Partnership to awaken teacher recruitment

The Barnwell 45 School District announced April 25 that it is joining forces with the University of South Carolina in a pilot program to address one of the district’s persistent challenges: teacher recruitment.

Barnwell 45 will be one of two school districts that will get student teachers through the USC Center of Excellence for the Advancement of the Workforce and Knowledge Economy (AWAKE). The other district is Florence 4.

Through AWAKE grant funding, Barnwell 45 will get USC student teachers who will live in Barnwell with host families while they complete their student teaching requirements in a Barnwell school, said Jay Grissom, the Barnwell 45 superintendent.

“A problem with teacher recruiting in rural districts is access to student teachers, especially if a student teacher has to drive 45 to 90 minutes one-way since we don’t have a teacher-training college relatively close by,” Grissom said. “For school districts near colleges like USC, teacher recruiting is a whole lot easier, but here it’s a challenge to get student teachers.”

A meeting last October between Gov. Nikki Haley, state superintendents and the deans of education from state colleges led to another meeting for Grissom with Dr. David Virtue, the interim chairman of the Department of Teacher Instruction and Education in the USC College of Education, about AWAKE.

Grissom said he quickly saw how it could benefit Barnwell 45 and moved to be on board with the program.

Virtue met with Barnwell 45 administrators April 25 on details of implementing the student teacher program.

By the fall of 2017, Barnwell 45 will have student teachers. In the interim, eligible student teacher candidates will be recruited or enrolled, Virtue said.

Through AWAKE, USC student teachers will be paired with a local host family and live with them during the school year. The host family is paid a stipend through the AWAKE grant, Grissom said.

“The student teachers could experience how you live in a small community and become a part of it and not feel isolated,” he said.

A second part of the program benefits Barnwell 45 teachers paired with student teachers in that the veteran teachers will receive professional development. Both veteran and student teachers will go through other training as well, such as a teaching endorsement for the ability to perform project-based learning, Virtue said.

Part of the training will be teachers interacting with industries to see what knowledge is needed most and gearing instruction toward that, he said.

“How can we integrate the world of work with the curriculum of learning and make it real for our students?” Virtue said.

Recruiting student teachers for the middle school will be the priority as these grades in general are the hardest to recruit for, Grissom said.

“The greatest benefit to us will be access to student teachers and regular, high quality professional development for our current teachers,” Grissom said. “The benefit of having a student teacher for a teacher is knowing they will be passing on wisdom they have gained that won’t die when they retire.”