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UNCP Teaching Fellow working to save program


When she heard about budget cuts to North Carolina’s famed Teaching Fellows Program, Santana Batten said it was time to step up.

“If you just stand back, who will care?” asked the third-year Teaching Fellow at UNC Pembroke. “Somebody has to care. Teaching Fellows is a great investment.”

The North Carolina General Assembly cut the program by eliminating the entire 2012 class, and many expect them to end the program entirely in the near future.

The 25-year-old program provides four-year, $26,000 scholarships to outstanding high school graduates who commit to teaching for four years in North Carolina public schools. Forty-one of the 500 N.C. Teaching Fellows are enrolled at UNCP.

In an interview on August 24, just minutes before her first Teaching Fellows meeting of the new school year, Batten promised to begin a grass-roots campaign to save the program.

“What put a fire under me was hearing Joanne Norris (Teaching Fellows director) on the verge of tears at our junior conference this summer,” Batten said. “I’m going to start today, and hopefully I can get the other Teaching Fellows involved.”

Batten, who is from Tabor City, wants to teach middle school math. She outlined her plan to save the Teaching Fellows Program.

She plans to set up a table to collect testimonials at festivals, such as Pembroke Day and Tabor City’s Yam Festival. She also hopes to create a video for North Carolina’s legislators.

Batten offered her own testimonial to the power of inspired teaching. It was the story of a fifth grader who entered an essay contest but did not believe in herself.       

“I didn’t think I could write,” Batten said. “Amy Wright, my fifth-grade teacher, said ‘Santana, this is brilliant.’”                         “I was inspired,” Batten said. “I want to be that teacher who inspires children to do things they never thought they could do. Kids need to be told they can be great.”

Batten started the campaign to save the Teaching Fellows Program this summer when she emailed Tabor City Tribune editor, Deuce Niven, about her ideas. “He said ‘it sounds important,’” Batten said. “I didn’t know that it would be on the front page. I also thought it was important for people to read a good-news story about somebody working for a cause.”

Batten believes the Teaching Fellows Program is a great training ground for teachers. “We have a lot of opportunities to do things and interact with professors,” she said. “We get into the classroom from the freshman year. We meet every week to discuss the profession.

“Being around people who are passionate about education is powerful,” Batten said. “That’s what sets the program apart.”

For more information about the Teaching Fellows Program, please contact that office at 910.521.6495 or email