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Thursday June 17th

'Literally a dream': UNC launches program to recruit teachers for Durham Public Schools

Peabody Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, pictured here on Dec. 11, 2020 hosts the School of Education which is working with Durham Public Schools on the UNC DREAM project.
Buy Photos Peabody Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, pictured here on Dec. 11, 2020 hosts the School of Education which is working with Durham Public Schools on the UNC DREAM project.

UPDATE 01/03/2021: Additional details added about what the UNC DREAM grant supports

After receiving a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in late September, UNC School of Education faculty members are developing a sustainable and efficient program for the recruitment of underrepresented teachers in Durham Public Schools. 

The project, which will span five years, is called “Diverse and Resilient Educators Advised through Mentorship,” also known as UNC DREAM. 

The grant allows UNC DREAM to support teachers as they advance in the profession. Parts of the fund will go toward the recruitment of teachers, programming for earning their certifications and licenses and their affinity groups. 

Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the School of Education, said his role is to bring the partnerships together between Durham Public Schools and the School of Education. 

“What we like about this project is that it is literally a dream,” Abd-El-Khalick said.

Another portion of the fund will go directly toward funding participant stipends, activity directors and co-principal investigators, according to Kristin Papoi, clinical assistant professor at the School of Education. 

“This was our second time applying,” Diana Lys, assistant dean at the School of Education, said. “When we applied (for the grant) the first time, our program hadn't evolved yet.”

Lys described the project as a “true collaboration and partnership” because it will encompass elements of the Masters of Arts in Teaching program into residency models at three Durham elementary schools: Y.E. Smith Elementary, R.N. Harris Elementary and Oak Grove Elementary.

“We’re looking at diversity very broadly,” Papoi said. “We want to focus on three schools that have experienced prevalent turnovers and changes and students that have been historically underserved.”

Papoi said the teaching profession is typically represented by white, middle-class women. 

“But if we bring other types of diversity to the teaching profession who want to teach elementary or special education, I’d love for them to reach out to us and the possibilities the DREAM program might be able to provide them,” she said.

Abd-El-Khalick said the faculty team is aiming to first recruit teachers from underrepresented populations. 

“The thing that we struggle a lot with is that once we get these good teachers into the classrooms, we find that many of them leave teaching due to the challenges they have, and many teachers find it hard to be in the school with the most challenges,” he said. 

In the first year of UNC DREAM, selected preservice teachers will participate in the residency program and graduate, officially becoming teachers of record for Durham Public Schools. The grant then supports them for the next three years of teaching in the induction period, where a combination of residency coursework and teacher education programs are interwoven to create a close-knit community of mentorship and collaboration. 

The project is directly connected to ideas around bringing diversity and equity into the classroom, Papoi said. During the three years, the program will also focus on building an intersectional identity for the teachers and the impact such identity has on the teaching process and student success.

Along with Durham Public Schools, the UNC DREAM program has other partners on campus and beyond, including LatinxEd, the UNC Institute for the Study of the Americas and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 

“After the four years, we’re hoping they will become the DREAM mentors,” Lys said. “We’re hoping they will give back to the program and help mentor a next generation of teacher candidates of color — underrepresented teachers to become educators in Durham Public Schools and elsewhere if they move onto other communities.”

Papoi said the grant is cost-shareable in that the School of Education and Durham Public schools will share the expense while contributing time and resources, so the DREAM program can be sustainable for many years afterwards. 

“Students do very well when they have teachers who share similar experiences,” Papoi said. “Students of color really benefit with having teachers of color.”

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