Making the grade

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chris Sokoloski/South Strand News Ivy Grayson, left, with some the students in Georgetown High School’s teacher cadet program.

Georgetown High School principal Craig Evans knows how difficult it is to find, and retain, teachers.

He’s hoping the teacher cadet course at the school will inspire some of his students to study education and return home to pursue their careers.

“A program like teacher cadets can certainly influence some of our brightest and best to at least consider the field of education,” Evans said. “You hire a hometown person, most of the time they’re going to stay. Maybe that’s just an added benefit.”

Two of last fall’s cadets – Tiffani McCray and Allie Cooper – do plan to make education a career.

McCray plans to attend Coastal Carolina University. She recently secured a $24,000 scholarship.

“It’s always fun to help others and I really wanted to teach children,” McCray said. “I always wanted to be a teacher. That’s always been my dream.”

At the beginning of the school year, Cooper thought she might want to be a teacher.

“I figured there was no better way to find out than to be a teacher through the teacher cadet program,” she said.

Now Cooper plans to major in early childhood education at Winthrop University.

The course convinced Caleb Franklin to not rule out teaching as a career. He’s thinking of studying to be an architect, with an eye toward maybe teaching architecture down the road.

“I expected it to a drag, but when I actually got there I discovered how fun and precious it was to work with all the kids and have them look up to you as a role model. I really enjoyed that,” said Franklin.

Ivy Grayson, who teaches the cadet course, said during the first week, most of the students said they didn’t want to be a teacher. As the class progressed, some said they might consider it as an option. By the end of the semester, McCray and Cooper had made their plans and several others said they might take a few education classes as a fallback.

“If I can get that much out of the students, just to even consider it as an option, than I think the class is a success,” Grayson said.

The teacher cadet course is broken into four areas.

When the class begins, the teens study themselves.

“If they don’t have a great self-esteem about themselves, then when they go into the classroom they won’t be able to encourage each other,” Grayson said.

Next up is learning about all the things teachers have to do.

“We look at, what are some things that teachers are faced with, the different special needs that teachers have to cater to, and deal with and be able to handle in an ideal classroom,” Grayson said. “They’ll be able to identify with students who are coming to them with different backgrounds.”

Students then study the history of education and how it has

changed in the last 100 years.

Finally, the students are sent into the field for some hands-on experience.

Students spend one “block” of their day for four weeks in a classroom with a teacher they choose or a teacher who requests them. Most of this year’s cadets chose elementary schools; none chose the high school.

“I want them to be somewhere where they feel comfortable,” Grayson said.

Students spend the first week observing and then take over the class. They are responsible for creating and teaching lesson plans, managing the classroom and grading papers.

“They pretty much walk in the shoes of a teacher,” Grayson said.

At the end of the semester the students receive a grade for the course, which is weighted for Advanced Placement on their GPAs, and three college credits from Coastal Carolina.

Evans said feedback from teachers about cadets is “always positive.”

The cadets said they were surprised at how much work teachers do.

“We see them teaching up in front of the class but we don’t see all the paperwork and things they have to do behind the scenes to make our lessons presentable,” Cooper said.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Riley Jordan. “You’ve got to keep up with all the kids, and you’ve got to keep up with all the papers. Everything that’s going on, their behavior. It’s kind of a lot of work.”

“I didn’t realize how much work they had to do; lesson plans and just dealing with students,” said Cameron Drayton.

It also gave the cadets a little insight into their teachers.

“The pressure of getting up in front of a group of kids and actually knowing what you’re talking about. ... That’s the biggest thing, confidence,” said Dae’Quan Gibson. “If you don’t act like you know what you’re talking about, the kids aren’t going to listen.”

“I have a lot more respect for teachers now after taking the class,” said Rachel Gray, who decided not to become a teacher.

“The class taught me a lot,” she said. “I would have gone to school for teaching and then ended up not liking it.”

There were 10 students in the teacher cadet course last fall, and Grayson has already received applications from 20 students for next fall.

“I’m grateful,” said Grayson, who started teaching the course this year. “The students themselves have been the ones who have advertised and promoted the class.”

The cadets all said they would recommend the course to younger students.

“Be prepared to work but also come to have fun because it’s a really fun class and it’s not something you’ll regret taking at all,” Franklin said.

“Even if you don’t want to be a teacher it’s a great experience,” Jordan said.

“It would open their eyes up to a new experience that I know that they will enjoy,” said Drayton, who decided to minor in education at Winthrop after his cadet experience.

The class has also been a great experience for Grayson, a former “hardcore” biologist who switched to education 12 years ago.

“It taught me more about why I became a teacher,” she said. “So it helped renew my first love. I love this career.”

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