CCU hopes to fill teacher vacancies through student teacher program

GEORGETOWN, SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - South Carolina is currently dealing with a teacher shortage. According to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), 6,705 teachers left their jobs in the 2016-17 school year. Low pay and lack of support in the classroom were some of the main issues cited by departing teachers. As the school year wraps up, a new program at Coastal Carolina University is looking at the future and fill teacher vacancies in our area.

It’s called Educator-in-Residence. It’s a graduate student housing program in Georgetown created in response to the state's shortage of teachers and just wrapped up its pilot year. The director of the program, Jessica Handy, said the feedback has been really great and the graduate students enjoy being able to spend more time in school. They're already preparing a second group of applicants for this upcoming school year. Educator-in-Residence is a 14-month affordable housing program that allows up to eight Masters of Arts in Teaching students to get a head start on their teaching careers. The concept is similar to medical residencies. It places CCU student teachers and first-year teachers in apartments on Georgetown's Front street and provides the opportunity to work or have an internship in the Georgetown County School District.
By allowing the student teachers to be more involved in the community, the program hopes to increase the likelihood of getting hired and staying local.

Handy is also a CCU alumni and went through program herself. She said it's easy for her to understand why students would want something like this.
“So being able to be more present. Traditional student teachers don’t get the advantages that the educator residents would. So, they’re able to actually be in the schools before they start their residency. So, they get about five or six weeks before they even start full time student teaching-- learning the school, learning the teachers, learning the students… and so they’re able to go into their student teaching feeling very comfortable because it’s a place they’ve been for over a month. So that’s a big advantage that the Georgetown residents get,” said Handy.
Handy said the first and second year teachers are the most vulnerable and are most likely to leave teaching. So, they hope this program will be able to help prevent that from happening here locally. This program offers also offers a Graduate Assistant position to students, so they don't have to commute for work.

In the future, the program hopes to utilize the classroom space in the building under the current student teacher apartments for classes and allow them to host virtual Skype classes and even offer community tutoring sessions.

Handy said one of the biggest problems right now for the field of education it's lack of positivity.
“You know at times a lot of things are talked very negatively about education. But everyone at our school, you know, we love it. We love teaching we love education, we want to make future teachers and we want to be on the forefront of helping future teachers. So that positivity is important to me and a lot of people here because we want to show how great of a field it is and how much we want to support them while they are learning to become a teacher and while they are a teacher too. We don’t want to leave them once they are in the classroom, we want to have their back once they’re in the classroom too,” said Handy.

Handy also noted the school is currently in the process of expanding the program to other districts like Florence, DIllon, Marion, and Horry counties. 

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