The College of Charleston has long been a local producer of educators for Charleston County School District. This year alone, 30 CofC graduates are first-year teachers in CCSD. CofC alumni are in elementary, middle, and high schools across the district and are teaching across all of CCSD’s geographic regions. CofC has been educating aspriring teachers for nearly 90 years.
Each year, almost a third of the graduating teachers choose to seek employment with CCSD thanks to a continued partnership between the college and the district.
According to Kevin Eakes, Assistant Dean of Assessment & Professional Practice in the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, CofC works with the district to place educators via a seamless transition. “Our students observe and teach under the guidance of some of the best teachers in the industry,” said Eakes. “Many of them are CofC alumnus.”
Eakes explained that many of those return for additional certifications and graduate degrees. The reciprocal partnership between the college and the district is crucial to help teachers stay connected to emerging trends. “We want to inspire the best teachers for our classrooms so that they can teach for tomorrow,” said Eakes, who referenced American philosopher and educator John Dewey, “If we teach today’s students as we did yesterday, we rob them of their tomorrow.”
Rodrick Bellamy earned a job as a sixth-grade teacher at Northwoods Middle School. Bellamy grew up in Conway and attended Title 1 schools. He thrived in middle school, because for the first time ever, he had a black, male teacher. “He looked like me,” said Bellamy. “That teacher, Mr. Cedric McKnight (now a principal in Sumter County) is the reason I wanted to become a teacher. My middle schoolers are at the age where they are forming identities and figuring out who they are. I want to be able to help influence some of those decisions.”
Bellamy said he is a teacher to show students who look like him that they can be/do what society says they cannot. “I am a teacher [SoI can be] a positive male role model to students who may not have one in their lives, and more specifically a positive black male role model,” said Bellamy. His path led him to tour CofC and connect with admissions counselors who arranged for him to participate in an overnight visit with a CofC student. That’s where he got to experience CofC first-hand.
“I absolutely fell in love with the small feel and the community support systems that were already forming to help me thrive,” said Bellamy. “I knew the College of Charleston was definitely the place to be.” Bellamy said that after he enrolled he got involved in various organizations that helped mold him into the person he is today. “Teaching Fellows, Call Me MiSTER, and ultimately, the Summer Teacher Residency Program turned out to be great support networks that taught me to be my best self, and my best self as a teacher,” said Bellamy. “My professors helped me realize and clarify what my dreams could be and how to get there. I recommend Summer Teacher Residency Program to anyone going into education. You’ll get all the assistance and support you’ll ever need.”
Bellamy is most excited to being teaching under the leadership of CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait, who was the superintendent of Horry County Schools when he was a student. “I just hope I make her proud,” Bellamy said.
One of the greatest pieces of advice that CofC graduates Sara Villarreal received before her first day of teaching at Ladson Elementary School is that “six-year-olds don’t care if you make mistakes.” That advice was given to her during the District’s Summer Residency Program. There were many reasons as to why Villarreal chose to go into education, specifically with CCSD. But the main driver was her time studying at CofC and being mentored by CCSD representatives.
Villarreal grew up in the Lowcountry and knew at a very young age she wanted to be an educator. But it was her CCSD teachers that year after year drove home the idea. After enrolling at CofC she quickly knew she had made the right decision. “Many of the faculty are former CCSD employees,” said Villarreal. “They helped us make connections with employees at the school district, they allowed us to talk with teachers, and provided us the opportunity to student-teach in CCSD schools.”
Villarreal said that the partnership between CofC and CCSD helped prepare her for the job. “I knew I wanted to teach in CCSD because I am a product of CCSD,” said Villarreal. “After seeing it through adult eyes, I was positive.”
“My professors were incredibly amazing and supportive,” said Villarreal. “They all reached out before school started and some even offered to come and help set up my classroom.”
Villarreal participated in CCSD’s Summer Teacher Residency Program and described it as life-changing. “Leading up to teaching for the first time, I had a view of what it would be like and the Summer Teacher Residency Program altered that. It opened my eyes to the difficulties of teaching and how incredibly important it is to drill down on your expectations of your students such as routines and creating a classroom community.”
So far, her first-year experience has been incredible, Villarreal said. “Those first few days the students are shy and they are feeling me out, just like I am feeling them out,” snoted Villarreal. “My kiddos are hilarious and amazing to be around.” Her advice to other aspiring educators is to make connections with the CofC staff. “They are the front line to get into a position with the District,” said Villarreal. “They can introduce you to the important people within the district who will then be the great support system that every educator needs.”
Kory Roberts, a fifth-grade teacher at Memminger Elementary School, is also one of those recent CofC graduates. He knew from a very early age that he would find a career in education. Both of his parents were educators. “When you have a gift, I say use it,” said Roberts. He found that passion in his sophomore year at CofC when CCSD, working hand in hand with CofC, put him in a position to volunteer at Memminger.
“The program single-handedly connected us with potential careers and introduced us to CCSD district officials who we would one day work alongside,” said Roberts. “I left CofC feeling confident about where I would be one day.” Eakes confirmed that those relationships help young teachers make important decisions about where to begin their careers. “Fortunately many choose to stay right here in Charleston at CCSD,” Eakes said.
For more information, contact the Office of Strategy and Communications at (843) 937-6303.
-CCSD hired all 3three of CofC’s 2018-19 Call Me MISTER graduates
-CCSD hired seven of CofC’s South Carolina Teaching Fellows 2018-19 graduates
-CCSD hired seven of CofC’s Teacher Leader 2018-19 graduates