Student Teaching Experience a Win-Win Opportunity for All
 Neely Cole Cover

Limestone freshman Neely Cole has helped elementary students excel in the classroom and become agents of change.

A Limestone College tutoring initiative is proving to be a win-win for teachers of tomorrow and today's at-risk students.

With the financial assistance of The Cherokee County Community Foundation, the program leverages the strengths of Limestone's renowned Teacher Education program with the needs of youngsters at Gaffney's BD Lee Elementary School.

When the initiative was launched in the summer of 2011, Limestone student teachers worked in a second grade class as well as a kindergarten class. Now in its second year, the grant enables Limestone Education majors to be actively involved with first grade and kindergarten classes at BD Lee.

Dr. Paula Schubert, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Limestone, designed the program. "This is a wonderful example of two organizations, Limestone College and The Cherokee County Community Foundation, working together for the good of the community," she said.

"The children who participate in the tutoring program receive valuable help and the Limestone College students are given classroom experiences that will be beneficial in the future when they are teachers with their own classrooms. Research states that future teachers benefit from working with seasoned teachers who can mentor and guide them. The classroom teachers at B. D. Lee have been very encouraging and welcoming to the Limestone College teacher candidates."

Neely Cole StoryBenefitting the Local Community
As reported in the Cherokee County Indicators report, Cherokee County is in the midst of an "education crisis," one that threatens personal and family economic stability, as well as county-wide economic development and quality of life. "If there is a national education crisis," the report states, "it is magnified in South Carolina and magnified further in Cherokee County."

Beth McCarty-Murray, a BD Lee teacher with 28-years of classroom experience, said "I feel that we need to offer future teachers as many classroom experiences with seasoned teachers as possible. I really feel that the student teacher needs to have more time to observe and work with a veteran teacher and (Limestone's) tutoring program offers a future teacher that side-by-side experience."

Neely Cole, a freshman Early Childhood Education major from Gaffney, devotes two days every week to tutoring children in McCarty-Murray's class at BD Lee. "I work with students who need one-on-one time to strengthen their skills in certain areas such as reading and comprehension," she said. "The entire experience has been wonderful in so many ways. We are all different and the tutoring has opened my eyes to the various methods that children in particular respond to. I have also become their biggest fan and it thrills me to see the look of achievement on their faces when they give the correct answers in class."

For Limestone junior Brittany Boyd of Loris, SC, the initiative presents a stark contrast to classrooms she has participated in before. "There is a definite correlation between low socioeconomic status and children identified as being at-risk. The children spend most of their time outside of their house, mostly at after-school programs, and are raised by their grandparents to a large degree," she explained.

Boyd is no mere spectator in class. Rather, she is active in directly helping the children with their writing lessons and other areas such as phonics and spelling. "Getting this involved in a field teaching experience is a rare opportunity," she said. "In this program, I work in partnership with the teacher and can see first-hand how lesson plans are adjusted on the fly to maintain the students' attention."

"BD Lee is a wonderful school and the teachers are exceptional, but having an extra person to provide one-on-one help is always beneficial," said Boyd.

Neely Cole Story2BD Lee Students Benefitting the World Beyond Gaffney
In addition to helping the students achieve in the classroom, Cole has also introduced the idea of global change to the students at BD Lee. In preparation for a mission trip to Zimbabwe during Christmas break with Limestone's Christian Education and Leadership Program, Cole and McCarty-Murray incorporated that country into the class study plans. "Mrs. McCarty-Murray and I saw the trip as a perfect opportunity to broaden the students' perspectives," said Cole.

"They became so excited and intrigued about the mission trip that they raised $150 in pennies to be used to provide solar-powered lights to school children in Zimbabwe. Because of the care and dedication of students at BD Lee Elementary here in Gaffney, children their age on the other side of the world have lights for reading and studying."

Powerhouse for Educators of Tomorrow
The tutoring program made possible by Limestone and The Cherokee County Community Foundation is the latest example of the College's incredibly rich tradition of educating some of the most accomplished teachers in the region.

Cole was a Teacher Cadet at Gaffney High School when she made her decision to attend Limestone and major in Early Childhood Education. The primary goal of the Teacher Cadet program is to encourage students who possess exemplary interpersonal and leadership skills to consider teaching as a career. For the last two years, Limestone has hosted the Upstate Teacher Cadet Conference.

Since 2005, approximately 25 graduates of Limestone's Education program have been named Teacher of the Year by either their school or school district, and 23 have been named Distinguished Teachers of Reading.

The Limestone program offers degrees in teacher education in the areas of English, early childhood education, elementary education, mathematics, music, and physical education. The program continues to add new components to its roster of degree offerings.

Dr. Schubert, who joined the Limestone faculty in 2010, has dedicated herself to improving the educational status of youngsters in Cherokee County. She is serving as co-chair of the early childhood education taskforce component of the KNOW (2) initiative in Cherokee, a responsibility that involves developing relationships with childcare providers including professional development and placing pre-service teachers in programs in the community.

Before joining the Limestone faculty, Dr. Schubert worked at Clemson University and also spent many years teaching young children with developmental disabilities.