As North Carolina and other states confront a shrinking pipeline of future teachers, the Charlotte Teacher Early College is an attempt to find a solution.
Students agree to attend for five years, during which they’ll earn their mandatory credits to graduate from high school – but also as many as 60 hours of college credit. In their school on the ground floor of the Cato College of Education, they begin taking college courses their junior year in high school.
In the accompanying video, Dean Ellen McIntyre says the Teacher Early College is modeled on the Charlotte Early Engineering College, whose first graduates were welcomed by college professors and earned an average GPA of 3.2 in their college courses last year.
“It’s been an incredible success. We want the Charlotte Teacher Early College to follow in that same wave,” McIntyre says.
Perhaps surprisingly for a program that prepares future engineers, McIntyre says the Engineering Early College places a heavy emphasis on writing.
“You have to write well to be successful in college, and we want that for teachers,” she says. “We know writing is thinking. We know teachers have to be able to think clearly, write well.”
In addition to their standard high school curriculum, students have a “Teacher Cadet” class where they discuss teaching methods – that’s right, 14-year-olds discussing pedagogy.
Do 9th graders really know what they want to be, though?
“I knew from third grade and never wavered,” McIntyre says. “Some of these young people, when we talk to them, it’s clear that they’ve known for a long time – they’ve always wanted to teach.”
She acknowledges, though, that some might change their young minds.
“All of that is OK. Still, these are young people who are going to get a college education for a whole lot less debt. They might be – a portion of them – young people who wouldn’t have gotten a college education otherwise. And every one of them will be a good citizen around education,” McIntyre says.
“We recognize that every one of those kids going through this high school won’t end up being teachers. But if we got half of them, I’d be thrilled.”