It’s Simple Math: Save the Teaching Fellows

Photo provided by Ashley Autrey

Have you ever had that one teacher that you dreaded seeing every day? How about the one whose class you looked forward to despite how much you may have hated the subject?

For 25 years, the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program has been creating the teacher that you are excited to see.  Now the program is being killed.

State legislators voted over the summer to phase out the $13.5 million in annual funding for the program as part of efforts to close a $2.5 billion budget shortfall. The program provides full scholarships to students on 17 participating campuses, including Queens, in exchange for a commitment to teach at least four years in a North Carolina classroom. Among program graduates who started teaching 20 years ago, 60 percent are still working in state schools.

Unless legislators make changes in a session next May, this year’s entering college freshmen will be the last to receive the scholarships.

I was flabbergasted upon receiving an email sharing that news from Jo Ann Norris, director of the Teaching Fellows. The idea that a program that has been so successful and emulated by other states was cut by our own legislature made me feel a mixture of anger and sadness.

Teaching Fellows are given experiences that enhance their ability to be successful in their first year of teaching.  For example, at Queens, Teaching Fellows are taken to the Ron Clark Academy, an internationally recognized nonprofit middle school in Atlanta established by a former Teaching Fellow, in their freshmen year. For their sophomore year, they go to another city such as Chicago or Boston to see other schools. For their junior year, they have an individualized John Belk International Experience. The class of 2012 went to Australia and did internships for six weeks and the class of 2013 will be going to Tanzania to teach conversational English and help build a school.

These experiences are helping to develop students into affective teachers that can truly shape students lives.

Time and time again, we hear people asking what has become of our education system? What is our legislature doing to improve the system? The answer is clear: N.C. legislators are making it worse. The first place they look to cut money is in our education programs. What’s worse, they cut one that is creating those teachers who can actually change the education system into a thriving one.

What can you do? You can email or write your legislator today to petition for the program to be reinstated for the 2013 high school graduating class.  Let them know they need to restore the biggest source of a great education system: great teachers.

Ashley Autrey is a junior Teaching Fellow at Queens

Teaching Fellows at a Glance
-       47,611 applicants since 1986
-       10,800 selected as Teaching Fellows
-       500 scholarships awarded per year
-       $6,500 given to each Fellow annually
-       4,000 Fellows currently teaching in N.C.
-       1186 average SAT score of Fellows in 2010

Teaching Fellows at a Glance
-       47,611 applicants since 1986
-       10,800 selected as Teaching Fellows
-       500 scholarships awarded per year
-       $6,500 given to each Fellow annually
-       4,000 Fellows currently teaching in N.C.
-       1186 average SAT score of Fellows in 2010

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.