Finding a future in education

One of Bernard Frost’s former students recently came to visit him before boarding a plane to go to Stanford University, where he received a full scholarship.

“He wanted to come back and tell me thank you for pushing him when he was in sixth grade,” said Frost ‘05, a math teacher at Fairforest Middle School in Spartanburg District Six who was recently named the school’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.

educationThough Frost has only been teaching since 2005, that student’s story is already one of many. Frost recently earned his doctorate of education in administrator leadership for teaching and learning from Walden University. He is now an educational consultant for Union County Schools and received the Middle School Magic Award from the South Carolina Middle School Association as a teacher who presents inspirational lessons to students daily.

Frost credits much of his success to the guidance and preparation he received as an undergraduate student at Furman.

“Furman’s program not only prepared me to be an exemplary teacher, but it connected me with my passion to help youth, which makes learning more meaningful,” Frost said. “It instilled in me the desire to constantly research to find ways to reach all learners.”

Numbers of education majors are continuing strong in the coming years, according to the Education Department. The Class of 2014 includes 25 elementary education majors, 10 students certifying in secondary education and languages, and 12 music education majors. The Class of 2015 is comprised of 23 elementary education majors, six students certifying in secondary education and languages, and 10 music education majors.

After hearing her mom’s stories of everyday life in the classroom, Taylor Outen ’14, had almost decided that teaching wasn’t for her. But after taking an introductory education course, Outen said she fell in love.

As a rising senior, she participated in the Early Experience program as a “co-teacher” in a fifth grade classroom at Greenbrier Elementary School in Greenville County during the first three to four weeks of the K-12 school year. She also presented with Dr. George Lipscomb at the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies conference in September in Charleston.

“Through Early Experience, I got to see the hardest and most important part of school – before students arrive. The classroom setup, meetings with the principal, grade level meetings, and decisions about the minute-to-minute things that happen in the classroom all determine how your year will go before you even get students in the classroom,” said Outen. “Seeing everything that goes into starting off the school year has given me the upper hand in preparing to teach students of my own next year.”

When she first entered Furman’s program, Outen thought she’d like to become a media specialist. “After being in the classrooms and meeting students and learning how to teach them, I have abandoned that idea for what I now feel is my calling – teaching,” said Outen, who is planning to pursue her master’s degree in literacy.

Furman’s program of teacher education presents teacher candidates with many opportunities to observe and connect with children and youth as they learn. Like undergraduate students in most traditional colleges and universities, Furman teacher candidates graduate at the end of four years. Unlike their counterparts, they return in the fall semester after graduation to complete a student teaching internship.

“Graduates of Furman’s teacher education program have more time to enroll in content courses and more time to teach under the guidance of master practitioners and university mentors,” said education professor and department chair Nelly Hecker. “We strive to help our students become effective practitioners and decision-makers who thrive in a school environment.”

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed elementary school teachers to be one of the professions with the largest projected employment growth from 2010 to 2020. The number of elementary school teaching positions, excluding special education, is projected to grow from 1,476,500 to 1,725,300, an increase of 16.8 percent.

In January 2013, Furman University surveyed 17 school principals and district administrators regarding the success of its teacher education program. They responded overwhelmingly regarding the success of Furman teacher candidates in more than 30 different areas, such as how well they knew their subjects and state standards, how well they managed their classrooms and how well they worked with children, parents and colleagues.

Chris Phillips, principal of Welcome Elementary School in Greenville, makes it a habit to look for Furman graduates when she’s reviewing resumes. She is quick to involve Furman students and new graduates in the school culture, making them part of faculty meetings and activities with the hope that they will make Welcome their home for years to come.

“They’re not coming in with rose-colored glasses. They’re go-getters — mature, hard-working and show initiative,” said Phillips, who has worked as a teacher and administrator for two decades. “Furman prepares their students as quality educators.”