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North Carolina Teaching Fellows program sees largest class since relaunch in 2017

North Carolina Teaching Fellows Alexa Tomlinson and Jackie Stoehr participate in an activity to learn about using makerspaces in STEM classrooms on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Photo Courtesy of Cheryl Bolick.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows program accepted 132 applicants this year — the largest class since the program was reinstated by the N.C. General Assembly in 2017.

The program is designed to recruit, prepare and support students attending North Carolina higher education institutions to become teachers in the high-need areas of science, mathematics and education of exceptional children.

Last year, 119 students were selected to join the 2022 class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows.

The original program, which was created in 1986, recruited almost 11,000 students until the last fellows were accepted in 2010. State funding for the program officially ended in 2015. 

The program was reestablished in 2017 and designed to focus on the areas of most need in the state while prioritizing low-performing schools.

Teaching fellows are offered up to $4,125 in forgivable financial aid per semester for up to four years, which can be paid in cash or through loan forgiveness within 10 years of graduation. To meet the loan forgiveness requirement, teachers must work one year in a low-performing North Carolina school or two years in a North Carolina public school for each year of aid they receive.

Bennett Jones, director of the program, said welcoming the largest class since the 2017 restart shows that the word is getting across the state. He said the program is always trying to increase the number of participants.

“I think we need to get that number higher,” he said. “We’d love to have more applicants, we’d love to have more interest across the different landscapes as to people that want to become teachers."

Applications are open to North Carolina high school seniors, college transfer students and people with a bachelor's degree who are interested in pursuing a teaching career. Students transitioning into an education program at one of the Teaching Fellows partner institutions are also eligible.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellowship is available to students at UNC, Elon University, Fayetteville State University, Meredith College, N.C. State University, UNC Pembroke, N.C. A&T and UNC Charlotte.

The program benefits include experimental learning opportunities on- and off-campus, seminars with educational experts and field trips to observe effective teaching in action.

Cheryl Bolick, the UNC Teaching Fellows director, said she teaches a one-credit course each semester for the UNC teaching fellows. She said the class includes activities on campus that are intended to provide teaching fellows with enrichment activities beyond the required class work.

Bolick said in the past year, UNC teaching fellows visited the Ackland Art Museum to talk about the integration of STEM courses with art and visited the Morehead Planetarium to discuss informal learning settings.

Kaleb Adair, a member of the program, is a human organizational leadership development major at UNC and said he plans on teaching at a North Carolina high school after receiving his master's degree in education of exceptional children.

“It’s helped me gain a sense of community with future educators and we’ve had seminars that have just helped us learn about stuff we can implement within our classroom to make it a better learning environment,” he said. 

Jones said he hopes to continue to connect current fellows with alumni, including those who were involved in the original program.

“Those are alumni that we’re trying to connect our current fellows with so they can have networks of support,” he said.


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