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Supporting New Teachers at the Beginning Teacher Institute

Delsa Castaneda at the 2016 Beginning Teacher Institute
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More than 100 educators in their first, second or third year of teaching came to the College of Education in early July for the 2016 Beginning Teacher Institute (BTI). During the three-day workshop, teachers participated in professional development activities, networking opportunities and interactive presentations with speakers such as Bobbie Cavnar, the 2016 NC Teacher of the Year.

Among this year’s attendees were Delsa Castaneda, a second grade teacher at Pines Elementary School in Washington County, and Kenya Y. Arnold, a ninth grade English teacher at Northwest Halifax High School in Halifax County. We caught up with Castaneda and Arnold, both entering their second year of teaching, to learn more about their experiences at this year’s BTI.

Why did you decide to apply to the Beginning Teacher Institute?

  • Delsa Castaneda (DC): I applied to BTI because I thought it would be a great opportunity to gather a variety of resources, listen to other teachers who have been through situations I could possibly encounter, and learn how to be a great and effective classroom teacher. 
  • Kenya Arnold (KA): I decided to attend BTI to learn more about my craft. I am passionate about helping my students succeed, and I am always looking for ways to improve as an educator. I also wanted to meet new people and hear their tips for success.
Delsa Castaneda
Delsa Castaneda

Tell us more about your experience at BTI. What were your some of your favorite activities?

  • DC: I really enjoyed the Brain Smart presentation. As a beginning teacher, it can feel like you’re being scrutinized more, so you tend to focus on classroom management, teaching the standards, and data points. Although these are all important things to focus on, you can’t forget that you’re teaching real human beings, not robots. The Brain Smart presentation provided me with great resources and kinesthetic activities that will keep students engaged and focused while up and moving at the same time! I also enjoyed all of the “first day” activities that I could possibly try in the classroom, mainly because in my first year I was so clueless as to where to begin.
  • KA: Some of the best activities were creating a classroom website, talking about cultural awareness and hearing the keynote speakers. I also enjoyed choosing from a variety of workshops and the expertise of the presenters in each activity.

How do you think this experience will shape you as an educator moving forward?

  • DC: I took away so many awesome ideas that I never would have thought of on my own. The presenters were real teachers who have put these strategies to use, and they were more than generous to share their tips and tricks with us. They were kind enough to provide their contact information as well! I feel like I received a profound amount of support from these amazing teachers. Moving forward, I feel confident going into my second year of teaching. I heard so many inspirational speeches at BTI and that will motivate me to be the best I can be for my students.
  • KA: I know this experience will mold me into a better educator. BTI helps teachers become educators that are culturally aware, sensitive to the needs of their students, and capable of providing students alternatives to help them with their learning.

Why do you think professional development is so critical for beginning teachers? 

Kenya Y. Arnold
Kenya Y. Arnold
  • DC: Professional development is a gateway into the minds of teachers who know exactly what they are doing. As a beginning teacher, you do not graduate college being a hundred percent prepared for the classroom. We honestly have to learn as we go, with a lot of trial and error. The professional development provided at BTI was awesome because the wonderful teachers that led the sessions have “been there and done that,” and they were more than happy to show us the ropes. These teachers did not hold back, and I know they are rooting for us beginning teachers to achieve great things!
  • KA: Professional development is necessary for beginning teachers to be successful because it gives us an opportunity to learn from other educators who are rocking it in the educational system. The public education system North Carolina is consistently ranked low, so it is imperative to learn how we can effectively make a difference, inside and outside of the classroom. As a beginning teacher, there is so much that we don’t know, so it’s important to take advantage of all available resources in order to make our journey just a little bit easier.

What advice do you have for students considering a career in education?

  • DC: My advice is to go for it. There’s a strong need for amazing teachers in North Carolina. Your heart is in the right place if you truly want to influence children and make a difference. I’m not saying this is an easy career choice, but I promise you it’s worth it. There is no greater feeling than standing in front of 20+ children and showing them you care by preparing them for their future.
  • KA: I would advise future educators to believe in themselves and to believe in the lives that they will touch. It is vital to be intentional, have fun, focus on the student and not the benchmarks, and to always remember why they wanted to be a teacher in the beginning. Times will be hard, the pay may not be what you deserve, but the moment a student says, “Thank you for pushing me to be better, for always believing in me, even when I didn’t…” it will all be worth it. That is why you will keep teaching long after your first year!