By Betsy Burrows
Everyday Education 

Graduates And Gratitude


To graduate means to step away and last Saturday Brevard College’s Teacher Education Program graduated nine new teachers who are stepping away from the nurturing of their small college to the larger world of teaching in our schools. As they anxiously await the processing of their teaching license from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and their first classrooms, I am just as anxious, worried about their future in our schools. An important new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching sheds some light on the changing demographics of the teaching profession.

Research shows that experience makes for a more effective teacher. Yet today, nearly a third of teachers exit the profession within the first three years with high-poverty schools experiencing a 50 percent greater attrition rate than higher-wealth schools. Teacher resignations in this academic year have increased over 41 percent in North Carolina’s Wake County.

The high turnover rate among teachers is one of the most disturbing trends in the teaching profession as it hinders schools from becoming strong learning communities where students and teachers can develop relationships. These relationships of trust within learning communities are what fuel excellent teaching and learning. Turnover disrupts collegiality and collaboration and erodes valuable institutional knowledge about curriculum and school culture and procedures. As professor Susan Moore Johnson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education tells us, “New teachers need stable, ongoing support from veterans, but churn makes it difficult to have that stability.”

Despite the concerning news from the Carnegie Research, I am made hopeful for the future of our nine students if they can find the type of individuals and learning communities that Brevard College has partnered with during their preparation for the teaching profession.

May these nine new teachers find colleagues like Adria Hardy from Brevard High School and Matt Witt and Bridgette Whitlock from Rosman High School who take the time to discuss and collaborate with them on lesson and unit plans and encourage them to take risks with technology and inquiry-based learning. May they find colleagues who lift them up when their lessons fail and who support them as they try again, strengthened by reflection and good counsel.

May these nine new teachers find support from resource faculty and staff like Rosman High School librarian Sarah Justice, who helps them plan and execute exciting project-based learning, and special education teachers like Sarah Kipp and Ashley Dickson from Brevard High School who continue to help them in differentiating their classrooms for all the different students they teach.

May these nine new teachers find themselves in schools that value diversity like Asheville City Schools which offer classes on multicultural studies where students take field trips to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and schools like Brevard High School where students are empowered to create anti-discrimination campaigns to promote awareness and acceptance of differences in culture and religion, in learning abilities, and in sexual orientation.

May these nine new teachers find lead teachers like Jo Hamilton of Brevard Elementary and principals like Gordon Grant at Hall Fletcher in Asheville City Schools who deemphasize test prep and standardized testing and reassure their teachers that if they are teaching their students to read and love learning and if they are engaging their students in active learning and critical thinking, the tests will take care of themselves.

May these nine new teachers find parent volunteers like Trudy Pierron at Brevard Academy who spends countless hours organizing community volunteers to help tutor and mentor students and assist teachers in the classrooms.

May these nine new teachers find counselors like Tysha Owen at Rosman Elementary and Ami Fish at Brevard Elementary who care deeply about children living in poverty and find ways to support these children and let them know that with grit and resilience they can be successful.

May these nine new teachers find a community with programs like Neighbors in Ministry’s Rise and Shine, El Centro, and The Cindy Platt Boys and Girls Club who support the public schools with quality afterschool programs.

May these nine new teachers find innovative and student-centered schools like Buncombe County Early College and Davidson River Alternative School where learning communities of dedicated administrators and teachers support their students in holistic ways.

In gratitude, I thank all the schools, teachers, and educational leaders, not just the ones mentioned in this column, who have partnered with Brevard College to help our teacher licensure students develop into excellent beginning teachers, ready for their first class next fall. May these nine new teachers find others like you as they graduate and step out into the larger world of teaching and may they have long tenures in the teaching profession.

(Dr. Betsy Burrows is director of Teacher Education at Brevard College.)


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