PrintCHARLOTTE – The pay isn’t much.  The working conditions can be rough.  Yet some feel driven to teach.

“Teaching is one of the most important professions right now,” Dean Ellen McIntyre of UNC Charlotte’s Cato College of Education says in the accompanying video. “There’s really hardly a profession as important and as honorable.”

State officials named five schools last week – UNC Chapel Hill, NC State University, UNC Charlotte, Elon University and Meredith College – to participate in a partially restored NC Teaching Fellows program.

The schools will offer prospective teachers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and special education forgivable loans of as much as $8,250 a year.  The loans will be forgiven if the new teachers spend one year teaching at a low-performing school or two years at another public school for each year they received a loan.1

In a recent interview, McIntyre discussed several factors that can motivate someone to teach.

In an age when many young people expect to have multiple careers, McIntyre says her school encourages and accepts students who want to teach for just 5-10 years.

“So many people get their start doing really meaningful work in teaching,” she says.

“A lot of those people know they want to be a teacher early on.  I was one of those people,” she says.  “I never wavered…  I want to keep that alive in young people – I want that passion to stay with them.”

Aspiring teachers often had an inspirational teacher themselves, McIntyre says.

“Somebody who touched them, somebody who recognized something in them – and really good teachers do that for all sorts of kids, not just the kid who stands out, not just the most troublesome kid – maybe the average kid that might slip through the cracks….

“I was one of those average kids who a teacher saw something special in me and made a difference in my life,” she says.  “I think that happens, actually, more often than we think.  Those are the kind of people we want to recruit into teaching.”

Teachers are driven most by those “Aha!” moments when a student suddenly grasps a concept.

“There’s almost nothing more rewarding than when you recognize that what you’ve done for a child – a youth – made a difference in that person’s life,” McIntyre says.

“That’s why teachers stay in teaching – because they can see the difference they’re making.  A child just makes a turn, decides to show up for school because of that teacher, decides to do the work because of that teacher, even gets into college because of that teacher.

“They can be small things, big things, and they all make a really big difference.”


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