By DR. TIMOTHY LINTNER
The USC Aiken Teaching Fellows were honored to have Ms. Sarah Gams, the 2020-2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, present an interactive workshop on the perils and promises of being a first-year teacher, the importance of collaboration and collegiality, and the difference between intentional and unintentional leadership. Powerful, personal and poignant, Ms. Gams challenged the Fellows to learn the language of education, shift the lens from “me” to “them,” and realize that every day in the classroom is an opportunity to lead. Thank you, Ms. Gams, for sharing your passion and insight with the USC Aiken Fellows!
BY DR. TIMOTHY LINTNER
You are the heir apparent to a Scottish fortune. Your grandfather, the clan’s patriarch, is found murdered. You are the prime suspect. Yet as you attempt to prove your innocence, dark shadows seek to conspire against you. From this backdrop of intrigue riddled with familial jealousy and revenge, the USC Aiken Freshman Teaching Fellows entered Murder Mansion. The Fellows were tasked with uncovering the clues to who REALLY committed the murder all before the Scottish Constables arrive to surely arrest their most likely suspect. With collaboration, communication, and a few “we need a hint, please,” (begged for by their campus director), the Fellows solved the case with a slim five minutes to spare!
Caroline Graham and Randy Parris, both of whom are sophomore Teaching Fellows at the College of Charleston, developed and sold masks to raise money for local teachers. Graham credits Parris with the initial idea although they collaborated on the project. The Fellows advertised the masks on social media and also shared the news through the education department on campus. A total of 46 masks were sold and the pair plan to use the proceeds to purchase extra masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies for three classrooms in Charleston County. Graham stated, "As teachers, we want to be very involved in our community and this project has been a great stepping stone for us. We hope to do more for our community in the future."
According to Elizabeth Brown, Teaching Fellows Vice President of Engagement at Coastal Carolina University, "Our goal as a program is to create teacher leaders. We try to instill important values into Fellows such as the importance of building relationships with one another. We hope to create a community in our program that is built upon respect, trust, honesty, and support. Events during "Welcome Week" allow our freshmen Fellows to feel welcomed into our program as well as allows current fellows to begin getting to know the freshmen. This helps build community."
COVID-19 restrictions impacted this year's "Welcome Week," but the Fellows still feel it was a success. The incoming Fellows were given an opportunity to interact with each of the individual cohorts on campus. Below is a summary of the week's events.
"Welcome Week" began with a Q&A session conducted via Zoom. This event gave the freshmen an opportunity to ask questions about Coastal, the Teaching Fellows program, or college in general. During the next event, hosted by the junior Teaching Fellows, the freshmen tie-dyed masks. The juniors reported that this was a great opportunity to meet more of the freshmen Fellows. A side benefit is that all who participated walked away with a stylish mask to wear around campus! The third event of the week was a "Mentor/Mentee Walk and Talk." The mentors, who are some of the sophomore Fellows, walked their freshmen mentees around campus to show them exactly where their in-person classes would be held. The mentors and mentees began building relationships during the tour. Senior Teaching Fellows were responsible for planning and facilitating Wednesday's picnic and game night. Elizabeth Brown stated, "Bonding and team building are very important to our program. Our goal is to create a family and support system through our Teaching Fellows Program." On Thursday, the freshmen Fellows met with the entire sophomore cohort for a "Mix and Mingle Movie Night." A relaxing movie, a variety of snacks, and new friends proved to be exactly what was needed! The transition committee at Coastal is comprised of Fellows from each cohort and this group was responsible for holding a BINGO night complete with prizes. "Welcome Week" concluded with a sundae social that brought all members of the Coastal Teaching Fellows family together.
The USC Aiken Teaching Fellows recently partnered with the Aiken County Public Schools in a leadership collaborative called LEAD UP. This program is designed to provide multiple opportunities for Fellows to gain critical leadership skills by interfacing with Aiken County Public School principals.
The LEAD UP program consists of two phases:
During freshman year, Fellows will interview an Aiken County Public School principal. The interview consists of a series of questions premised on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens™. Upon completion of the interview, Fellows submit a reflection paper discussing the principal responses within the context of the 7 Habits™.
During sophomore year the Fellows will “shadow” an Aiken Public School principal for three (3) hours. This hands-on, immersive opportunity provides critical insight into “real life” leadership that influences school-based decisions and actions. Fellows are therefore better positioned to understand, apply and evaluate their own leadership abilities by observing the skills of their mentor principal. At the end of the shadowing experience, Fellows create a 10-minute video discussing their experience within the context of the 7 Habits™.
Not only do the Teaching Fellows at Francis Marion University (FMU) participate in advanced professional development opportunities, sometimes they are responsible for providing it!
This summer, then Campus Director Dr. Jodi Zeis and Teaching Fellow Jimmy Patel co-presented at the SC Midlands Summit. The Summit was publicized as a two-day conference focusing on the integration of technology into schools. In their session, "You Got This! Flipgrid Learning & Assessment for All," Zeis and Patel shared how Flipgrid can be used as an assessment tool and a strategy to increase engagement during online instruction. According to Dr. Zeis, Jimmy was equally responsible for developing the PowerPoint slides and presenting at the event.
Dr. Zeis also worked with Teaching Fellow Delonte Hough to plan an evening of conversation about equity and discrimination in our communities and schools. The other FMU Teaching Fellows were invited to attend, listen to the discussion, and/or share their thoughts. The goal of this professional development event was to have an open and honest dialogue about these important issues. Zeis reported, "The thoughts and ideas, along with the mutual respect for each other were amazing. We all left the Zoom conference with something to think about."