Catherine Brown holds a master’s degree in history from North Carolina State University and after graduating from college went to work as an archivist. She later stayed at home with her children as they grew older. Her last child has just graduated from high school. As the nest prepared to empty, Brown began to look ahead and decided she wanted to give back.
“I actually wanted to teach from age five, but when I went to college there was an overabundance of teachers and they discouraged people from getting into teaching,” she said. declared.
Most recently, Brown had worked as a long-term replacement in history teaching at Smithfield-Selma High School in Johnston County. When the full-time position opened up after about a month and a half, she decided to take it.
And that’s where the Central Carolina Teaching Initiative (CCTI) comes in.
“To teach you have to have the credentials, and that was the fastest way to get the credentials,” Brown said. “It allows me to get what I need at my own pace. “
CCTI was launched in 2017 by the Central Carolina Regional Education Service Alliance (CCRESA). Lisa sonricker, program director for CCTI, said the organization could have just created a teacher preparation program for Wake County, but wanted something that would be accessible to smaller districts as well.
The program has started working with school districts that are members of CCRESA. Its goal is to train what were once called “side entry” participants to become teachers in these districts. Side-entry programs – now called “residency” – work with people who have careers or degrees in other fields to train them and qualify them to become teachers. CCTI participants complete their program requirements while teaching full time.
Sonricker herself embarked on education sideways. She came from the business world but eventually got her Masters in Education. She has spent nearly 20 years in education, ranging from classroom instruction to work in the central office. Her experience, she says, is essential in her current role as it gives her credibility with teachers.
“We’re not going to talk about a place we don’t know. We’re going to speak from a place of experience, ”Sonricker said. “This is what sets us apart and gives us credibility.
The program lasts approximately three and a half semesters. A cohort begins in the fall with online distance learning courses that help them learn to “build a culture and a learning environment,” according to Sonricker.
Online learning can take place at the student’s pace, which Sonricker and Kathy Saunders, developer and instructor of the CCTI program, instituted after realizing through trial and error that starting intensely in the fall was too much. for teachers who were already working in a classroom and trying to get their bearings.
Sonricker said the “meat” of the program comes the following spring and fall, when participants learn pedagogy and “everything that has to do with being a great teacher.” Over the year, students receive a coach, learn to develop professional learning networks, work with their cohort and develop skills as teachers. After that, they put together personal portfolios.
Sonricker said the program looks for a variety of characteristics when choosing its students: diversity, openness, coaching ability, and persistence. CCTI students are more diverse than the typical profile of teachers across the state, Sonricker said.
They don’t ask candidates to write essays, but rather want them to describe class scenarios and how they would apply them. They are looking for risk takers, people who are not afraid of making mistakes. And they ask tough questions.
“Why do you want to be a teacher? Because this job is difficult. It’s hard work, ”Sonricker said.
Rondejia King works at Neal Middle School in Durham. She was referred by two teachers from her school who went through the CCTI. His path to school was winding.
She graduated from college with a degree in dance. Although she never considered becoming a teacher, she also didn’t know what to do with the degree she had chosen.
After graduating from college, she got a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and although she said it was a great company, it wasn’t what she liked to do.
When a friend told her about a job teaching dance at Neal, she jumped, although she wasn’t sure how good her form was. It turned out to be perfect.
“Once I got there I loved it,” she said.
And that emotion is also what Sonricker and his team are looking for in future students.
“You have to be passionate about it or you’re not going to be successful,” Sonricker said.
The program has now expanded statewide, which it is capable of doing since it is primarily online. It started as a face-to-face program, but COVID gradually forced the program to shift to distance learning. It turns out that this allows it to serve a wider geographic area. Sonricker highlights the success of the program as one reason it is a great addition to teacher preparation in North Carolina.
In addition to helping create a diverse teaching workforce, Sonricker said program graduates are 15 percentage points more likely to return to their schools than teachers from other alternative residency programs, and rate First-time pass for the edTPA (a teacher’s license assessment) is 100% for program graduates.
“We are very proud of our accomplishments,” said Sonricker. “I feel like we’re leaving a good footprint in North Carolina.”