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Friday, April 28, 2006

Teaching Fellows: Finding the lesson in community service

Community service has its own rewards, but for future teachers, it is a lesson that will keep on teaching.

Teaching Fellows Erin Ferris, Heather Godwin, Kaci Marcus, Keith Inman and Bobby Sparks raise money at the student center for Reading for Success, a reading program at a local elementary school.

From left: Teaching Fellows Erin Ferris, Heather Godwin, Kaci Marcus, Keith Inman and Bobby Sparks raise money at the student center for Reading for Success, a reading program at a local elementary school.

That’s the goal of several community service projects sponsored this year by the Teaching Fellows Program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

When the Fellows raised money to provide Christmas for a local family, senior Annette Hagans joined in.

“My favorite community service moment was when we took the presents to our Adopt-A-Family this year,” Hagans said. “I know I was glowing like a light bulb when that little boy let me pick him up. He was happy when he got new clothes that fit, and he had the chance to have Christmas all over again.”

Hagans, who will be in charge of her own classroom next year, took the lesson one step further.

“I think children don’t know enough about community service,” she said. “I would like to have my classes adopt a project every year that helps the community or a family. They need to learn compassion early.”

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows program provides scholarships and training for some of North Carolina’s brightest future teachers. It also provides future teachers with enrichment activities, such as field trips, social events, seminars and community service opportunities.

The Teaching Fellows’ Christmas Adopt-A-Family project was a turnkey undertaking. With assistance from the Department of Social Services to select a family and UNCP Faculty Mentors, the Fellows raised money, went Christmas shopping and played Santa. Hagans said the rewards were powerful.

“I recommend that everyone come along for the delivery of the presents,” she said. “There is nothing better than seeing a smile on a child's face and knowing that you helped to put it there.”

This spring, UNCP’s Fellows were involved in raising money for “Reading for Success,” a local reading program coordinated by the Office of Student Activities and its Leadership and Service Opportunities Program.

Several Teaching Fellows are involved in the program at Pembroke Elementary School to tutor students weekly in reading skills. UNCP’s tutors participated in 12 hours of training to prepare them to work with the elementary students.

The UNCP Teaching Fellows raised $112 from their fellow students, which will be used to purchase supplies for the fall program.

Amber Holland, a sophomore Teaching Fellow and tutor in the Reading for
Success program, said the experience inspired her.

“My experiences raising money for the reading program will help me instill the importance of literacy in my future students,” Holland said.

Opportunities for community service help future teachers become more balanced in their lives and in the classroom, said Karen Granger, director of UNCP’s Teaching Fellows Program.

“The goal of our program is to instill a sense of mission, service and professionalism in Teaching Fellows,” Granger said. “From their freshman year, our Teaching Fellows learn the importance of being active in the community.”

“I hope that the UNCP Teaching Fellows will take their community service experiences and use these as foundations for their own classrooms,” she said. “As perspective teachers, it is important that these students see the value and significance in giving back and what this can do for the participants and recipients of community service projects.”

To learn more about Teaching Fellows at UNCP, visit their Web site at www.uncp.edu/tfellows/ or call their office at 910.521.6495.

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