The new Alamance Scholars Program will provide a pathway from high school to a college degree, with participating students training to become teachers within the local community.
Elon University, the Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS) and Alamance Community College (ACC) have agreed to partner on developing a new initiative to address the shortage of teachers in the local schools and to enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of educators in area classrooms.
The new Alamance Scholars Program, announced on January 28, is designed to attract students with financial need from across a variety of backgrounds who desire to earn a degree in education and make an impact in their hometown of Alamance County.
Plans for the Alamance Scholars Program are being developed as Alamance County and many other communities in North Carolina are experiencing a shortage of qualified and talented teachers from a wide range of backgrounds.
Elon President Connie Ledoux Book, Alamance Burlington School System Superintendent Bruce Benson and Alamance Community College President Algie Gatewood came together on the Elon campus to sign a declaration of intent to work toward the creation of the program.
“We are all committed to developing new ways to ensure highly qualified teachers provide leadership in our classrooms throughout our community,” Book said. “The Alamance Scholars Program demonstrates our shared responsibility to meet this critical educational need and to support and prepare young leaders who are eager to contribute to society through the noble profession of teaching.”
The Alamance Scholars Program will provide a pathway for students who wish to pursue careers in teaching, with the program guiding and supporting them from high school through their graduation from Elon and into their first classrooms as teachers.
High school students will begin as members of a new ABSS Teacher Cadet Program to be launched this fall. They will spend time in several classrooms observing and learning about teaching from current educators.
“We are so pleased to join our collegiate partners in building a direct pathway from our classrooms to future education careers in our schools for students who call our community home,” said Alamance-Burlington School System Superintendent Bruce Benson. “By developing a dedicated, premier educator workforce from local talent that mirrors the faces of students in Alamance-Burlington Schools, the Alamance Scholars Program will help assure that ABSS employs highly qualified education professionals committed to our classrooms of the future.”
Upon graduation from high school, students will continue their studies to earn an associate’s degree at Alamance Community College in a variety of disciplines. There, they will receive dual academic advising from ACC and Elon.
“I am excited about the opportunity for students from Alamance County to start here, learn here and teach here,” said Alamance Community College President Algie Gatewood. “I commend Superintendent Benson and President Book and their dedicated leadership teams for their forward-thinking vision – and for making this day possible.”
Following their ACC graduation, students will enroll at Elon University and pursue a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education or elementary education with possible specialization in special education, pre-kindergarten or teaching English as a second language. Upon graduation from Elon, Alamance Scholars will be guaranteed employment within the Alamance-Burlington School System.
The first ABSS students will begin the Teacher Cadet Program and be eligible to join the Alamance Scholars Program in fall 2021. Also this fall, ACC students who have completed 30 credit hours will be able to enter the program and transfer to Elon. Once the program is fully implemented, it could welcome up to 25 new students annually.
“This really represents the strength of our community, our ability to work together in a way that will improve outcomes for our students and for students in the future,” Benson said.
One of the strengths of the program’s design is that it will allow each of the partners to provide mutually reinforcing support to the candidates as they progress through the program toward their bachelor’s degree, said Ann Bullock, dean of the Elon University School of Education.
“Each of the partners will be involved at every level of these students’ journeys toward becoming teachers in our community,” Bullock said.
The initiative builds upon existing relationships between Elon University and ABSS and ACC.
“I don’t know of another community college in this state that enjoys the wonderful relationship of their public schools and/or any university, and we have that benefit here, and we cherish it greatly,” said Gatewood of ACC’s partnership with Elon and ABSS.
Among those programs are the Elon Academy, a college access and success program for local high school students, Collegiate Start, a program that allows high school students to attend Elon, and the It Takes a Village Program, an educational support program for elementary school students.
During Thursday’s ceremony, Book touched on the significance of the group’s newest partnership. She discussed her passion for teaching, as the daughter of a former educator, and expressed excitement about the future of the Alamance Scholars Program.
“I am passionate about this,” Book said. “I know that when young people see people like themselves from their hometown, in their classroom, it inspires them. So, let’s build that. Let’s build that for Alamance County.”