North Carolina Teacher Project

North Carolina Teacher Project
Credit Keith Weston / WUNC

My Teacher Logo
Keith Weston / WUNC

My Teacher is a new initiative from North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC. We're traveling the state, finding teachers and students to tell their stories. You don't have to wait for us to show up to record and submit your story, though.

You could write to us, and tell us a story about your teacher. (Put 'My Teacher' in the subject line.) Or, you could record the conversation yourself with your smartphone!

Simply make an appointment with your teacher.

Deana and Mark Kahlenberg
Still shot from video / Emerging Issues Forum

Deana and Mark Kahlenberg teach at the same school: Alderman Road Elementary in Cumberland County. They met there. They both enjoyed teaching for many years - Deana for seven and Mark for eight. And now they are both leaving the school, and leaving the profession. They are in grad school to become speech and language pathologists.

Why did they choose to leave?

Mark: Mostly pay reasons

Carice Sanchez
Dave DeWitt

For many, teaching is a calling. For others, like Eric and Carice Sanchez, it’s something a little more than that.

“It’s during the honeymoon during the early morning, getting up and checking to make sure the loan went through,” said Eric Sanchez, the co-founder and school leader at Henderson Collegiate. “But I guess those are the funny pieces that add to the story and add to the merger of a school and a relationship.”

Emerging Issues
Dave DeWitt

Diane Ravitch is an education historian. She’s also a best-selling author and hugely influential on social media. In the past few years, she’s also become the champion for traditional public school teachers. What she isn’t, is subtle.

“North Carolina is bleeding talent,” she told the crowd at the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh on Tuesday. “North Carolina is bleeding experience. North Carolina has a brain drain caused by bad policy.”

Teacher salaries are losing ground fast in North Carolina.

Jennifer Spivey has been a teacher for three years at South Columbus High School, on the north side of the border between the Carolinas. She's been recognized as an outstanding teacher; she has a master's degree, and last summer she won a prestigious Kenan fellowship to improve education. But she still lives in her parents' basement.

WUNC File Photo


Fascinating article published over the weekend by the Washington Post entitled "You Think You Know What Teachers Do. Right? Wrong." The author, Sarah Blaine, spent two years teaching English Language Arts at a rural public high school. She left to be a lawyer.

Here's an excerpt from the middle of the post:

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Republican leaders in North Carolina have announced a plan to increase teacher compensation. It would raise the starting salary for new teachers, making North Carolina much more competitive in what it pays new teachers – especially when measured against southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Governor Pat McCrory chose his old high school, Ragsdale High in Guilford County, to announce the plan to pay new teachers a more competitive salary.

Photo: Idris Brewster and Seun Summers
American Promise film

Over the course of 13 years, Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson filmed their son's progress through the elite New York City prep school called Dalton. As an African-American family in a predominantly white school, the years were challenging for everyone.

Their documentary American Promise airs on  UNC-TV Thursday 2/6/14 at 10 p.m.

A year ago, Dick Gordon talked with Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson when they were in Durham N.C. for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

NC Teacher of the Year Karyn Dickerson, being interviewed at the State of the Union, with Senator Kay Hagan (right).
via Twitter

Karyn Dickerson had a night most teachers dream of. She'd been invited to the State of the Union address in Washington.

Dickerson had a dinner with the senators, had a great view of President Obama. He even led off the night talking about teachers:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades....

But the highlight of the night?

teacher hearing
Dave DeWitt

There are 95,000 public school teachers in North Carolina, give or take. So how many, given their only chance to comment publicly on the end of tenure, would make their way to downtown Raleigh to voice their displeasure? Hundreds? Thousands, maybe?

Try four.

But maybe the low attendance wasn’t so much a reflection on teachers’ anger – it might just speak more to their sense of duty. The public hearing, after all, was scheduled on a Wednesday afternoon at 1 PM. Hardly convenient for a teacher.