Valerie Campbell is a new teacher this year in the Public Schools of Robeson County. The New York native lives in Southern Pines, but will teach seventh grade Science at St. Pauls Middle School.
She enters the teacher workforce from another field as a lateral entry teacher. Campbell worked as a wildlife biologist for the past four years in Moore County. She says she was looking for a position near Fayetteville to be closer to family.
“I am super excited and very nervous as well. I knew that I did not want to spend as much time in the field as I had been. I thought about all the things I like about my job,” Campbell said. “One of the things I really love is telling people about Science. I knew some teachers and I thought it would be a good transition.”
Campbell worked as a substitute in Moore County and Scotland County schools. She joins 1,688 certified teachers in the classrooms in the Public Schools of Robeson County. Throughout August, the district is hosting new teacher orientations to get them signed up, but to also prepare them for the year ahead.
Human Resource Specialist Karen Chavis travels the nation looking for teachers. Normally, the district needs to hire about 200 teachers before the start of the new school year. Right now, the PSRC Human Resources staff has filled 140 of those vacancies. They are reaching out to teachers across the nation through hiring sites. This fall, some teachers will travel from as far as the Virgin Islands, Wisconsin, Ohio and all along the East Coast to teach in Robeson County.
At orientation, Chavis talks to the teachers about the mission and expectations of the district. She also talks with them about classroom management, the North Carolina teacher evaluation standards and instructional strategies.
Chavis recently hired Dale Locklear Jones. Jones graduated with a degree in Education from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in May and lives in Scotland County. Jones will teach second grade at Rex Rennert Elementary. A native of Maxton, Jones previously taught at Laurel Hill Elementary.
“I am very, very excited and I am also nervous, too. To have my own classroom is a big transition from student teaching,” Jones said. “I feel like I am prepared to do all the technical aspects, but the day-to-day things that come with experience will be something new. I wish they could teach experience.”
Neither the school district nor colleges can teach experience, but each of the PSRC teachers will have a mentor who will work with them each week and follow them for three years.
For more than a decade, PSRC has employed mentors who are seasoned teachers who assist the new teachers with classroom management, organization, instructional strategies, lesson planning and provide support and encouragement.
With recent salary freezes, teacher competition is a major issue in the region. Chavis says one big draw for the Public Schools of Robeson County is the teacher mentor program. Other districts may have mentors who are retired, but PSRC employs full-time mentors who work weekly with teachers.
“When we tell them we have a mentor program, they ask a lot of questions. They are glad to have someone they can confide in and depend on to help them through these first difficult years,” Chavis said.