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Taking a look at the role that educators play

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

North Rowan High School student Karina Quiroz has been set on teaching since she played school with friends as a child.

“I would boss them,” she said.

Now she’s getting a chance to learn what the profession requires beyond handing out directions to students.

“We’re basically going to be doing more work than the students are,” she said.

Quiroz is part of Rowan-Salisbury’s new teacher cadet program that gives high school students who may be considering teaching an opportunity to see what it’s like.

The program began as an initiative from the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Human Resources Department as a way to help teacher recruitment, said Delores Morris, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom approved the program and classes were formed this school year at North Rowan and Salisbury High Schools.

“It’s a way to keep our profession out there. It’s a very worth while, touching profession that students may want to consider,” Morris said.

According to Morris, teacher cadet programs have been in place across the state for some time and Rowan-Salisbury had a similar program several years ago.

Morris said the system won’t see any short-term effects because the first classes of students are only in high school. But she said that, hopefully, many students will choose the profession and come back to Rowan County.

“I think it will be a good way to grow our own,” Morris said.

Beth Greenawalt, teacher cadet instructor at North Rowan, said students learn about laws that apply to teaching — discipline techniques, classroom management and how to write lesson plans.

They even have to attend a school board meeting, initially licensed teacher meeting and a faculty meeting.

“Anything a teacher would have to do, they have to do,” Greenawalt said.

In the first few weeks of the program, Greenawalt’s students learn how a child develops and how they learn at different ages.

Learning about learning disabilities, gangs, poverty and abuse are also essential to understanding the teaching profession.

“As a teacher that’s a fact of life,” Greenawalt said.

Greenawalt’s co-teacher, Cheryl Reid, said the program’s goal is to “teach them how to teach 98-99 percent of students instead of just the 1 or 2 percent that are at the top.”

Many students weren’t prepared for the amount of work required in the class, Greenawalt said.

Going to meetings outside of class, making lesson plans and being in charge of a hallway bulletin board was more than some were counting on.

“Welcome to teaching,” she said.

There is much more to teaching than simply standing in front of the classroom, Reid said. “Teaching is the easy part.”

The North Rowan program is a two-semester course that requires students to observe in classrooms at other schools and perform student teaching. The cadets create a portfolio where they learn to asses their performance in the classroom.

“They really need to be able to get down to the meat and potatoes and break it apart,” Reid said.

After completing the course, students who choose to go to Catawba College can submit their portfolio for possible classroom credit.

North Rowan senior Margo Alfieri’s parents are both educators and she wants to carry on the family tradition.

Alfieri said observing has been the most valuable part of the class. “We actually got to go out and see it first-hand. It’s a great opportunity to see what it’s all about,” she said.

All nine students in North’s program were fairly certain they would purse a teaching career, but half of Salisbury High students are just exploring.

“Ours is probably a little more exploratory in nature than theirs,” said Brian Whitson, Salisbury High teacher cadet instructor.

Clay Sunding said he took the class to decide if he wanted to go into teaching. Near the end of Salisbury’s one semester program, Sunding said he thought teaching may be a possible minor for him in college, but he’s not thinking about it as a primary career.

During the teacher cadet program, Sunding said he discovered how unpredictable children can be.

“It’s the teacher’s job to be one step ahead of the game,” he said.

Unlike Sunding, Teresa Meredith, senior, said she’s always wanted to be a teacher.

Taking the class made her want to be a teacher even more, she said.

Whitson said his students didn’t student teach at other schools, but practiced lessons in the classroom among their peers. Next year’s students may have the opportunity to student teach. Whitson said school administrators are still working out the details.

According to Whitson, the program doesn’t receive state funding so the program depends on agreements from the principals.

Dr. Windsor Eagle, Salisbury High School’s principal, agreed to offer teacher cadet at the expense of an additional science course.

“I think it’s a valuable recruitment tool for education. I hope that our school system will expand it to the other four high schools,” Whitson said.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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