'Discovery Trip' teaches college students about life as a teacher

Posted May 20, 2011 3:46 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2011 8:33 p.m. EDT

— Aspiring teachers at North Carolina colleges spent a week touring public schools across the state, getting a firsthand look at their future careers.

Meredith College student Kayla Smith's decision to be a teacher has never been in doubt.

"I don't remember choosing to be a teacher. I just always knew I'm going to be a teacher," Smith said.

Visiting working teachers and their classes, though, gave her the chance "to really see where our are students are going to be coming from, the environment they have, how they're shaped and molded, and what we have to do to cater to those students," Smith said.

The Discovery Trip packed rising sophomores from 16 colleges and universities onto 11 school buses and sent them on visits to multiple public schools. 

"It's really eye-opening," East Carolina University student Cole Merricks said. "It really broadens your horizons to see what's actually going on in North Carolina."

Bus No. 6 began its road trip in Vance County, then motored to rural Jones County, with a population of 10,000, then to East Hoke Middle School in Hoke County and finally to Caldwell County in the foothills. In addition to schools, students toured local industries, such as the Burlington Industries plant in Hoke County.

Each school system tried to put its best foot forward.

"Our goal is, when they graduate in three years, we hope they will come back to Hoke County Schools and teach, because we deserve quality teachers in the classroom," said Patricia Hollinsworth, a spokeswoman for Hoke County Schools.

These future students are also confronting a career in school systems grappling with budget cuts.

"It bothers me right now because of how its affecting the school systems, but hopefully, by the time I'm looking for a job, everything will be better," said Shanae Anderson, a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

As part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship program, the students have agreed to teach at North Carolina public schools for at least four years after graduation.

Ultimately, the college students said, their goal is to help children succeed in the classroom.

Smith said she wants to give them "the right model," just as her teachers gave her.