Teachers, teachers, everywhere! Every Wednesday night, you might have noticed a slew of professionally-dressed students (mostly girls, with a few lucky boys) crowding in and around the School of Education, Health and Human Performance on Wentworth Street. These nearly one-hundred students are the fabulous College of Charleston Teaching Fellows and are part of a fairly prestigious statewide program called the South Carolina Teaching Fellows.
Students at CofC as well as other colleges around the state pledge to teach in South Carolina for four solid years to receive acceptance into the program as well as a $24,000 scholarship! After reading that, you are probably considering joining the program; however, I’m sorry to say–you can’t! There is a complicated application process that can only be done in a student’s senior year of high school. Included in this process is an online application, an interview and an essay. Freshman Fellow Megan Plumb said “the interview was terrifying, but it was all worth it the day I found out I was accepted. I couldn’t wait to start the program and now it’s become the best part of college so far!”
Opportunities for Fellows to get involved within the group are bountiful, beginning with a weekly, Wednesday evening meeting. The type of meeting changes each week and there is a variety of different groups within the large group. All-Fellows meetings are when the whole group meets, often to discuss upcoming requirements, service opportunities and events. Cohort Meetings are when freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors break into four separate meetings for “bonding time” and to talk about the required cohort planned service events as well as the yearly “advocacy” project- which must center around making changes in the educational world at the legislative level. Professional Development meetings are where Fellows learn skills and tips associated with the teaching profession from various guest-speakers and/or prestigious members of the education world. Lastly, there are Committee Meetings.
Each Fellow must join one of four committees ranging from Recruitment, whose job is to go into high schools and recruit seniors to apply for the program, to Greater Community, which plans service events. Aside from necessary Wednesday night gatherings, the students must complete eight education-related service hours per semester. Jade Carpenter, a freshman Teaching Fellow, said that the service hours “are the [most fun] part of Teaching Fellows. We get to help and inspire kids in the Charleston area and get involved with education-related events. It’s a lot of stress to get those hours, but it’s worth it to see the smiles on the kid’s faces at the end of the day.” Leadership opportunities are also available within the group ranging from President to Committee Chairs and class representatives. The program is lead and directed by Dr. Charissa Owens; however, it is a very student-lead group, mostly because all of the Fellows, of course, have necessary leadership skills.
Though the program has many requirements, the benefits of the group are remarkable. Along with the intense scholarship, Fellows get their own, private lounge in the School of Education. Here, the Fellows can do homework, socialize, work on projects and take advantage of the amount of free craft supplies as well as a free printer and coffee. Freshmen Fellows take the First Year Experience class together, taught by Dr. Charissa Owens, and as sophomores, they take their first Education class together, taught by Dr. John Hale. Also, the freshmen Fellows are paired up with a sophomore student to be their mentor. Mentors are people the freshmen can go to for advice in classes as well as social issues, but they are fundamentally there to be a friend and someone the younger Fellows can look up to. Sophmore teaching Fellow, Emily Lain, who is a mentor for freshman Abby Lindemann said, “the best part about being a mentor is being able to be there for someone who is going through the same stuff you did just last year–it is also a great opportunity for bonding and establishing a sense of community. Mentoring prepares me to be a role model and an inspiration for my future students.” Above all of these advantages, nearly every Teaching Fellow agrees that the best thing is getting free t-shirts, as any college student would say.
Teaching Fellow Molly Deese said, “Being a member of the Teaching Fellows has made the transition into college a lot easier; they are like my little family on campus, and I know if I ever need anything I can always count on them! We all have the same dream and together we are going to achieve it!” Family is the best word to describe the Teaching Fellows group here at CofC. Since I am also a part of this magnificent organization, I can vouch for the fact that the Fellows are a close-knit and accepting group of future educators. They take care of and love each other like sisters (and a few brothers). These students connect with each other based on their common dream of being a teacher here in South Carolina. When Teaching Fellows get together, conversations center around love for education, love for children and, above all, love for each other. Next time you see a Teaching Fellow (probably dressed in a red Teaching Fellow’s t-shirt), you’ll know a little more about what they are doing to improve their education now, and all that they will be in the future.