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App State, ECU Join State Initiative Supporting Aspiring Teachers

Source:  News & Observer 

Appalachian State University and East Carolina University have recently joined a state initiative aimed at supporting the educational pursuits of future North Carolina teachers.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Commission announced earlier this month that App State and ECU will become part of the program beginning in the 2024-25 academic year. These institutions will join a group of 10 establishments that offer up to $10,000 per year in financial aid to college students who commit to teaching specific subjects in North Carolina’s public schools.

This development is particularly significant as North Carolina grapples with a considerable shortage of teachers, with nearly 3,600 teaching positions vacant statewide at the beginning of the current school year. UNC System President Peter Hans emphasized the importance of welcoming the next generation of educators, expressing hope that the inclusion of two of the UNC System’s major educator preparation programs in the Teaching Fellows initiative will help address the substantial demand in the state’s school districts.

The Teaching Fellows program, established in 1986, initially covered various subjects across the state. However, it was discontinued in 2011, only to be revived in 2017 in a more limited form focusing on special education or STEM subjects. Admission to the program is competitive and merit-based, with 277 students currently enrolled this academic year.

Participants in the Teaching Fellows program commit to repaying forgivable loans by teaching in North Carolina’s public schools after graduation. In the previous year’s budget, lawmakers expanded the program to include elementary school education and authorized the addition of two more institutions, bringing the total to 10.

The Teaching Fellows Commission disclosed that Appalachian State and ECU were chosen unanimously from 15 institutions that applied for inclusion. Proposals were evaluated based on various factors, including an institution’s potential impact on geographic diversity and the number of applicants. Commission Chair Joy Smith expressed excitement about addressing the gaps in Teaching Fellows institutions in the eastern and western parts of the state through the inclusion of these two institutions in the NCTF program. 

One criticism of the Teaching Program has been its concentration in the central and southern parts of the state, with N.C State University historically attracting about half of the program’s students. Other schools in the Teaching Fellows program include Elon University, Fayetteville State University, Meredith College, North Carolina A&T State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, and UNC-Pembroke.

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