ST MATTHEWS, SC – January 23, 2009 – Four Calhoun County schools received more than $7,000 in school supplies donated by a group of Teaching Fellows at the University of South Carolina.
Sandy Run Elementary, Guinyard Elementary, John Ford Middle, and Calhoun County High were all benefactors of the generous donations of gifts from28 juniors at USC who are preparing to be teachers through the Teaching Fellows Program, a state-funded recruitment initiative operated by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement in Rock Hill.
The Teaching Fellows at USC are among 600 students at 11 colleges statewide currently participating in the state’s most effective teacher recruitment scholarship program. Since 2003, 480 Teaching Fellows have taught in South Carolina public schools.
As part of the program, each cohort completes a sophomore experience aimed at developing leadership qualities and engaging with communities and schools. Each experience of the 11 colleges offering the Teaching Fellows Program has a unique focus; the USC Teaching Fellows chose to donate school supplies ranging from pens and pencils to digital cameras to the schools in Calhoun County.
MyKeida Middleton, a 2005 Teaching Fellows graduate from South Carolina State University and fourth grade teacher at Guinyard Elementary, proudly hosted the group from USC. “For (the Fellows) to have this opportunity to give back is great because this will help our students directly,” she said.
And, according to USC Teaching Fellows Campus Director Kim Smoak, that’s exactly what her students hoped to gain through their sophomore experience.
“The Fellows wanted their money to be used to help teachers and students directly,” she said. “We considered choosing one school; but through an already existing partnership between USC and Calhoun County, we’ve been able to help all four schools.”
The connection between USC and the four Calhoun County schools was strengthened by this new partnership with the Teaching Fellows program. The university was already working with the district through the Diverse Pathways Project. As the project director, Dr. Jane Zenger aided the Teaching Fellows in securing Calhoun County as a site that could benefit from the donations.
For the Teaching Fellows it wasn’t enough to simply donate the supplies as each said it was important for them to deliver the materials and to tour the rural schools located about 45-minutes southeast of Columbia.
“They felt strongly about coming to the schools to give the supplies and to interact with the students,” said Smoak. “We hope to establish this type of giving as our annual sophomore experience. The schools were very gracious and welcoming and we couldn’t have asked for a better reception.”
Tyesha Deas, who plans to teach secondary math, was among the group of Teaching Fellows who visited Calhoun County High. Students in the school’s journalism class were given a digital camera, and Deas along with several other Teaching Fellows were stopped in the hall and asked to pose for a picture taken with the camera they gave to the student’s moments before.
“The excitement on the faces of the principals, teachers, and students will be with me a long time,” she said. “When teachers and students have adequate supplies and materials, everyone seems to be more enthusiastic, making the school environment a better place to learn.”
Other Teaching Fellows made similar observations as school climate was openly discussed among the group. Zach Dobbs, a future band teacher, said “All of the schools that we attended had excellent administrators and supporting casts of enthusiastic faculty. I can only hope to have a similar supportive administration in my future jobs.”
George Kiernan, principal at Sandy Run Elementary, says partnerships and relationships like that established between his school and the USC Teaching Fellows are especially important in these times of a souring economy.
“Funding difficulties make things hard,” he said through his thick New Jersey accent. “We plan to use the materials for our science lab that we’ll move into next school year.”
Guinyard Elementary and John Ford Middle are closing at the end of the year. An expansion at Sandy Run will turn it into a K-8 campus and St. Matthews School, a second K-8 facility, will open in 2009-2010. With Sandy Run’s growth, the materials will be used to outfit the new science lab, which is currently under construction.
Kiernan, who is an energetic and charismatic leader, sees the materials as a means to help prepare students at Sandy Run for jobs of the future. “Science is a field where the jobs will be and we’re looking to prepare our students for that, and our teachers are excited to begin using the materials to that end,” he said.
While giving the Teaching Fellows a tour of the school, he urged them to not discount teaching in a rural community after graduation. “Rural schools have a lot to offer…we’re in a great location just south of Columbia,” he went on to say.
Aside from the close-knit towns that comprise rural communities, Calhoun County Public Schools boast high marks in the classroom, too. All four schools met Adequate Yearly Progress this year. Guinyard met the mark for the fifth consecutive year while John Ford was one of only eight middle schools statewide to reach AYP. Sandy Run met AYP for the second straight year and U.S. News rates Calhoun County High one of the top high schools in the country.
Like Kiernan, John Ford principal Hughie Peterson, a 40-year education veteran, offered guidance to the juniors from USC.
“I commend them for becoming teachers,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged. Stay with it because one day many years from now a student will come up to you and say ‘thank you’. Those few words make it all worth while. The rewards are limitless.”
He, too, was appreciative of the time and donations given by the Fellows.
“It’s so refreshing to see young people who really care. We advocate about giving back,” Peterson said. “With the Teaching Fellows coming in it gave a real life lesson how much can be accomplished when working as a group. I commend them for choosing John Ford to make a difference. Our students will remember it forever.
“They’ve already chosen to make a commitment to education and they’ll be extremely successful because of it.”
About the Teaching Fellows Program:
In 1999, the SC General Assembly, recognizing the shortage of teachers in our state, funded the Teaching Fellows Program for South Carolina. The mission of the South Carolina Teaching Fellows Program is to recruit talented high school seniors into the teaching profession and help them develop leadership qualities. Each year, the program provides Fellowships for up to 175 high school seniors who have exhibited high academic achievement, a history of service to their school and community, and a desire to teach in South Carolina.
Teaching Fellows participate in advanced enrichment programs at Teaching Fellows Institutions, have professional development opportunities during summer months, and are involved with communities and businesses throughout the state. They receive up to $24,000 through yearly scholarships, not to exceed $6,000/year for four years, while they complete a degree leading to teacher certification (contingent upon funding from the S.C. General Assembly). A Fellow agrees to teach in South Carolina one year for every year he or she receives the Fellowship
About the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement:
CERRA, an independent state agency located on the campus of Winthrop University, is the oldest and most established teacher recruitment program in the co
untry. The purpose of CERRA is to provide leadership in identifying, attracting, placing and retaining well-qualified individuals for the teaching profession in South Carolina. CERRA is a national model and its programs have been adopted at school, district and state levels in more than 30 states in the United States.