Future Teachers of North Carolina

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Appalachian has prepared quality teachers for North Carolina's schools for more than 100 years. With 1,443 students majoring in teacher education, Appalachian now offers the largest undergraduate teacher preparation program in the state.

Part of what makes Appalachian's teacher education program special is the practical experience students get working with children and youth while studying to become a teacher—an emphasis that begins as early as the freshman year.

Meet three young people getting ready for the classroom, plus an award-winning teacher:

Mandi McGaha

Class of 2010

Mandi McGaha looks forward to making math relevant to students' everyday life.

"If you can make it real for them, students are more likely to enjoy math," says the mathematics education major. "I want to do more than say 'This is the hypotenuse of a triangle.' I want to show how that information can be useful in their lives."

Mandi grew up in Clyde, N.C., and wants to teach high school math. With the state's need for more math and science teachers, finding a job shouldn't be difficult when she graduates from Appalachian in 2010.

Appalachian has provided many opportunities for her to observe and participate in different types of classrooms, from rural to inner city. A high point in her academic career was teaching geometry to gifted middle school and high school students through the Duke Talent Identification Program held at Appalachian last summer.

"I was really proud that all my students passed the end-of-course testing," she said. She hopes to teach the three-week course again next summer.

Mandi is president of Appalachian's chapter of North Carolina Teaching Fellows, a prestigious scholarship program that prepares future teachers for North Carolina's public schools. In return, each scholarship recipient commits to four years of teaching in the state.

John Mark Hamilton

Class of 2009

More and more North Carolinians are overweight, increasing their risk for serious health problems. To reverse that trend, physical education major John Mark Hamilton wants to inspire children to stay physically active.

"I want to help them find sports and activities they really enjoy. The challenge is finding out why some students stop liking P.E. at certain grades and then find ways to keep them active for a lifetime," says Hamilton, a North Carolina Teaching Fellow from Charlotte, N.C. His favorite sport is football.

Hamilton would love to combine physical education with his other passion: teaching life skills to inner city youth. He's found the perfect mentor in Mountaineer football coach Jerry Moore whose team Hamilton has worked for as an undergraduate assistant, from laundering uniforms to assisting with drills and analyzing practice videos. Moore places high importance on good grades and teamwork to shape men not only into national champions, but also responsible citizens, husbands and fathers.

Hamilton hopes to emulate Moore's leadership in his own career. "I've learned a lot about how to impact young men," he says.

Hamilton says Appalachian's physical education teacher education program is one of the top in the nation and the university is preparing him well to be a teacher through tutoring and teaching experiences in the local schools. "All the experience I've gotten here has been incredible," he says.

Emily Mackie

Class of 2009

Emily Mackie believes it's important for young people to explore their world through art. Art can be used to open dialogue on societal issues and help people work through their emotional issues, says the art education major.

"Art is a good opportunity to empower students to take something they know about and put it into action," says Mackie, who prefers to work with middle school and high school students after she graduates.

Mackie grew up in Lincolnton, North Carolina As a child, she loved to draw—which began her fascination with art in all its forms, from painting to calligraphy, graphic novels and pottery.

Mackie envisions her future classroom as creative, interdisciplinary and student-focused. She's gotten experience with young people teaching and tutoring through Upward Bound, and helping lead an after-school art program for sixth through eighth grades at Parkway School in Watauga County.

"We assist the teachers, and it's been helpful to work with teachers who are national board certified and who have written grants to support art education," she says.

Mackie also leads tours for school groups at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, which recently presented the exhibitionDancing with the Dragon by contemporary artists from Beijing, China. "The artwork reflected pollution and waste, so we so talked about those issues. It was a good experience. I want my art classes to be interdisciplinary like that," she says.

Brian Bettis '05 '08

Kindergarten Teacher
Boiling Springs Elementary School

Like many new teachers from Appalachian, Brian Bettis's success in the classroom led him to be named Teacher of the Year at his school. The 2005 graduate teaches kindergarten at Boiling Springs Elementary School in Cleveland County—a job he says he loves.

"If everyone loved their job as much as I do, the world would be in great shape," says Bettis, who received Teacher of the Year status in 2008, his fourth year at Boiling Springs Elementary where he was a student himself years ago.

"Teaching is one of the most challenging professions, but at the same time it's also one of the most rewarding," Bettis says. "My reward is seeing students who want to come to school every day."

While at Appalachian, Bettis fostered his passion for working with young children as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. The Reich College of Education faculty prepared him well for the classroom, he says, especially understanding "the importance of looking at my kids individually. The greatest challenge is finding out the needs of each student and determining how best to meet those needs."

Bettis so appreciated the preparation Appalachian gave him for becoming a teacher that he returned for his master's degree in elementary education, which he completed earlier this year.

Growing up, Bettis wanted to become an emergency room physician. Then in high school he had "the best history teacher ever," a man who inspired him to consider his own future in teaching. "I wanted to be the next Mr. Brown," Bettis recalls.

An opportunity to intern in a second-grade classroom while he was still in high school cemented Bettis's career choice. And, it revealed his natural ability for working with elementary-age children.

He's never regretted the decision to become an elementary school teacher. "I love my school, I love my kids. I love the families I work with," Bettis said.