchette, ’22, has felt the continued support from her alma mater.
“Becoming a teacher has always been a very exciting thing for me but it also can be extremely challenging trying to navigate your way through the first few years,” Burchette said. “I had amazing professors throughout my entire four years of education at Meredith who continue to stay in contact with me, support me, and come to help me and my students in the classroom. I know that if I ever need encouragement or advice, the Meredith College Education Program is always one email away!”
Kocur and others in the education program also continue to build connections with public school partners, which is essential.
Buckhorn Creek Elementary School Principal Daniel Simons praises Meredith for its support of teachers.
“The support our beginning teachers receive from Meredith College propels them forward and helps to solidify a successful career in education. The constant encouragement provides not only a physical but an emotional support system beyond the walls of the school,” Simons said. “The beginning teacher support from Meredith College is like no other; people are first and relationships are formed.”
Additional Beginning Teacher Support Plans
This academic year, the Department of Education will host two virtual check-in sessions for beginning teachers. Called an “Empower Hour with your Education Enthusiasts,” these sessions will be held in September and February. Prizes, including having a Meredith faculty member as a guest reader, co-teacher, or classroom volunteer, will be provided.
On October 14, there will be two Beginning Teacher sessions as part of the Wetonah Rice Parker Teaching Symposium, which is held in honor of Meredith Professor Emerita Toni Parker. These sessions will focus on building relationships with parents and the school community and on finding time for self-care in a demanding profession. And in May there will be an on-campus event for beginning teachers.