A letter that explains why NC teachers are leaving the state - myfoxcarolinas.com

A letter that explains why NC teachers are leaving the state

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Amanda Kay remembers dancing in her school musical. She was in 6th grade and in the “Lollipop Guild.” That year would greatly impact her career. After growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, and attending school in Buncombe County, she became a North Carolina Teaching Fellow.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program recruited talented high school graduates into teaching and helped them develop leadership qualities. Enacted by the General Assembly in 1986, it was the state’s way of acknowledging that the quality of educators directly impacts the quality of education in public schools.

“It was a rigorous program,” said Ms. Kay. “It was a huge incentive for North Carolina because after the program, you had to teach in the state.” She was selected into the program while in college after three interviews. She said it was about more than just being in the classroom; it was about getting into and enriching the community.

Now, Amanda teaches 6th grade at Piedmont Middle School in Charlotte, but she’s not just a teacher. She’s a gym class instructor and babysitter.

Teaching is her passion, but she says she doesn’t make enough money to focus all her energy on her day job. She admits that because she is stretched so thin, she does not feel as present in the classroom as she should.

She is so fed up with North Carolina’s public school system that she sent a letter to parents and staff at Piedmont Middle School, explaining why teachers are fleeing the state.

“Over the past few years my fellow Piedmont teachers and teacher friends across the county and state have been increasingly disgusted with the climate of education in North Carolina,” she began in the letter. I am very afraid for our state and what will happen if changes are not made.”

North Carolina ended the program two years ago due to budget cuts. The demise of the North Carolina Fellows Program is just one example of the incentives stripped from teaching, making North Carolina less attractive to prospective educators.

“That shows how the government sees education,” said Amanda.

She says teachers are opting out of working in North Carolina because of pressures placed on teachers and students for standardized testing, pay for Master’s degrees and growing class sizes. Some other reasons included:

• Elimination of the Teaching Fellows program

• Vouchers and the increase of {unregulated} Charter Schools

She says testing is a major stressor for students because teachers subconsciously over emphasize standardized tests like the EOG. She says these tests are very important to teachers and the schools overall performance.

“I feel like students don’t come to school anymore to learn. They come focused primarily on the EOG. They are not coming for the joy of learning and being enriched anymore,” said Amanda.

One teacher mentioned in her email, Mr. Paul Booth, teaches Math at Piedmont. “Mr. Booth is the type of teacher that every student deserves to have - his life is devoted to student learning and success and he will stop at nothing to help his students succeed.”
She said Mr. Booth is going to Chile to teach.

She believes many teachers who put their heart and soul into their profession are moving because they can’t provide for their family. “Our schools will suffer without them.”

“Many of my friends and peers are moving to other states where they will be paid more and recognized for their hard earned Master's degrees. We are losing incredible educators each year for the reasons listed,” said Amanda.  “We are starting to think about the other things we could be doing.

The days of growing up having educators encourage students to teach and enrich their communities are becoming extinct. “I’m not going to encourage people to teach like this.”

So what now?

“As educators who are passionate about our profession, we would like to collaborate with Piedmont parents in support of advocating for positive changes in our public school system as the NC General Assembly prepares to be back in session. This call to action is not reflective of any dissatisfaction about working at Piedmont or lack of confidence in our leadership. If anything, our need and desire to stand up for public education is a direct result of the utmost respect for the leadership, the students, and the parents at Piedmont IB Middle School. Many of our best teachers are leaving, or contemplating leaving, the state or the education profession. The time to act is NOW,” she said.

Amanda is calling to action the community and staff at her school to be proactive. She jokingly talks about a time her class took a field trip and they encountered teachers from New York who wondered why North Carolina teachers sit back and allow their roles to be devalued.

“Those teachers in New York were like ‘why teach and not get raises?’” said Amanda.

She said that made her stop and think about how passive teachers can be. She and her colleagues don’t teach to get rich; they teach to help children.

“Teachers are here to serve. So it is our nature to sacrifice and do what is necessary,” she said. But she believes it is time to stand up for themselves and their profession.

“Education IS a public problem when so many children walk through our doors every day.”

If you want to get involved, check out a list of scheduled activities related to this issue.

Check back with My Fox Carolinas as we continue to develop this story.

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