Pfeiffer University’s Division of Education has become an enviable success story, having seen 93 percent of its teacher candidates find jobs since 2009. The division’s 2019-2020 licensure class achieved a 100 percent pass rate across all NC Educator Licensure Exams, and all student teachers who are completing clinical practice this fall have been offered employment at the conclusion of their student-teaching experience.
What’s more, the division’s graduates remain in the teaching field at a rate of approximately 75% when they reach the pivotal five-year mark of employment. That’s well above the average turnover rate: Between 40 and 50% of teachers leave the field in North Carolina and nationally in the first five years.
When Dr. Christopher Boe, the dean of the Division of Education, reflects on some of the factors for this success, he talks about the pivotal role that mentoring plays in Pfeiffer’s program. He spoke of mentoring a student who, were it not for high-touch intervention, might well have fallen through the cracks and not earned a licensure endorsement in his chosen field, special education.
The student, who graduated Pfeiffer a couple of years ago, strongly desired to become a teacher of students with special needs. When he entered, he was somewhat unfocused and in need of direction. “With guidance, long conversations, and the implementation of some accountability measures,” Boe said, “he grew into a mature young man who was prepared, goal-oriented, and future-focused.”
With the support of Boe and other faculty in the division, he met success in the classroom. When he student-taught, he loved his students, and his students loved him back. “He was one of the most natural teachers with whom I have worked,” Boe said. “He graduated, and he got a great job. He even got to coach lacrosse. He’s been back to thank us multiple times and keeps in touch to update us on life happenings, like his recent wedding.”
Another factor working in the Division of Education’s favor is the way it gets students ready to take the licensure exams, which they must pass to become certified teachers in North Carolina and in states where an NC licensure exam is accepted.
The importance of that preparation is driven home at a meeting that freshmen and professors must attend at the beginning of the first academic year. “They said, ‘We want you to graduate so that you can go straight into the field of education,’” said Landon Orrand ’23, a sophomore studying to become an elementary school teacher. “It seems that they’ve been preparing us for these exams from the beginning.”
Methods classes that ready students for tests in reading, science, and math take place early in a student’s tenure – and the tests are taken before students do student-teaching their senior year.
“To help our students, we have pushed the taking of licensure exams to before the student-teaching phase of their studies because the state added a performance exam during student teaching,” Boe said. “During student teaching, they don’t have time to take all of these other exams and complete the performance test.”
When it comes to licensure exams, the Division of Education makes every effort to get students across the finishing line – which Jaycie Almond ’19 can attest to.
Almond now teaches first grade at Richfield Elementary, near Pfeiffer’s Misenheimer campus. She’ll be the first to tell you that math is not one of her strengths and that, not surprisingly, she fell a few points short of passing the licensure exam in math.
She asked her professors at Pfeiffer for a little extra help. They had her enroll in a two-day refresher course in Raleigh that would help her master skills she would need for the test.
“They worked with me. They encouraged me, and I passed with flying colors the second time,” Almond said.
In the final analysis, though, it’s more than passing the exams or getting and keeping the job.
Boe said that the Division of Education is all about “getting our students to be the best teachers they can be so that they, then, can do that same thing for the children whom they serve in the schools.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.