09/03/12 — Dancing for teachers-to-be

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Dancing for teachers-to-be

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 3, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County celebrity dancers have helped some aspiring teachers live their dreams.

A portion of the proceeds from this year's Dancing Stars of Wayne County is benefitting a scholarship program for those who have decided that they would like to be in a classroom.

Anna Gurganus is one of those recipients.

She has enjoyed being an instructional assistant at Meadow Lane Elementary School.

But there came a point when she decided she wanted a classroom of her own.

So she did what many in the district have done since Wayne Community College introduced Wachovia Partnership East in 2004 providing an option for those interested in pursuing a teaching degree without having to travel to Greenville every day. Advanced education courses through East Carolina University were offered online and at WCC to satisfy the requirements.

"I'm the mother of six children that have all attended Wayne County Public Schools and I have seen such great teachers and they're what inspired me to go back to school and be a teacher," she said.

And now she is nearing completion, with just one semester to go before obtaining her bachelor's degree.

This is the one that counts, when cohorts in the program do their student teaching.

"Now they have reached the final leg of their journey, what we call Senior I internship. They'll teach full-time in a Wayne County classroom," explained Ann Smith, coordinator of the Wells Fargo Partnership East South Central Consortium, which started out as Wachovia Partnership East. "So they had to quit their job or take a leave of absence, which means no income."

For the majority, the students have had to work diligently to juggle the demands of family and work and school.

Now they also have to juggle finances.

For 10 of the students, some relief came last week in the form of $1,000 scholarships, made possible from this year's community event, Dancing Stars of Wayne County. Introduced three years ago as a fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce, proceeds from the event have been used in a variety of ways to support education.

"The money that's raised from our Dancing Stars (event) each year, a portion of that goes to stipends for prospective teachers, that are in the Wells Fargo Partnership East program at Wayne Community College," said Dr. Ed Wilson, interim president of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

To date, 76 students have graduated from the program with bachelor degrees, Ms. Smith said. Between 40 and 50 percent of candidates were formerly teaching assistants in the district.

"We're really pleased with this program," said Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools. "It's been very successful. We have found these teachers to be successful once they move into the classrooms.

"We make every effort to hire them. We're trying to grow our own and usually we can place them in our district."

In addition to Mrs. Gurganus, who is currently assigned to do her internship at Rosewood Elementary, where she works in a second-grade classroom, other recipients of the $1,000 scholarship included Katherine Martin, a second-grade teacher at Rosewood Elementary; Bobbie Leigh Stringfield, seventh-grade at Eastern Wayne Middle; Mary Ellen Corbett, eighth-grade math and science and Eastern Wayne Middle; Paula Daughtry, special education at Norwayne Middle; Lacey Cerezo-Bynum, kindergarten at Northwest Elementary; Tabitha Phillips, Micro Pine Level Elementary School; Amanda Howard, Tommy's Road Elementary School, and Barbara Keel and Ashley Seabrooke."As a mother of four, this Partnership has really been very wonderful to me, the flexibility of being able to juggle everything and get an education," Mrs. Howard said. "It was volunteering in my children's classroom that I knew I wanted to be a teacher."