College of Education

Clemson teacher residency program wins award for statewide impact


The Clemson University College of Education’s teacher residency program received the 12th annual Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence during a recent celebration of South Carolina public education. The award was presented by Furman University’s Riley Institute on Oct. 25 in Columbia. The award includes a $10,000 prize to be used to further the program’s work.

Former United States Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Dick Riley presented the award, which is given annually to a program that positively impacts public education in South Carolina. The award is named for Riley and his late wife, Ann “Tunky” Riley, a devoted teacher and passionate advocate for quality public education for all children.

“South Carolina sets the example in so many good ways — we just need to do a better job of talking about it,” Riley said in his closing remarks.

The teacher residency program replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes, and the following year is comprised of a year-round teacher residency with an experienced teacher who continuously gathers data about a resident’s progress.

Residents spend the year-round residency in a district school, moving from a collaborative, co-teaching role in the classroom to an increasingly demanding, lead-teaching role. Using a variety of instructional coaching strategies, mentor teachers provide valuable insight into effective teaching methodologies, helping residents develop the knowledge and skills that come from years of experience.

Residents emerge after five years with this extended experience as well as a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education. At the same time, mentor teachers are prepared with graduate coursework in instructional coaching, and their professional growth and retention also is a top priority for the program.

Laura Eicher stands to accept the WhatWorksSC Award at the Oct. 25 ceremony.

Laura Eicher, director of teacher residency, said that being nominated for the award serves as proof of how much impact the innovative program has had in a relatively short time span, but being awarded at the recent ceremony was a true honor for the College and the many faculty, staff, students and partners involved in it.

“With all of the great programs in South Carolina doing important work for public schools, it is such an honor to be recognized with the WhatWorksSC Award,” Eicher said.

Riley also recognized two finalists, Communities In Schools of South Carolina and the Upstate Schools Consortium, which each received $1,000.

Communities In Schools of South Carolina surrounds students with a community of support through the placement of school-based coordinators, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. The Upstate Schools Consortium offers professional development opportunities related to a wide range of topics for K-12 educators, district office personnel, and future educators on Furman’s campus and online.

The Clemson team and friends celebrate earning the WhatWorksSC award (left to right): Leigh Martin, Margaret Spivey, Dietra Helvy, Laura Eicher, Michelle Cook and Jeff Marshall.

The winner and both finalists will become members of the Riley Institute’s WhatWorksSC Clearinghouse, an online resource that collects and shares key strategies for improving South Carolina’s public schools. They will also be featured on South Carolina ETV’s, which compiles thousands of media resources for teachers and students from pre-K through 12th grade.

Furman University’s Richard W. Riley Institute advances social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond by building leadership for a diverse society, broadening student and community perspectives on critical issues, hosting expert speakers, supporting public education, and creating knowledge through community solutions-focused research. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change.

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