Local News

Unique Durham house helps new teachers succeed

Posted September 9, 2015 10:37 p.m. EDT

— A unique house in Durham is allowing young teachers to get a one of a kind experience to help them help their students.

Teaching is tough and the hardest part of doing anything tough is getting started. A new project called the Duke TeachHouse aims to support teachers who are just starting out by allowing them to live together under the same roof.

At dinner time, there is talk around the table about how the day went but the thing that makes the conversation special is that everyone around the table can relate.

“It is a really hard year, trying to juggle all the hats a teacher wears,” said Benton Wise, a teacher at the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability. "It is so refreshing to go home to a house of problem solvers."

The TeachHouse is the first of its kind. New teachers live alongside mentor teachers with experience.

Wise is one of two mentors. He is in his second year in front of a classroom at a high school in Durham.

“I talk with Shannon about our love for books and getting kids excited about reading,” Wise said.

Shannon Potter is one of four new teaching professionals who has been on the job for just a matter of weeks at another Durham high school.

“For me, it’s helpful to talk through problems,” Potter said.

The TeachHouse is not only where they live, it’s where they get answers to their problems.

“I have people I can vent to, but then who also turn around and say ‘OK, that was a hard day, here’s what we can do to make it better’,” Potter said.

Director of Duke TeachHouse, Jan Rigsbee says the support offered by the project will help educators innovate their teaching in the classroom.

“This is certainly a safe place to do that. To talk about the challenges and what didn’t go right, but also celebrate what did go right,” Rigsbee said.

Right now, Rigsbee said that recruiting teachers and keeping them in the profession can be tough. She said that morale has suffered with recent changes in the classroom.

Wise said that the TeachHouse has already taught him something.

“One of the most impressive things that I have seen come out of TeachHouse so far is, people are paying attention to teachers,” said Wise.

The project involves a lot of partners including Duke University, Durham Schools and a group called Forward Impact.

New fellows live in the TeachHouse for two years, then more young teachers take their place. The hope is that they take what they have learned there and cause a ripple effect.