BUIES CREEK – Nathan Cochrane ’12, a former student in the Teaching Fellows Program at Campbell University, is in the first year of his career as a public school teacher. He teaches seventh-grade math at West Lee Middle School in Sanford; he coaches the school’s football, basketball and golf teams; and he completes mounds of paperwork each day. He has little free time, he said, but he enjoys his jobs and loves it. “I don’t plan on leaving.”
That was what Cochrane shared with students in education programs at Campbell, Meredith College and N.C. State University Saturday during a panel discussion on “What to Expect Your First Year of Teaching” as part of the three schools’ 2nd annual Teaching Fellows conference for pre-service teachers. More than 125 students from Campbell, Meredith and N.C. State -- most of them in the Teaching Fellows Program --- attended the conference, “Building Blocks for Beginning Teachers: Foundations for Success,” which Campbell hosted in Taylor Hall.
In addition to Cochrane, students heard from numerous veteran educators, school leaders and even their own peers during the conference's 22 sessions, which included presentations and panel discussions on topics that ranged from how to deal with parents to how to build a differentiated classroom.
Among the presenters was Jennifer Facciolini, the N.C. Department of Instruction’s 2010-11 Teacher of the Year who is now an instructional coach with the Sampson County Schools. She provided strategies about how teachers can incorporate rigor in the classroom and help students develop decision-making and problem-solving skills. Kevin Hill, a retired principal and a current member of the Wake County Board of Education, talked about ethical decision-making and how teachers can market themselves.
Two seniors in the Teaching Fellows Program at Campbell, John-Mark Magee and Brittany Bowen, led a session in which they provided examples on how to carry out a treasure hunt using geocaching based on real lessons plans developed during their learning and student teaching experiences.
“I attended the conference last year, and it’s exciting now to know that I’m able to pass on to others what I’ve learned during my time at Campbell,” said Bowen, who is student teaching at an elementary school this semester. “It’s important for future educators to get as many resources as they can before they start teaching. That’s why a conference like this is important: resources.”
It also helps to be able to connect with students at Meredith and N.C. State, said Quinn Bajorek, a senior at Campbell from Cary who is student teaching third grade this semester. “We are hearing what the students at other universities are learning and the ideas coming out of their classes. So it’s good for networking and collaborating,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot just from hearing people answer other people’s questions and by listening to the discussions.”
Leslie Peele, a senior at Campbell who is student teaching second grade, added that she benefitted from hearing about the experiences of first-year teachers like Cochrane. “We learn about things in the textbooks, but through . . . talking to first-year teachers like Nathan, we’re hearing the reality and we’re able to learn from what they’re learning.”
The conference also featured a luncheon, time for networking and a keynote address delivered by Del Burns, former superintendent of the Wake County Public School System.
“Public schools are part of the fabric of our Constitution, and their purpose is to preserve our democratic republic,” Burns said during his address. “Yes, children are instruments, and we work with children. That’s your job, and it’s important; but please recognize that you have a much more important role than you might ever have imagined: You are working to preserve our democratic republic. . . .
“It’s not an easy job. It’s not an easy life. But there is nothing more important than the work of the schools.”
Hearing such words of encouragement from educators passionate about their work during the conference was motivating, Peele said. “It gets you excited, and it reminds you why you chose to go into teaching . . . to see children grow.”
Photo: Students from Campbell University, Meredith College and N.C. State University in one of the sessions part of the three schools' 2nd annual Teaching Fellows conference held Saturday in Taylor Hall at Campbell.
Article by Cherry Crayton, digital content coordinator