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This school district is helping high schoolers who aspire to be teachers start now

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Dozens of Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) students attended the first Future Educators of Henderson Summit hosted by Blue Ridge Community College. Local education leaders and teachers gathered to hear from the students about their hopes for becoming teachers while students attended sessions to learn more about the field.

Representatives from colleges near and far attended the summit to showcase their education offerings to the prospective students. Blue Ridge Community College, Appalachian State University, Western Carolina University, UNC Asheville, Brevard College, and UNC Wilmington were all present. 

Students heard from local education leader Jan King, who kicked off the summit. King spent her entire career, nearly three decades, in education. She started out as a classroom teacher with HCPS in 1992 and went on to become a principal, a professional development lead for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), and assistant superintendent of the district. King was the North Carolina Principal of the Year during the 2010-11 school year.

“To see this many Henderson County public school students who say, ‘I would consider teaching,’ that just means the world to me,” said King.

Why teaching?

Sarah Gilbert is a student at North Henderson High School and an aspiring educator. She is especially concerned about mental health challenges in her community and thinks that being in the field of education is an impactful way to help alleviate those challenges.

“I just want to be that light for people, be that hope for people, be that love for people, so those kids can know that they have somebody there for them,” said Gilbert.

Diego Espinoza is also a student at North Henderson High School. He hopes being a teacher will help him leave his mark on the next generation. Espinoza is still deciding what he wants to teach, but he enjoys math and wants to help other people enjoy it, too.

“I really just want to make a difference with future generations and hopefully help align people to see what they want to do,” said Espinoza. 

Experiential learning

Many of the students who attended the summit are in a series of Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes called Teaching as a Profession (TaaP), which is now offered at all four high schools in the county. The three-course sequence is designed to let students explore education while preparing them to meet workplace proficiencies. 

TaaP I and II focus on theory and skills. The field experience component of Taap II gives students the opportunity to get hands-on experience at local schools. Students who earn a grade of B or higher receive credit from Blue Ridge Community College.

Sam Henry teaches TaaP at North and West Henderson High Schools. This is his 24th year in education. Henry appreciates that the courses give students the opportunity to try out the profession and develop skills that are transferable to other fields. 

“Every time I walk in with my students to observe them, those little kids come up and hug them, because a lot of them are in elementary (school). … The greatest part about teaching this class is pulling back the veil on teaching,” said Henry.

Sam Henry (left), his students, and Jan King (second from right) at the Future Educators of Henderson Summit. Alli Lindenberg/EducationNC

Bridge builders

Ryan Mitchell, an instructional coach for HCPS and the 2022 NC Regional Teacher of the Year, planned the summit. For Mitchell, education is about relationships and building bridges. As the summit concluded, he thanked students for considering education and encouraged them to keep going. 

“You wouldn’t even think about education or anything that is public service related without thinking that you want to have an impact…that’s what education is about. It’s about being a bridge builder between kids and their future,” said Mitchell.

He hopes this summit will be the first of many.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.