The Carolina Transition to Teaching Program, funded through a US DoE Teacher Quality Partnership grant, is a 14-month residency graduate program designed for professionals who hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than education. While pursuing their Master of Education in Teaching in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina, Transition to Teaching residents are supported by university and district coaches as they experience the life of a teacher through year-long placements within schools in rural communities in South Carolina.

Wherever we go, whatever we do
We’re gonna go through it together
We may not go far, bur sure as a star
Wherever we are, it’s together.

(“Together Wherever We Go,” Songwriters: Julie Styne/Stephen Sondheim, from the musical play Gypsy)

“Let’s do this together,” Amy said, “We can work on it together and we can be teachers together!” My decision to pursue a career in education was instantly reignited after some 30 years laying dormant. Dormant in the box of things that I wanted to do for myself. The opportunity presented itself in one word: together. A word I learned to spell in third grade: to-get-her. One of my teachers, Mrs. Mathis, impacted me as a learner in ways I would not realize for many years to come. A teacher who recognized me as smart, instead of as just a pretty little girl.

Whom might I impact?

I was working in what I thought was my dream job. A position in my degree area (finally!) after some 28 years of retail management. But I was isolated in my office in April of 2020 during COVID 19–no family, no retirement plan, 52, and alone.

The word together resonated. I wanted to be part of something that had a larger purpose. So, I applied to the Carolina Transition to Teaching Program. I imagined my transcripts buried in a basement at the College of Charleston. I waited, and my friend Amy, who I was hoping to do this “together” with, continued to repeatedly email the representative to ensure we had all the required information complete for our application.

Then we received the news. We were accepted! We were beginning our journey to become teachers, together, and receive our master’s degree from the University of SC. When we successfully completed the program, we would receive a position as a teacher with either the Colleton County School Districtor the Orangeburg School District, together.

Our next step was to meet the rest of our cohort, professors, and the other residents in the program. Due to COVID-19 we began our process together virtually in July of 2020. My first day of summer institute I was extremely nervous. I was the only resident out of 15 who had never worked in a school setting. I remember thinking: what have I done? I’m definitely not ready to give up my current job as an Executive Director just yet. But here I was together in a virtual classroom, one of 18 boxes on the computer screen. My journey personified what it is to transition to teaching.

Within three days of the summer institute I realized my value: I was already a leader, I was accustomed to accomplishing goals, and I had experience in dealing with customers and employees (that could transfer to building relationships with families and colleagues). I drew many parallels between my current work and my future work. I realized that while I needed to learn the process of how to be a teacher, my skill set was strong. We learned our cohort will be together for the better part of three years even though the program itself is 15 months. Together we will achieve the goal of transitioning to teaching. Together we will support each other in the Praxis and certification process. Together we will support each other in the classroom. We will learn with our co-teachers and our students together. I was not alone.

Together we will support each other in the classroom. We will learn with our co-teachers and our students together. I was not alone.

As part of our coursework in the Fall of 2020, two other residents and I were assigned an inquiry research project. The three were already in the same elementary school and we were able to meet, collaborate, and divide the tasks associated with our class project for our Masters Degree. During the day we met to discuss our research, compare notes, and complete our research project, together. Throughout this cohort our ability to ask for help from professors, advisors, peers, and co-teachers has been a real asset in navigating these unchartered territories.

Together we helped each other learn to teach virtually. Together we developed computer skills and proficiency in new tools.

The opportunity to achieve a Masters Degree in Education while being immersed in the classroom at the same time has given me a real life glimpse at what my own classroom will look like in the Fall of 2021. I will be able to apply the skills I have learned not only in my coursework, but also the real life scenarios that I have been able to be a part of in the classroom. In the beginning of the school year the classroom reminded me of a laboratory. Just like in Chemistry, I am learning the “pedagogy” (a teacher word) of teaching and then exercising it in the classroom the next day. We are able to experiment with the strategies we are learning in our coursework and practice these strategies in real-time. This environment allows aspiring teachers to gain meaningful experience in a classroom without being alone; my co-teacher serves as a “lab partner.” Many times when I am teaching, I turn to my co-teacher and receive coaching in the moment. This type of coaching is valuable because it provides a safe and supportive environment in which to take risks and try new things. Also, this type of “in the moment” coaching can provide feedback that can be received and applied immediately. The co-teaching model allows me to learn and observe together with the classroom teacher and the students. The students in the classroom play a vital role in the learning experience that is Carolina Transition to Teaching. And the school administration treats us as a part of the team, which is a valuable skill set to learn as a new teacher. I feel confident being assigned to any elementary school in the Fall of 2021 knowing l have a solid skill set to navigate my first year as a teacher.

If you are looking to fulfill a dream and launch a career in teaching but aren’t sure how to get there…you do not have to do it alone.

If you are looking to fulfill a dream and launch a career in teaching but aren’t sure how to get there…you do not have to do it alone.Through Carolina Transition to Teaching I have learned the art and science of teaching is something you cannot do alone. That is not how it works. It only works when teachers, students, parents, administrators, professors, advisors, mentor teachers, teacher assistants, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and the entire school community do it…TOGETHER.

This story is published as part of a storytelling retreat hosted by the Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) housed in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education. CEP partners nominated practicing educators, administrators, and system leaders to share their stories. The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), a CEP partner, facilitated the retreat and provided editorial and publication support. Learn more about this work and read additional stories by following @CEP_UofSC and @teachingquality.

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Kristin Mumford

Kristin Mumford is currently a resident in Carolina Transition to Teaching. She earned a B.A. in Art History from the College of Charleston and has a 30-year career in Retail Management. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Education to become an Elementary Teacher. She plans to graduate from the University of SC in May of 2021 and begin her career in teaching in the Colleton County School District in August of 2021.