Shareka Liddell always had a passion for education, but when she entered college,
her family and friends encouraged her to pursue a different career path.
“I began working in the human resources field after receiving my business degree in 2004,” Liddell says. “I considered an education degree but was discouraged because of the hardships teachers faced in the classroom. When I had the time, I taught as a substitute to fulfill that passion but did not formally make the switch.”
All that changed after she spotted an online advertisement for the Carolina Transition to Teaching Residency program. Through the program, Liddell received professional and financial support while simultaneously earning South Carolina teacher certification and a master’s degree in teaching. She is now a full-time teacher in Colleton County, South Carolina.
Real-life teaching experiences are embedded in the program. As a teacher-resident, Liddell was placed in a yearlong immersive classroom experience with a mentor teacher at Forest Hills Elementary.
“My coaching teacher was an eight-year teaching veteran. His passion for his students was evident,” Liddell says. “Even though our formal partnership has ended, I can tell he will be my teaching ally for years to come.”
The same community-focused mindset that made a difference in the classroom is one of the keys to maximizing the program experience for its residents. Liddell says the basis for those friendships was built early in the comment section of the program’s social media.
“Our comradery began in the group’s Facebook comments.” Liddell says. “We were answering one another’s questions and sharing what we were learning about the program. If I could speak to next year’s residents, I would say that is one of the most important things you can do.
“Our group was older and had worked in a variety of fields. Our diverse set of experiences prior to teaching was one of the biggest gifts we brought to the classroom. When I was struggling with any aspect of my teaching, my co-residents jumped in to help. They were the first people I called when things got tough.”
While starting a new career is challenging for anyone, it was a major adjustment to begin teaching in the middle of a global pandemic. The back-and-forth from virtual to in-person learning was challenging for even the most experienced educators.
“I could command the focus of the students in my classroom,” Liddell says. “The students learning from home with intermittent wi-fi and distractions were much harder to engage. It made building those relationships even more essential. Students needed to know I was there for them to listen and provide help.
Liddell says one of the best things she learned in the Carolina Transition to Teaching Residency was how to prepare lessons for a diverse set of student needs.
“I was able to experiment with the College of Education faculty to come up with methods that would be most beneficial to my students,” she says. “While I was initially nervous about classroom management, I learned how to develop relationships with my students that opened dialog and made them more responsive learners.
Liddell is looking forward to her next year in the classroom and hopes a return to normalcy comes with the new school year.
She will receive an additional two years of coaching and mentorship in conjunction with the college’s Carolina Teacher Induction Program. Now in its fifth year, CarolinaTIP was created in 2017 to reduce the number of teachers leaving the profession. Liddell will join more than 100 alumni from 63 schools in the highly celebrated initiative.
“After last year, I am more prepared,” Liddell says. “I know who I can call on for help and assistance, and I am glad I have this network to lean on. I would encourage anyone with a passion for education to consider this program.”
About the Carolina Transition to Teaching Residency
Funded by a United States Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership Grant, the program was developed by College of Education faculty members to increase the number of teachers in rural South Carolina. The residency program serves Orangeburg and Colleton counties with plans to expand to other rural communities in South Carolina. The program is one of many efforts of the College of Education to address the state’s teacher shortage and expand the definition of what it means to empower and support teachers in South Carolina.