12 Things We Learned at the Beginning Teacher Institute We’re Applying to Our Classrooms

Beginning Teacher at Beginning Teacher Institute

Alicia Hatmaker, a second-year social studies teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School in Raleigh, was one of the nearly 185 teachers from across North Carolina who attended the fifth annual Beginning Teacher Institute.

About 185 teachers from 40 counties in North Carolina attended the NC State College of Education’s fifth Beginning Teacher Institute July 11-13. The teachers — all in their first, second or third years of their teaching careers — participated in sessions and workshops designed to provide practical tips and strategies to help them be the teachers they want to be.

“The Beginning Teacher Institute has covered the gamut — from tips on assessment and data-led instruction to how to get students to collaborate to setting up your procedures during the first day and the first week,” said Alicia Hatmaker, a second-year teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School. “It has been all-encompassing, and it’s stuff I wish I had known last year when I was getting started as a teacher.”

Twelve of the beginning teachers shared with ced.ncsu.edu at least one thing they learned during the institute they will use in their classroom.


Alicia HatmakerBuild a solid network. “The most important thing your first few years of teaching is to create a solid network of people who understand what you are going through, who help you with new ideas, and who just encourage you. You can do research at home and read articles, but you can’t meet people and build relationships unless you are a part of something like [the Beginning Teacher Institute].” — Alicia Hatmaker, second-year teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School in Raleigh

Jennifer RunkerGet a Google phone number. “I gave out my phone number one time this past year, and I don’t want to do that again. But using Google phone will allow me to be able to more freely communicate with parents and to text with them. Parents like that.” — Jennifer Rucker, second-year teacher at Overhills Elementary School in Harnett County

Amy BaskettBe flexible. “My favorite thing about the Beginning Teacher Institute was meeting the other participants and realizing that we all went through the same things. I’ve learned that it’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s always fine to alter your lesson plan. Things will change and you have to be willing to be flexible.” — Amy Baskett, second-year teacher at Granville Central High School in Granville County

Brittany MaxfieldClassroom management is key. “I took a session on classroom management that helped me a lot. The presenter had some really good ideas about making the classroom work for you, how to control behavior and not letting bad behaviors escalate until the classroom is out of control. This will be my first year teaching so I’m really looking forward to taking the tips and tricks I learned here back to the classroom in the fall.” — Brittany Maxfield, an incoming first-year teacher at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville

Ashley TangHave an outline for parent-teacher conferences. “There were a lot of great tips about conferences with parents or caregivers. One that stood out is to have an outline of what you want to accomplish during a conference with a parent or caregiver. Create a form that you can use to take notes and to keep track of those conversations.” — Ashley Tang, a second-year teacher at Simkins Elementary School in Greensboro

Mary-Haven von LehmdenSend a positive note home. “I had a good reminder to send a positive note home for every student within the first two weeks. That reminds parents and caregiver that every time I contact you that doesn’t mean that something is wrong or we have a problem. It sets space for communication to be open, and that communication can be positive.” — Mary-Haven von Lehmden ’17, an incoming first-year teacher at St. Raphael Catholic School in Raleigh

Stephanie HumpreyTry new methods of communication. “I have learned about technology techniques to incorporate to my classroom since I sometimes have a hard time communicating with my parents. Apps like Remind can send text messages to the parents so we can better communicate. I usually use paper to communicate with parents, but giving them another alternative will be great.” — Stephanie Humphrey ’15 MAT, a second-year teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School in Raleigh

April StormMake it about relationships from Day One. “Starting on Day 1 of teaching, it’s all about building relationships. If kids don’t respect you, they won’t listen to you. In one of the sessions, a teacher shared how she has a class chants to the song “We Will Rock You.” The students begin morning with that class chant. That’s something I want to do, too, because it makes it fun and engages the kids, and will help create the classroom environment I want.” — April Storm ’17, an incoming first-year teacher at River Bend Elementary School in Raleigh

Sarah ChoAlways be learning. “This is my third time attending the Beginning Teacher Institute, and every time I come, there is always something new and always new workshops. One thing I really took away this year was the technology piece. The technology is so fast paced, and there is always something new. There’s always something you can learn. ” — Sarah Lim Cho ’15, a third-year sixth grade teacher at Daniels Middle School in Raleigh

Bria CofieldFail forward. “I’ve learned a lot about growth mindset and the power of ‘failing forward’, which means figuring out how my students and I can move forward when we fail. I’m really excited to bring that back to the classroom because I know I mess up all the time, so I’m looking forward to sharing this with my students and telling them it’s OK to fail. I think this concept will help us build classroom community and culture.” — Bria Cofield ’16, a second-year teacher at Hortons Creek Elementary School in Cary

Caroline LoganRemember your “why.” “The Beginning Teacher Institute reminded me why I became a teacher. The first year of teaching can get you down, but coming here where everyone is so bright and energetic about education, that is a feeling that I’m really glad to take into the year with me.” — Caroline Logan, second-year teacher at Riverside High School in Martin County

Steven GuptonSpread the word about the Beginning Teacher Institute. “I have learned a lot in the last three days. We’ve talked about differentiation, failing forward, classroom management techniques, communicating with parents, first week lesson plans. . . . I’ve already emailed and tweeted my principal to say that I believe every beginning teacher at our school should come to this program to learn, network and remember why we wanted to teach.” — Steven Gupton, a second-year teacher at Louisburg High School in Franklin County


And More Things We Learned at the Beginning Teacher Institute

Teachers attending the Beginning Teacher Institute also took to Twitter to share what they learned during the sessions and workshops. Here’s a snapshot of what they said.