Western establishes center to support beginning teachers

CULLOWHEE – A newly established center at Western Carolina University is designed to provide support to Western North Carolina school systems in their efforts to prevent beginning teachers from experiencing “career burnout” and leaving the profession.

Western’s board of trustees authorized establishment of the Center for the Support of Beginning Teachers during its quarterly meeting in June.

Part of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions, the center will build upon the university’s existing partnerships with the public schools to try to stem the tide of new teachers abandoning the profession before they have completed five years of service.

“A large part of the teacher shortage we are experiencing in North Carolina is due to issues we are facing in retaining qualified teachers in the classroom,” said Michael Dougherty, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions. “This new center is part of an effort to help keep beginning teachers in the classroom and provide them support to persist and be successful in the teaching profession – something that we often call ‘mending the leaking bucket.’”

Through the center, Western teacher education faculty will collaborate with beginning teachers, mentors, central office personnel, principals, researchers and policy makers on the development of effective programs to help new teachers successfully make the transition into the profession. The center will provide resources and professional development activities tailored to teachers in WNC and will include experiences intended to result in highly qualified teachers who implement classroom activities that promote high student performance.

Two existing programs – the Teacher Support Program and Project SPACE – are examples of the kind of activities the center might sponsor, Dougherty said.

The Teacher Support Program offers an array of direct support services to all educators in North Carolina who serve students with disabilities. The purpose of the TSP is to reduce teacher stress and burnout, increase teacher efficacy, reduce the gap between research and practice, and retain teachers in the profession. Services offered include collaborative problem-solving sessions, electronic communication and collaboration, on-site consultation, information and material searches, and mentoring. The TSP completing its fifth year of operation, and the university is looking to replicate the program in the central and eastern regions of the state in the coming year.

Through Project SPACE (Supporting Pedagogical and Content Expertise), Western is partnering with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and the Asheville City, Cherokee County, Clay County, Madison County and Swain County school systems to broaden the knowledge and skills of teacher mentors who work with beginning teachers. By enhancing their knowledge and skills, teacher mentors can collectively and more systematically convey appropriate content and pedagogical standards to the young teachers they mentor, improving the retention rate for the state’s beginning teachers, Dougherty said.

In addition to providing professional development and technical assistance, the center also will collect data and conduct research in examining the effects of mentoring and induction programs. The center and its school partners will seek external funding in the form of grants to further support its activities.

For more information on the Center for the Support of Beginning Teachers, contact Janice Holt at (828) 227-7311.