118 people chosen as North Carolina Teaching Fellows

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program announced its 118 recipients for this year's class.

Those chosen will receive $8,250 per year ($4,125 per semester) in forgivable loan money, in exchange for teaching STEM or Special Education for one year at a low-performing school or two years at a non-low performing school for each year they accept funds.

"I was astonished. I was excited. I started screaming everywhere. Because ever since I found out about the program, I was like 'I really want to get in this, because the opportunities are amazing. And the financial support will really help me out. I was so excited. I called my family and told them, 'I got in. I finally did it.' So, it was a good feeling," said Andreas Jordan, a senior at Fuquay-Varina High School, who was selected.

Besides financial considerations, the program also provides career guidance and insight to those planning on pursuing a career in education.

"You need people that you can connect to, that can help give you ideas, that can support you. And Teaching Fellows provides that avenue for you," said Crystal Espey, the Teaching Fellows Campus Director at NC State.

She added that the program also stands out on a resume when it comes time to applying for jobs.

"The benefit of having Teaching Fellows on your resume is great. It allows different principals to realize that you didn't just go through an education prep program, you had extra professional development and extraordinary opportunities that helped guide you along the way. So you're not just going into a school as a teacher. The goal and the hope is that you're going to be a teacher leader in that school and in that community," Espey said.

Espey meets with her Teaching Fellows at least twice a semester, and work closely together about finding fits for students.

"Ultimately it's up to the student to find a job and fulfill the loan forgiveness piece," Espey explained.

NC State, along with UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, Meredith College, and Elon University, serve as partners in the program. NC State is the largest participant of the five, with Espey estimating that about 50 of the 118 participants will attend the university.

Espey noted the difficulties presented by the pandemic highlight the important work of educators.

"I think in education - it's a hard profession. It's not easy. I think of the resiliency right now of teachers, they're doing virtual and in-person learning at the same time," said Espey.

Jordan, who will be attending NC State, said he's had a positive experience as a student at public schools.

"I've been able to build a lot of relationships with my teachers. Some of them, they've been like a second parent to me. I just love talking to my teachers, getting to know them. They've helped me out through a lot of things," Jordan said.

However, one glaring issue has been noticeable, playing a role in why he's pursuing a career in the field.

"Being a student in the public education field and seeing the lack of diversity, it kind of got to me at a certain point, because I was kind of like, 'when am I going to see a role model like me?,'" said Jordan, who hopes to teach high-school digital media or another tech-related subject.

He is encouraging other students to also apply to address these gaps.

"This opportunity is huge for me. And I'm really hoping more students of color apply to this program because it is very beneficial, and it would be good to see diversity," Jordan said.

Recipients do not need to be North Carolina residents, but must apply and be accepted directly by the individual universities.

"I congratulate the 2021 class of NC Teaching Fellows and applaud these bright and dedicated scholars who will one day make a critical difference in North Carolina's K-12 classrooms. This program serves as a cornerstone for student success across our state," said UNC System President Peter Hans in a statement included in a news release announcing the recipients.

The Teaching Fellows Commission considered grade point average, leadership and experience, awards and honors, and written essays and interviews in making their decision, noting that standardized tests (SAT/ACT) were optional this year because of cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 156 finalists, approximately 30% self-identified as first-generation college students.

Applications for next year's program open in October. If you're interested in applying, click here.
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.