CSU Class Honors a First-Year Teacher

A class in Columbus State University’s Early Childhood Education Program recently went the extra mile to help a new teacher feel appreciated and make a step towards increasing new teacher retention rates.

According to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, forty-four percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. A survey by the Georgia Department of Education found that many teachers felt “undervalued.” In an effort to overcome these alarming statistics, one teacher at a time, a class in Columbus State University’s Early Childhood Education Program developed a plan.

The idea started when a group of Block 2 teacher candidates were discussing their desire to teach at a Title 1 school because schools such as these provide the biggest opportunity to make a difference. This conversation sparked an idea from the professor, Dr. Pam Wetherington, to show the class an episode of Mike Rowe’s Facebook show, ‘Returning the Favor.’

The professor had seen the episode the evening prior and felt that this particular episode was relevant in terms of the class discussion. The episode was about a teacher who heavily influenced a struggling high school student, and that student later grew up to make a career out of encouraging students to read while integrating physical fitness. “The episode was very touching, and the class was deeply affected,” said Kylie Whitten.

After some discussion, two teacher candidates proposed they do something similar in terms of returning the favor by recognizing a first-year teacher who is doing an amazing job and making a difference with his/her students. The class researched various first-year teachers in the surrounding school districts and voted to recognize a first year teacher at Key Elementary in Columbus, GA.

“We chose Brittany James because she is a recent graduate from CSU’s Early Childhood Education Program, and we know how stressful it can be going through the program. We also chose Ms. James because we learned how she invests her own resources to help her students. Lastly, we wanted to honor a first year teacher that worked at a Title 1 school since our plan was developed out of the idea of working in a Title 1 school,” said Callie Hampton.

Throughout the development of the Be the One project, the teacher candidates met weekly during the spring 2018 semester on their own time to work within their sub-committees (i.e., fundraising, public relations, curriculum, and celebration).

On May 14, 2018, CSU’s Early Childhood Education teacher candidates presented Ms. James and Key Elementary with school supplies, clothes, STEM science kits, snacks, and more.

Ms. Brittany James was surprised to learn she was being recognized by this group of teacher candidates and said, “I do it to make them [students] better, and I didn't know people paid attention to me and knew of me, and that I was making a difference in the school system.”

Those involved in the inaugural Be the One project were-

Teacher Candidates:

  • Rebekah Cherry

  • Erica Culpepper

  • Alexzandrea Gant

  • Brooke Grantham

  • Callie Hampton

  • Taylor Lanier

  • Iesha McCrory

  • Jonah Montgomery

  • Pam Moore

  • Chelsea Mounts

  • Madison Pinet

  • Mia Rankins

  • Chelsey Reid

  • Stephanie Simmons

  • Kylie Whitten

  • Gina Williams

  • Elisabeth Wilson



  • Barbara Rouse

  • Pam Wetherington