Twenty-one college students have put their vacation plans on hold this week as they learn about the “Wake County way” of becoming teachers.
The weeklong training, which comes with daily homework assignments, is designed to prepare the teenagers to step into their new roles as Wake County teachers after they graduate in 2019. Although the 21 teenagers have only completed their freshman year of college, they’re already thinking of themselves as teachers.
“I’m really glad to be around people that are so passionate about what they’re doing,” said Devin Plants, 19, a Fuquay-Varina High School graduate attending Appalachian State University. “I just feel the experience of being here is much more beneficial to myself and nurturing the skills that I need for my profession later than it would be if I was just having fun for the summer.”
Plants is among the first group of students that the Wake County school system selected last year for its Future Teachers Program. Each year, the district offers contracts to graduating Wake high school students who plan to become teachers.
Wake agrees to pay the students to attend a week of summer training each of the four years they’re in college. The students will get $3,000 in stipends over the four years. Upon graduation, the students are offered three-year teaching contracts.
Twenty-four high school seniors graduating this year – who will become the second group in the program – were expected to sign their contracts Thursday.
Whenever I tell my friends that I have a job with exactly what I want to do, exactly where I want to be, they just can’t believe it. They’re so jealous.
Colleen McIndoe, 19, who is taking part in Wake’s Future Teachers Program
Sherri Morris, a senior administrator in Wake’s human resources department, said it’s important that these students already have local ties and are invested in the community.
“They’ve got brothers or sisters or cousins or friends,” Morris said. “This is a way for them to give back and shape the future of those students.”
The program comes as Wake school leaders are worried about a potential teacher shortage caused by a sharp enrollment decline in the state universities’ schools of education. The legislature ended a college scholarship program for prospective teachers, N.C. Teaching Fellows, which was a prominent recruitment tool.
Wake’s future teachers say they realize they’re fortunate to have a job lined up well before graduation.
“Whenever I tell my friends that I have a job with exactly what I want to do, exactly where I want to be, they just can’t believe it,” said Colleen McIndoe, 19, a Green Hope High School graduate attending Appalachian State. “They’re so jealous.”
For the inaugural week of training, school leaders have met with the students to talk about the district. Sessions have also included time for the students to learn how their personal strengths and beliefs will affect what kind of teachers they’ll become.
The students toured several schools Wednesday, including Brentwood Elementary in Raleigh, where 74.8 percent of the students qualify for subsidized lunches. Morris said school leaders want to make sure the students know that good teaching and successful learning is happening at schools with large percentages of students from low-income families.
The students plan to enter the teaching profession at a time when some educators have become discouraged about their pay. A recent report on average teacher salaries for the 2014-15 school year by the National Education Association put North Carolina at 42nd at $47,819.
The students plan to enter the teaching profession at a time when some educators have become discouraged about their pay. A recently released report on average teacher salaries for the 2014-15 school year by the National Education Association put North Carolina at 42nd in the nation at $47,819. The state was ranked 47th the year before.
The $22.2 billion budget approved Thursday by the state House includes an average raise of 4.1 percent that would bring the average teacher salary to $50,000 over the next two years.
Aliyah Aal-Anubia, 18, a Broughton High School graduate attending Elizabeth City State University, said she wasn’t deterred when her parents warned her that she was not going to make a lot of money as a teacher.
“I grew up in Wake County, so I love Wake County,” Aal-Anubia said. “When I think of the money factor, I don’t really care. I just want to do what I love to do. I just want to teach.”