Teaching in a rural region like Eastern North Carolina gives corps members the opportunity to live in the same communities as their students and regularly interact with their families. Warrenton is just such a community, with a relaxing downtown where bumping into neighbors and students at the local restaurants and shops is a common occurrence. A favorite Main Street mainstay is Hardware Cafe, where the best sandwich in town is served up in—you guessed it—a former hardware store. For lesson planning and tutoring students after school, the recently built Warren County Memorial Library can't be beat.
In Northampton County, very few opportunities exist for academic enrichment opportunities during the summer months. Furthermore, high school students in the county take and pass Advanced Placement exams at a much lower rate than their peers in wealthier school districts.
Several Teach For America alumni aim to change that. Liz Chen (Corps ’10), Grayson Cooper (Corps ’12), and Dale Hammer (Corps ’11) started ENC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), offering students from Northampton County High School and KIPP Pride High School a unique opportunity to engage meaningfully with advanced STEM coursework. The students, who participate in project-based learning courses, have made significant growth on science, technology, and math assessments. “With the help of ENC STEM, I was well prepared for coursework when I entered the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics for my junior and senior years of high school,” said NaTajha Phillips, now a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The program has run for three summers, and there are plans for expansion into surrounding counties in the future.
Chen, Cooper, and Hammer said, “We love this work because we love this area.”
Corps members must pass a subject-specific exam called The Praxis II Series: Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers, before entering the classroom. Teach For America teachers in North Carolina who teach for three years and are in good standing with Teach For America receive their permanent license. For corps members who are unsure if they will teach for three years, permanent licensure can be obtained by completing an online program with our university partner, East Carolina University (ECU), for approximately $500. Corps members have the option to pursue a master’s degree in education from ECU with an emphasis on teacher leadership. Due to the unique structure of this program and the requirement to complete an internship after your second year of teaching, this degree can be completed during the summer after the conclusion of your corps commitment.