In the 2017-18 academic year, 5,300 South Carolina teachers left their jobs and no longer teach in state public schools, according to a 2018-19 report by the South Carolina Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement.
Although Greenville County’s teacher salaries have increased, a teacher shortage continues to exist.
Several programs offer alternative routes to becoming teachers. Public Education Partners and Greenville County Schools collaborated to create the Greenville Alternative Teacher Education program. The three-year program allows people with science- or math-related bachelor’s degrees to become licensed teachers.
Through the collaboration of GCS, Greenville Technical College and the Clemson University College of Education, the Expressway to Tiger Town program provides students a pathway to an education degree from Clemson.
Also, the statewide Program of Alternative Certification for Educators prepares degreed individuals to work as public school teachers in a PACE-approved subject area.
A first-year GATE participant, Alecia Nichols teaches Spanish at J.L. Mann High School; however, she originally planned to use her language skills elsewhere.
After earning a bachelor’s in both Spanish and Chinese and a master’s in linguistics, Nichols began working as a Spanish graduate teaching assistant to pay for her doctorate. But then, she decided to become a full-time teacher through the Greenville Alternative Teacher Education program, or GATE.
“I started to realize that I had a knack for teaching, and it was giving me more joy than anything else in higher ed,” she says.
GATE allowed Nichols to quickly start a teaching career and avoid debt. “I already love this job so much, and I definitely wouldn’t go back to research after seeing how rewarding it is to build those relationships with my high school students.”
Jeff Haigler, a second-year GATE teacher, developed a passion for teaching youth during his time as a boarding-school administrator in Georgia and later as director at Carolina Elite Soccer Academy in Greenville.
With a background in biology and strength and conditioning, teaching science at Sevier Middle School was a natural fit for him.
“Just being in the classroom, being a mentor and being a teacher was pretty easy for me to make that decision,” he says.
Wanting to stay in Greenville and quickly become a teacher, Haigler chose GATE. “I think that they do a very good job of selecting potential long-term teachers that are going to be quality teachers,” he says. “What GATE does really well is pair you with an external coach that is super qualified.”
Expressway to Tiger Town
Emily Quin, a sophomore at Mauldin High School, is on her way to becoming the first student to complete Expressway to Tiger Town.
“I absolutely love children and I want to make a difference in students’ lives and in my community,” Quin says.
Wanting to teach in an elementary school, Quin says she enjoys all subjects, especially math and English. She plans to begin Expressway to Tiger Town next year by taking dual-enrollment classes.
“After I graduate from high school, I will continue with this program and go to Greenville Tech for one year and then go to Clemson,” she says. After college, Quin plans to teach in a state school.
Josie Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in English but chose PACE instead of a master’s program to become a teacher. Now, she is the English department chair at Byrnes Freshman Academy in Spartanburg.
“One of the great things about PACE is you can get in the classroom and be in the classroom while you’re completing the initial requirements,” she says.
Alternative programs such as PACE also provide students with teachers from different backgrounds. “The majority of people that come to teaching through an alternative avenue have a lot of life experience and world experience that they bring to the classroom with them,” she says.
Brown feels these programs are important ways to recruit and retain those who are called to teach.