Teachers need social and emotional development as much as their students do, says Veronica Thomas, a mathematics teacher and STEAM coordinator at Fairfield Central High School, in Episode 5 of the ElevatED4SC video podcast. The latest episode is now available with the video and audio versions on YouTube, ITunes and Spotify.
Thomas says it is important to provide days for teachers to focus on their mental health needs. “Our teachers already have, just like children, lots of burdens and things that they carry at home. When we come to school, we leave our things at home and we take on the load of our students, so they don’t have to worry about things for that hour and thirty minutes they’re in our classroom.”
In the vodcast, Thomas focuses on three necessities for teachers to feel supported so they can, in turn, support their students. Along with mental health support, teachers need relevant professional development opportunities, with the chance to see how other teachers innovate in their classrooms.
The ElevatED4SC episode also features a student perspective. Linda Funkhouser, a senior at Lexington High School, shares the opportunities she is able to access through her school district, Lexington One. Linda is involved with the Center for Law and Global Policy at River Bluff High School, as well as with the school’s Historical Preservation Society.
Funkhouser is able to explore her passions for law and policy as a high school student due to the career-building opportunities the school district provides. When asked how she sees the future of education in South Carolina, she points to these job-based classes.
“Not only is there a law center, but students have access to a medical center where you can get a CNA certification while still a high school student, or become certified in welding, or cosmetology. These certifications lead to success later in life,” says Funkhouser. “I think these classes are important to implement in every school district in South Carolina.”
One major step forward, according to Funkhouser, would be providing programs like these in every school or district in the state. “We need to advocate for these opportunities. Internships are everywhere. They just have to be shown to everybody,” she says.
Funkhouser is joined by Merrit Jones, fellow at ALL4SC and adviser at Student Voice. Jones was also part of River Bluff’s Center for Law and Global Policy when she was in high school. She shares that the “work-based experience for me was vital. I got to have access to internships during the school day - and we know that that access piece is so important.”
Jones goes on to describe her recent experience working with students in Fairfield County several of whom are students of Veronica Thomas. Jones says. “Students want access to education that is related to their interests where they get to explore different job opportunities; where they get to start thinking about and exploring passions before they ever go on to enter the workforce or go into higher education.”
These opportunities should be available to students across the state, no matter where they live. The key is providing access to all students. “Experience in high school really should allow you to explore and figure out what you like and what you don’t like,” says Jones. “For Linda to know that she cares about history before she ever goes off to college is great. We want to give students some exposure to careers before they have to try 12 different majors.”
Jones and Funkhouser agree that providing this access has to begin with local businesses offering partnerships to support and grow their communities. Jones says, “Innovative partnerships are happening across the state, and there are businesses and organizations that want to work with schools. We just need to create systems to help this happen statewide.”
ALL4SC is the producing partner for the ElevatED4SC vodcast series. ALL4SC - Accelerating Learning & Leadership in South Carolina - is a University of South Carolina initiative advocating a whole child approach to education. Other partners in producing the vodcast series include USC’s College of Education, USC’s College of Information and Communications, and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.
ElevatEd4SC features success stories illustrating how education transformation is already happening in some South Carolina schools. Two 18-minute episodes are released monthly. Previous episodes and show notes are at ElevatED4SC.com. Viewers and listeners can also learn about what other states are doing to meet similar challenges and find out what a whole child, cradle-to-career approach to education would look like. The series host is Roshanda Pratt, a Midlands-area veteran broadcast professional.