What does it mean to be a teacher? This is the question South Carolina's Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) sets out to answer for high school students enrolled in the organization's Teacher Cadet program. CERRA is aided in this task by higher education institutions across the state.
As one of those institutions, Lander University partners with Teacher Cadet programs at the Greenwood Career Center, Ninety Six High School, Abbeville High School and Calhoun Falls High School. Through Lander campus visits and interaction with teachers-in-training and teacher educators, the cadets get a sense of the next level of training, should they decide to pursue a career in teaching.
However, their first look at the teaching profession comes from their Teacher Cadet experiences at their own high schools.
According to Dr. Dava O'Connor, chair of Lander's Department of Teacher Education, the courses for Teacher Cadet programs across the state are essentially the same. The curriculum is developed by CERRA and is followed by teachers in the high school level Teacher Cadet classes. "It doesn't matter where students take the Teacher Cadet class in South Carolina; they study the same material," said O'Connor.
Most programs across the state are partnered with an institution of higher education. Some of these institutions provide a more hands-on experience for the cadets. Such is the case with Lander's involvement.
For instance, many of the students attending schools partnered with Lander are co-enrolled in the Teacher Cadet class and the university's Education 101 course, allowing them to receive college credit before graduating from high school. They also visit campus for a glimpse of college life and to experience Lander's teacher education program firsthand.
"They come to campus to explore teaching and college in a more in-depth way," said O'Connor. "In fact, a large number of our teacher education majors at Lander were part of Teacher Cadet programs in the state."
During a campus visit this spring, Teacher Cadets had the opportunity to work directly with Lander students who were once in the cadet program and who are now training to be teachers.
Katie Quarles, a Lander freshman and graduate of Pendleton High School was one of the students the Teacher Cadets had the opportunity to talk to.
"I've known I wanted to be a teacher since I was 3," said Quarles. "I used to play school with my older sister."
Quarles explained to the cadets that Lander's program put her in the classroom right away.
"Before you do your student teaching at Lander you have to complete 150 clinical hours," said Quarles. "So you actually go and observe teachers in the classroom. They put you in the classroom your freshman year. You don't have to teach right away, but you watch the teacher and take notes."
Quarles is also part of another CERRA program, Teaching Fellows.
Teaching Fellows is a scholarship program for outstanding high school students who wish to go into teacher education. South Carolina provides up to $24,000 worth of college scholarship money per student, or about $6,000 each year. It is actually a loan forgiveness program. After graduating, college recipients have to teach in a South Carolina public school for four years.
According to O'Connor, the acceptance process for Teaching Fellows is rigorous. Each year there are around 900 applicants, from which over 300 are selected for an acceptance interview process. Only 175 are accepted into the program annually.
The selected students are dispersed in cohorts to one of 11 institutions throughout the state. As one of these institutions, Lander has between 10 and 12 new Teaching Fellows each year.
But due to the economic crisis affecting national and state budgets, the number of new Teaching Fellows in South Carolina is expected to decrease in the fall. At this point, only 30 students who participated in the interview process in January will be granted acceptance into the scholarship program statewide for the 2009-2010 academic year.
For information on Lander's teacher education program contact Admissions at 864-388-8307, 1-888-4Lander or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the South Carolina Teacher Cadets and Teaching Fellows program is available on the CERRA Web site, www.cerra.org.