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Proposal Vies For Grant To Help Beginning Teachers

By Jenny Callison, posted Jan 20, 2014
Beginning today, the public can vote online to support a proposal designed to help beginning teachers.
Staff members from the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education have designed a program, BT Matters, to help beginning teachers become successful during the crucial first five years in the classroom. In North Carolina, 50 percent of new teachers drop out of the profession in that time period.
One major reason teachers leave the profession very early in their careers is that they feel isolated, said Somer Lewis, Watson College teacher-in-residence and beginning teacher supervision coordinator, and Jeff Ertzberger, the college’s director of technology.
BT (short for “beginning teaching”) Matters, a concept developed by Lewis and Ertzberger, aims to connect new teachers with networks in their community – including the business community – and to identify resources that will enhance their curriculum.
Now the proposal is competing for a Prize for Innovation from N.C. State’s Institute for Emerging Issues. It is one of seven finalists for the grant funds, which are provided by the State Employees Credit Union (SECU). The institute has stated that it will award up to four $50,000 grants. After narrowing the pool of applications, organizers have thrown the process open to online voting by the public, a la “American Idol,” Lewis said.
If BT Matters captures one of the grants, Lewis and Ertzberger will pilot the program for a year in southeastern North Carolina, creating materials and a website to deliver program content to the teachers involved in the pilot. Teachers in their first three years of teaching will also participate in workshops to help them develop support networks.
“After the pilot year, we will revise and improve the program and open it statewide,” Ertzberger said. “The program is designed to be customizable and self-supporting – something that a school or a school district can run at minimal cost.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Connie Majure-Rhett, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. “The more that new teachers know about their community, the better they will fit. And teachers are pretty critical to the success of our children. In North Carolina, the number of teachers is going down. We need to do anything we can to keep the good ones we have and mold successful new teachers.”
Anyone may vote for a grant proposal, Lewis said. Each person can vote a maximum of once a day between Monday and Sunday of this week at http://t.co/a8VhLzUYhu. To learn more about BT Matters, go to www.facebook.com/btmatters.

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