CLEMSON — The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) has selected Clemson University to participate in its teaching fellows program beginning in fall 2020. The mission of the program is to recruit talented high school seniors into the teaching profession and help them develop leadership qualities.
Fellows in the program receive up to $6,000 per year for four years from the South Carolina General Assembly in forgivable student loans while they complete coursework leading to a teacher license in Clemson’s College of Education. Fellows agree to teach in South Carolina public schools one year for every year they are fellows.
When the center recently put out a call for new participating institutions, leaders from the college saw an ideal opportunity to attract highly qualified students to its programs. George J. Petersen, founding dean of Clemson’s College of Education, said teaching fellows will enjoy many additional benefits throughout their time as undergraduates in the college.
“This is certainly a recruitment tool for our college, but more importantly it will positively affect teacher retention in our state,” Petersen said. “They’re going to be better prepared as teachers and leaders and that preparation will make them more likely to stay in the profession.”
Michelle Cook, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the college, said the aim is to recruit fellow cohorts of 25 students per year starting in fall 2020 for a total of 100 teaching fellows after four years and beyond. According to CERRA, 71.2 percent of graduates (1,392 fellows) are employed in 72 of 82 South Carolina public school districts, as well as the Charter Institute at Erskine and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The college plans to engage fellows in a Teaching Fellow Living-Learning Community, which will provide additional support and help students connect and build relationships outside of the academic environment. Co-curricular experiences exclusive to teaching fellows will include seminars, professional development opportunities, service learning opportunities, additional school placements, advocacy experiences, field trips and social gatherings.
Cook said the program will emphasize understanding and respect for diversity by focusing seminars on teaching in schools characterized by racial and economic disparities. An enrichment experience planned for fellows in their junior years will see them visit schools where district and school leaders and community members are working to address such challenges.
“Fellows will emerge from Clemson with a full picture of education across the state,” Cook said. “A focus on inclusion and equity in the program will hopefully lead students to apply their understanding of diversity to their teaching, their teaching-fellow community and their lives.”
Although the first cohort of teaching fellows will not arrive until fall 2020, the college will spend the 2019-2020 academic year preparing the program. Cook said a big piece of this puzzle was the selection of a teaching fellows campus director who will work to manage the program, coordinate its activities with CERRA and advise teaching fellows.
Jennifer Hein, executive director of strategic planning, assessment and accreditation for the college, has already stepped into this role and is actively working to turn the program’s vision into a reality. Hein said she is hard at work establishing an advisory board for the program and outlining the diverse experiences teaching fellows will have.
Hein said one of the main goals is to ensure fellows receive different but equally valuable experiences during their time at Clemson. She said they can expect to have co-curricular activities every year that will look different, whether those activities concentrate on leadership development, effective teaching or how to effectively advocate for different student populations.
“The teaching fellows program at Clemson is poised to strengthen the educator pipeline in South Carolina,” Hein said. “I am excited to lead this endeavor and work with students and stakeholders to further the mission of our college.”
Jenna Hallman, CERRA’s teaching fellow program director, said Clemson’s strong history of preparing South Carolina teachers combined with a solid development plan for its teaching fellows program made it an ideal candidate to be a new teaching fellows institution.
“We are thrilled to add Clemson as an option for our state’s teaching fellows,” Hallman said. “We have no doubt that this addition will strengthen the program and help our efforts to recruit young people into the teaching profession.”
CERRA is the oldest and most established teacher recruitment program in the country. The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement was established by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education in December 1985 and is funded by the South Carolina General Assembly. Following the passage of the state’s landmark Education Improvement Act, CERRA was created out of a concern for the condition of South Carolina’s teacher supply pool and a need for a centralized teacher recruitment effort.
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