When I first began working at the Reich College of Education, my community was easily defined as the 200 Teaching Fellows on Appalachian’s campus. In 2011, the Teaching Fellows Program was phased out and the Appalachian Community of Education Scholars (ACES) Program was created. ACES continued the Teaching Fellows model by providing support, professional development and leadership opportunities to 200 future teachers.
Our staff in the James Center soon realized that all teacher education majors should have access to the support and resources provided to ACES. We began working with the Transfer Educators Residential Learning Community and now reach out to all teacher education majors in a variety of ways, such as graduation planning, Praxis Core Workshops, Summer Orientation Sessions, and the Appalachian Educators Club.
Sustaining a community of future educators is a daunting task. We must continue to recruit high school seniors who have a passion for teaching, this is more challenging each year, especially in North Carolina. Then we must educate and support these students during their time at Appalachian. Finally, but often overlooked, we must find a way to support our graduates once they are in their own classrooms.
One way I believe we can sustain this community of future educators is to broaden their view of the world by exposing them to the unfamiliar – people, cultures, schools, places, etc. If we can help our students make personal connections with the unfamiliar, they will use these experiences when teaching their own students. So a trip to New York City for one future teacher who plans to go back home to a small, rural North Carolina town could potentially impact hundreds of children in the future!