Haywood selected for Teaching Fellows pilot program

Haywood selected for Teaching Fellows pilot program

Students in Haywood County who want to be educators will have a new opportunity that could help pay for college after the school district was chosen for a new Teaching Fellows pilot program that emphasizes local recruitment. 

“The hope is that we’ll get a bunch of kids that will come back, and they’ll teach in Haywood County,” said Haywood County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jill Barker.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows program was reinstated in 2018 after a seven-year hiatus. It allows North Carolina students the opportunity to study at one of 10 educator programs and receive financial aid in return for working as a public educator in North Carolina for the same number of years the financial award was given.

Now, the University of North Carolina system is running a pilot initiative for a more local, district-level teaching fellowship program. The Teaching Fellows Commission has selected 20 public school districts to receive $50,000 recruitment grants in 2024 to promote teaching fellows and the teaching profession. 

The new program is part of an effort to create a pipeline of applicants and potential teachers to work in North Carolina districts that face recruitment and retention challenges. Districts were selected for the pilot program based on their interest in building a grow-your-own teacher program.

“Because rural districts and districts that have a hard time recruiting teachers because of districts nearby that pay more and have bigger supplements, they wanted to do some grow-your-own programs and try it out as a pilot,” said Barker. “We were interested in that.”

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Haywood County schools will receive $50,000 a year for three years to be used within the high schools to recruit students that want to be teachers.

As part of the pilot initiative, students will receive professional development support in conjunction with the Teaching Fellows program. The goal is to identify and train emerging teachers from pools including secondary schools, current employees, or non-traditional sectors.

“We could say, ‘hey, if you’ll come back and work in Haywood County, we can pay up to X amount of your school, as long as you come back and you give us three years after you graduate in Haywood County,” said Barker. 

So while North Carolina Teaching Fellows receive financial aid in return for teaching anywhere in the state, this more localized program offers assistance in return for coming back to a student’s specific county to teach.

“ We were accepted for [the program], so we are very thankful for that,” said Barker. “We’ll have to plan our grow-your-own program within our high schools, trying to identify kids that want to be teachers.” 

Haywood County will have the opportunity to recruit students currently in high school, as well as students who previously graduated in the county and are already attending a college or university with sights on education. According to Barker, HCS will have a fair amount of freedom to design the program so that it best fits the needs of the county and its students.

“A lot of our kids want to be teachers, but they don’t apply to Teaching Fellows because none of our local universities have a Teaching Fellows program,” Barker said. “They’re mostly in schools that are farther east, so a lot of our kids don’t apply to Teaching Fellows because if they don’t want to leave this area, they don’t do that. This is a way to try to give them some incentive.” 

The only other county in the western district selected as part of the pilot program was Henderson County.

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