September 27th, 2019
PCS fights a teacher shortage
THURS. | 10-13-22 | NEWS
Recently, Pitt County Schools has been experiencing a teacher shortage. Many teachers are leaving and it has been difficult to find new teachers. This is causing current teachers to be spread thin in order to make up for the lack of staffing. A new program has been created to counter this issue. Grow Your Own or, The PCS Educator Fellows, was created to both aid future educators in their careers and to assist PCS in their teacher shortage. The program gives up to 20,000 dollars in scholarship money to applicants. Once the participants have finished their schooling, they must return to PCS to commence their teaching careers
“[Grow Your Own] is a newly established PCS scholarship and it is basically for four PCS graduates that are interested in going into the education profession,” Ulffers said. Ulffers is the executive director of the Pitt County Educational Foundation. “The vision of PCS is to inspire and motivate all learners by providing educational opportunities that engage, empower and elevate students to lead healthy, resourceful and responsible lives.”
Ulffers is also the director of Outreach and Public Relations for PCS. She has been a part of Grow Your Own since its start.
Photo by Ben Cathey
“Grow Your Own gives [the students] an opportunity to have scholarship money to pursue their career, their life goals,” Ulffers said. ”Many times students may have that obstacle of the financial piece and it keeps them from going to college and we want to make sure that if there is a student that has done well in high school and they have excelled academically and they want to become a teacher, our goal is to help them become a teacher and we want to keep them in Pitt County.”
The teacher shortage in Pitt County has caused larger classes, teachers having to take on more classes than usual and an overall search for teachers. Grow Your Own was created to combat these problems.
Grow Your Own] is important because many people are leaving the teaching profession and it is disheartening because I'm a teacher at heart,” Ulffers said. “We need teachers [because] our children are students and the future of our community and the future of our country and we need excellent teachers in the classroom leading those children.”
Candidates have to complete applications to be a part of Grow Your Own. They have to provide their transcript, extracurriculars, a letter of recommendation and complete the interview process. Last year's recipients were Kevin Payton, Lexi Lozner, Christopher Murray and Meghan Pratt. These students all attend East Carolina University but represent a range of PCS and a range of majors. The program does not limit students to a specific major or school but, they do ask that the recipients return to PCS to teach one year per 5,000 dollars received.
Rose principal Dr. Darryl Thomas, regional teacher of the year Clinton Todd, PCS board member Anna Barrett Smith, and Pitt County educational foundation board member Pat Clark were the team that chose applicants this past year. They sat on the board, listened to the interviews and reviewed applicants.
The Grow Your Own program is in place to assist aspiring teachers get through college so that they can put their talents to use in Pitt County.
“We have great students right here in Pitt County and we have wonderful students at Rose that would make phenomenal teachers and we want to help them,” Ulffers said. “We want to make college easier for them [and] if we can help them with some financial assistance, that is one less thing they have to worry about.”
Grow Your Own keeps students in Pitt County. They go from a student in PCS to a teacher in PCS but the program keeps them local so their talents can be put to use in Pitt County.
“Teachers that produce teachers and we grow our own teachers, we might be onto something,” Ulffers said. “We might tap into an opportunity where we can really identify people that are well rounded and that really care about students in Pitt County.”
Ulffers hopes in the coming years the Grow Your Own program will expand and even reach a more diverse population in order to continue to improve the quality of education in PCS.
¨We need diversity in our schools,¨ Ulffers said. ¨We need children when they walk into a classroom to see teachers that are like them.¨
Besides Grow Your Own, there are many other scholarship opportunities in Pitt County that many students might not know about. Ulffers encourages students to visit school counselor Martha Dudley for these applications as well as the website Pittcountyeducationalfoundation.com.