Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

21 Students Participate in Future Teachers Career Academy at IBECHS

Friday, March 04, 2022

The Watson College, in partnership with New Hanover County Schools opened a Future Teachers Career Academy at Isaac Bear Early College High School in the fall of 2018. The FTCA is a small learning community for high school student interested in a teaching career. The innovative program provides students with opportunities to mentor, volunteer and experience education from many points of view, beginning in the first year of high school. Participants receive early advisor support in preparing a path through high school, priority consideration for acceptance into UNCW’s Watson College of Education and priority consideration to teach in New Hanover County Schools following graduation from WCE.

Two freshmen and three seniors participated in the inaugural group. Since then, the FTCA has grown to 21 students, fully 10 percent of the student population at IBECHS.

Courtney Townsend leads the FTCA program in partnership with IBEC collaborator Danielle Talbert.

“This semester, with so many new faces, we started by taking the Keirsey Temperament Survey to learn who we are as individuals, learners, and teachers, and to help students value the importance of relationships and making connections,” Townsend said. “We talked about the different avenues a future career in education can hold, and students conducted interviews with individuals in career fields such as environmental education, recreational therapy and international affairs, as well as traditional classroom teaching. The students learned a lot and made valuable connections with UNCW alumni as well as members of the community.”

The project gave FTCA member Kenny Yepez Steel an opportunity to explore his interest in becoming an ESL teacher abroad. During the fall he conducted interviews with Harmony Pei, a former Ed Lab tutor and UNCW graduate currently living and teaching in China. The conversations led to a friendship that has been mutually beneficial; Kenny now meets with Harmony’s daughter, Jing Jing, every week on Zoom and tutors her in Spanish.

This spring, students have been exploring fads and trends in education, motivations behind student behavior and challenges teachers face balancing teaching to a prescribed curriculum and making learning meaningful for students. The group looked into research and educational studies and began work on what Townsend calls, "The Ill-Defined Problem – Project."

“Essentially, I gave students a basic outline of what I am expecting – a digital presentation reflecting on their observation or application of a current trend in education, or their observation of student responses in an educational setting – the rest is up to them,” Townsend said. “The deliverable was intentionally a bit vague. Some students were excited about the project and others were uncomfortable. This led directly back to our earlier discussions about who we are as learners and as individuals. It has been an effective way for FTCA members to see first-hand how some students thrive on structure while others thrive on choice.”

Two FTCA members collaborated with IBEC junior Andres Valdiri and the IBEC Science Fair Academy Club on the project. The students used the SFA’s snap circuit lesson plan - one of several kits developed to generate student interest in STEM activities – for a classroom teaching experience with seventh graders at St. Mary’s Catholic School in March.

“I was very nervous because this was my first time trying to teach a class,” said FTCA member Jossie Altamirano Sosa. “The snap circuits lesson plan was great and I could see how much fun the kids had doing these activities. Teaching is harder than I thought, though. I will say this experience gave me a glimpse of what it would be like to teach middle school.”

Isaac Bear students interested in the FTCA can enroll in a college credit-earning seminar course, or take part in club activities that include weekly meetings and projects.

Some students join the FTCA to learn about potential career opportunities, participate in volunteer opportunities and make valuable connections with UNCW faculty and IBECs peers. Others join because the FTCA is a direct pipeline to a future teaching career.

“I joined FTCA because I knew it would be a great learning opportunity, and an amazing way to contribute to my educational community,” said 12th grader Maylene Hemingway. “One of the most memorable aspects since joining FTCA, was my opportunity to volunteer at GLOW Soaring for Eagles Saturday Academy. It was an amazing experience to help mentor and tutor kids there. It really opened my eyes to how impactful a teacher can be!”

Macie Fitzgerald, who will graduate in May, chose to attend Isaac Bear because the school offered a Future Teachers Career Academy. She has been a member of the FTCA for the past four years. 

I joined FTCA because I knew I wanted to explore teaching and this program seemed like a valuable, unique and hands-on way to do that. I have always wanted to be a teacher, and FTCA gave me the opportunity to flesh out my interest,” she said. “FTCA was much more than I anticipated when I signed up. I have gotten a lot of experience with both students and teachers in a classroom setting, which has proved very valuable. I have also had an opportunity to meet mentors that have helped me on my journey to become a teacher. I am so thankful that I have people that can guide me and encourage me, while also educating me on what it takes to be a teacher.”

“We are excited to see how the FTCA has grown,” Townsend said. “It’s a great group of students and we look forward to exploring new opportunities in classrooms and in the community now that Covid restrictions are finally lifting.”

For more information on the Future Teachers Career Academy, visit the FTCA website.