Winthrop University has received $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Education to create a program that will pair the university with five school districts to recruit and retain teachers. The money is the first installment of what is expected to be $7 million in federal funding for the five year program. Winthrop College of Education Dean Dr. Jennie Rakestraw says the high need school districts the university will be working with are from Chester, Lancaster, Cherokee, Union, and Fairfield counties. Rakestraw says the university will also be working with its four resource districts in York County.
Rakestraw says the program will be tracking students as they develop from their college experience through their development as full fledged teachers: “We’re looking at this from the preservice level and their preparation in our undergraduate program through the induction years, their first few years on the job as a teacher. Then as they become more veteran in the classroom we look at how they can support new teachers and teachers in training and become further developed in their effectiveness.”
The dean says it is imperative to change the curriculum that prepares students to become teachers–to better equip them for schools that are reflecting changes and diversity in society. “We’re going to change our curriculum to help teachers get more knowledgeable and skillful at working with students that come from diverse backgrounds, from poverty, English language learners, and students that have special needs who are in the regular classroom.”
Rakestraw says from elementary to high schools, more minority teachers are needed. Also more gender diversity is desired in certain fields of study and school levels. “We need more men in the younger grades, that has been an age-old problem and so we would like to see more men going into early childhood and elementary education. We would like to see more women go into the math and science fields. We’re also looking at having more representation overall from the underrepresented groups and we would love to start recruiting more for the Hispanic, Latino population.”
Rakestraw says it is important that students get more experience in the field in order to get a better grasp on what it takes to be an effective teacher. “One of the key components of our plan is to go to a year long internship that would take place during senior year.We’re also planning to develop some more substantial experiences during the junior year.
Rakestraw says the program will also seek to develop school leadership programs in order to help veteran teachers experience growth and improvement in their chosen profession.