Teaching center makes N.C. House and Senate budgets

Published 7:50 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching was included as a recurring item in both the Senate and House budgets this session. The organization has two locations: one in Cullowhee and one in Ocracoke.

Previously considered as a nonrecurring item up until this current session, the center has provided professional development programs for North Carolina educators for the past 28 years, said the NCCAT Interim Executive Director Richard Thompson. Prior to the news of being included in both chamber budgets, an online petition with over 2,000 signatures was sent to the state government, urging lawmakers not to cut funding for the center. The petition, started by a teacher in Charlotte, had signatures from almost every county across the state, Thompson said.

In 2011, the budget was cut in half and last year, the center was deemed as a nonrecurring item and had to produce a report on a number of things, Thompson said. “This year, we were not included in the governor’s budget, but we were in the Senate and House budgets,” Thompson said. “Now, since the House and Senate have agreed on keeping us in as a recurring item, it will go to the governor.”

Thompson said the center plays a big role in continuing education for teachers in the state. The role of the center in education has evolved over the years, but mainly it helps teachers improve their classroom skills and become better leaders.

“We have to keep good teachers in the classroom,” Thompson said. “We treat them with dignity and respect, support them and work with the school districts to ensure that.”

The center offers a number of programs, including Digital Learning, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), Teacher Leadership Development and Early Grades Learning Programs. Beaufort County Schools Intervention Specialist Maria Morris who aids teachers with academic and behavioral interventions has utilized the center’s programs and commented on the center’s need to stay in the North Carolina budget.

“It was a great opportunity because I was able to network with fellow teachers and leaders in North Carolina,” Morris said. “It is a great way to bounce ideas off of each other and it was a good reflective opportunity. A big part of NCCAT is looking at different scenarios and constantly looking at ways to make things better, which will make you a better teacher.”

According to research, teachers who have come through the programs at the NCCAT stay in teaching longer and are less likely to leave the profession, Thompson said. On average in North Carolina, it costs about $12,000 to recruit, train, prepare a new teacher and bring him or her up to speed on current educational procedure and strategy.

“If you look at a lot of counties, teacher turnover is increasing dramatically,” Thompson said. “We have been very good in the past working with teachers so they more than likely stay in the profession. Here, teachers are active learners again. They will be motivated and inspired to be better than they were. When they leave, they want to keep teaching and be better teachers.”