On April 4, 119 students were selected to join the 2022 class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows.
The program allows students who plan to become teachers to attend one of eight North Carolina universities that are partner institutions for the Fellows program.
The students who are selected as fellows will receive funding and career development opportunities alongside other prospective teachers.
Reinstated in 2017 by the N.C. General Assembly, the program provides support for students who plan to teach science, math or special education in the state. It also encourages students to prioritize low-performing schools.
In 2011, the N.C. General Assembly voted to end the program. The previous version only selected first-years and offered less financial support, but fellows could select from more universities.
Teaching fellows receive a loan for each year of education and must repay it within 10 years. For each year of funding they receive, fellows must teach for two years at a North Carolina public school or for one year at a North Carolina low-performing public school.
Fellows also have the option to teach outside of the state and pay back the loan.
'Community of learners'
Jennifer Diliberto, the UNC teaching fellows director, said that a benefit of the new version of the program is that it allows incoming first-year students, current students and transfer students to be selected.
Each cohort at UNC includes the students who enter the Teaching Fellows program the same year, she said.
“I work really really hard to keep us as a whole unit, and I do that to help build this community of learners that are getting to know each other at different points within their career to become a teacher,” Diliberto said.
The Teaching Fellows program encourages students interested in science to become teachers. Diliberto said this is important because STEM majors often have many career path options.
She also said North Carolina has had a teacher shortage in special education for a long time, and the program also helps combat that.
“We need to do better for our children with disabilities, as well as those that don't have disabilities but are not meeting our grade-level standards because that's also a large piece of what special educators do,” Diliberto said.
Matthew Budidharma, a senior chemistry major at UNC, was one of the students selected for the 2022 class of teaching fellows. He recently decided to apply to UNC’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, which will allow him to specialize in sciences for high school students.
Budidharma said that he is the only student in his pre-Master of Arts in Teaching class this semester who hopes to go into science education.
He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to have a community of people with similar career goals in science education through the NC Teaching Fellows program.
“It’s been fairly difficult to find that because not many go to UNC to be a teacher, especially to be a science educator,” Budidharma said.
Katelyn Rhyne, a senior mathematics and human development and family studies major at UNC, has been a teaching fellow since her first year at UNC.
She said that the biggest benefit of the program is the community that comes from it.
“That’s been the greatest thing for me, just having this network already in place before I get into a classroom,” Rhyne said.
Mary Lovins, also a senior human development and family studies major at UNC, applied and was accepted to be a teaching fellow as a senior in high school.
However, she decided to attend Appalachian State University, which did not offer the program. But she applied again when she transferred to UNC in 2019 and was able to become a teaching fellow.
Lovins said she plans to teach special education. She said that working with the other fellows who plan to pursue science and math education helps all of them become better future teachers.
“As special educators, we will be working with science and math teachers who have our students in the general education classroom,” she said.
Echoing Rhyne, Lovins said the relationships between fellows are an important aspect of the program.
“Take advantage of the people and really dive into the relationships that you can build there because they can be super beneficial going into a career in teaching,” she said.
Students selected for the 2022 class of the NC Teaching Fellows program must accept their offers by June, according to Diliberto. Applications for the next cohort will open in October.
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