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Giving future educators a head start: Charlotte Teacher Early College

Editor's Note: This article is part of a series about North Carolina's teacher pipeline. We hope this collection of stories, research, reporting, podcasts, and perspectives will prompt a more nuanced look at the teacher pipeline across our state, identifying districts with healthy, adequate, and inadequate teacher supply. Please weigh in.

The first students to start school on the UNC Charlotte campus this fall are not undergraduates, but 55 high school freshman. On Monday, August 7th, UNC Charlotte welcomed the inaugural class of the Charlotte Teacher Early College (CTEC), a new five-year program for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students interested in a career in education.

The only program of its kind in North Carolina and one of the first in the country, the early college will immerse students in intentional field-based learning activities. Coursework will develop knowledge and skills required for success in today’s diverse urban classrooms. Students will graduate with a high school diploma, a Certificate of Advanced Standing in Education and a minimum of 60 hours in course credits transferrable to any public institution in North Carolina.

CTEC is housed in the Cato College building, providing students the opportunity to experience the vibrant atmosphere of a college campus. The program is a product of a partnership between the Cato College of Education and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), expanding on the success of Charlotte Engineering Early College (CEEC), also located on UNC Charlotte’s campus. Future plans include building a facility that will house both CTEC and CEEC backed by a combination of private and state funding. Last year, the 75 high school juniors at CEEC completed an average of 16 college credit hours with an average GPA of 3.2.

“Many of our students are first generation college students and have never been exposed to a college atmosphere, said Will Leach, principal of CEEC and CTEC. “The early college program is a game changer for them and shows them what is possible.”

“The Charlotte Teacher Early College will play an essential role in bolstering the teacher pipeline of our region and state,” said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois. “UNC Charlotte is committed to exploring innovative and collaborative approaches that creatively address community needs. The success of the Charlotte Engineering Early College is a perfect example of how such partnerships can have far-reaching and beneficial impact.” 

Early college students will participate in clinical placements in urban schools focused on developing relationships with students who represent future attendees of the program. Each grade also will participate in one significant urban cultural event each academic year focused on art, music, theater or history.

“My favorite teacher pushed us to be our best. I hope I can be that kind of teacher,” said one student, meeting her classmates for the first time Monday morning.

By exposing aspiring educators to important aspects of the profession early, CTEC will produce teachers who are prepared to succeed over the critical first years in the classroom.

“Ensuring our local school systems consistently have available a well-trained, passionate group of new teachers is an important part of what we do, said Ellen McIntyre, Dean of the Cato College of Education. “With the opening of CTEC, we are proud to be part of a creative new approach to doing just that.”

Editor’s Note: Here is an article by The Charlotte Observer’s Ann Doss Helms about CTEC, “Why 50 young teens at UNCC embody the future of public education in Charlotte.”

Wills Citty

Wills Citty is Director of Communications for the UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education.