College of Education

Clemson plays host to SC teacher of the year, student groups interested in teaching


The Clemson University College of Education recently hosted more than 140 high school students and provided two days of speakers and activities geared toward prospective and incoming education majors. Leadership in the College developed the 2024 Teacher Cadet College Day to provide insight into the college experience for students from partner school districts interested in the teaching profession.

Across two different sessions in late February and early March, the students heard from College leaders, award-winning teachers and state educational leaders. Attendees also got the opportunity to interact with current College of Education students through workshops and campus tours, allowing the prospective students to hear directly from college students about Clemson University and higher education in general.

According to Leigh Martin, executive director of field and clinical partnerships and outreach for the College of Education, the College had previously hosted students interested in the field, but the College expanded the scope of the event this year because of an increase in interest and the number of partner districts involved.

“We are seeing that as we continue to provide innovative programs and pathways to the field of education for students, the interest increases,” Martin said. “This used to be a single day, but the need to spread it over two separate days tells us our College is standing out; we are extremely thankful to our partner districts, our guest speakers and the Clemson students who make this event so valuable to students interested in College and specifically an education major.”

Renee Atkinson
SC Teacher of the Year Renee Atkinson presents to a group of teacher cadets.

Renee Atkinson, 2024 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, provided her perspective on the teaching profession. Atkinson stressed the importance of not stagnating in the workplace–regardless of the profession–and that teachers, in particular, are relied upon to give the best of themselves and their talents. She also discussed the importance of relationship building in education, whether with a teacher’s students or fellow teachers and administrators.

Atkinson said she has enjoyed communicating her message across the state to inspire students to choose education as a career path. As a Clemson alumna, she particularly enjoyed visiting campus and seeing College of Education faculty, staff and students hard at work spreading that same message.

“The more immersive the experience, the better it is for teacher cadets and those interested in a career in education,” Atkinson said. “Clemson provides those opportunities through class simulations and interaction with current college students. It was clear that the Teaching Fellows and Call Me MiSTER students they heard from were passionate about their role on campus and their future career, which enhances the positive nature of the experience.”

The students also heard from Michael Fleming, program facilitator for teaching fellows for the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), and Michelle Cook, professor and senior associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Education.

Teaching Fellows
Teaching Fellows students hosted workshops and class simulations for teacher cadets.

The College capped off a morning full of speakers with a class simulation session and a student panel featuring College of Education students involved in Teaching Fellows, a program created by CERRA that affords students up to $6,000 per year for four years from the South Carolina General Assembly in forgivable student loans. Fellows agree to teach in South Carolina one year for every year they are fellows. The College of Education became a participating Teaching Fellows institution in Fall 2020.

Many teaching fellows at Clemson started as teacher cadets in high school. Also founded by CERRA, the teacher cadet program encourages high-achieving students to consider teaching as a career. The program offers dual credit courses recognized by many four-year institutions, including Clemson University.

Libby Norris, a senior at Easley High School who attended College Day, said she initially didn’t want to be a teacher because she grew up surrounded by educators in her family. However, that all changed once she became a teacher cadet and realized the impact educators can make from a curriculum and personal standpoint. Norris, who has already been accepted to Clemson and will major in special education, said College Day reassured her that the choice she made to attend Clemson was correct.

“I’m excited to join the College of Education because I believe the community is like a family, and I can earn a top-tier education,” Norris said. “I look forward to going into special education to help underserved students recognize their full potential.”

Caleb Blackston, a senior and teacher cadet at Easley High School, said Clemson has always been his first choice for a College because he has grown up in the area and already feels connected to it. He said College Day was valuable for him because he could learn more about Clemson, but he was pleased to hear that his decision to enter the profession aligned with much of what the speakers discussed at the start of the day.

“I loved how [Renee Atkinson] kept her focus on connecting and relationship building,” Blackston said. “She wants to keep pushing students to do better in class, but she also wants to get to know them as people and connect with them; those are the exact reasons I want to go into teaching, so it was great to hear that from someone who is highly recognized in the field.”

The day was wrapped up with a campus tour and scavenger hunt hosted by students in Call Me MiSTER®, a program based at Clemson University that works to increase the pool of diverse educators in the teaching profession.

Renee Atkinson and Teaching Fellows
Want to Discuss?

Get in touch and we will connect you with the author or another expert.

Or email us at

    This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.