'Greylock Teach Fellows' aims to inspire Pittsfield high schoolers to pursue teaching careers

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PITTSFIELD - A new program aims to inspire Pittsfield students to pursue careers as public school teachers.

The "Greylock Teach Fellows" initiative will connect seniors from the city's two high schools with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts over the next three years. Organizers say they hope to attract a diverse group of young people to the profession and cite challenges attracting teachers to the Berkshires.

Greylock Federal Credit Union is funding the initiative with a $100,000 grant to the college's "Sowing Seeds for Success" campaign.

"I think public educators are under a lot of pressure," said Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, MCLA's dean of graduate and continuing education. "More kids are choosing to not go into education."

Eberwein, a former superintendent of Pittsfield Public Schools, said that could change if students are able to try their hand at being an educator and seeing their impact firsthand.

"It's amazing and inspirational work, and we're hoping to give kids an opportunity to experience that," he said.

Recruiting new teachers to the Berkshires can be a challenge, according to Pittsfield Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless, given the county's geographic isolation. In addition, teaching jobs tend to pay less than other parts of the state.

"When coupled with the need to recruit teachers of color, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to not only help kids have better futures, but also help the district — to establish a pipeline so that our best students come back to be our best teachers," he said.

Just more than a dozen seniors from both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School are participating in the current session, McCandless said, which includes after school sessions at the city's Intermodal Transportation Center and weekend workshops at the college.

Students in the program will take the college's education and society course and receive instruction from two MCLA faculty members for free, Eberwein said. The course explores the concept of teaching and education in a historical and societal context.

Leslie Tayi, a junior at Taconic High School, said she enrolled in the course to explore a possible career path.

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"I thought the class would broaden my horizon, and maybe show what I'd like to do with the rest of my life," she said. "I like it so far. I'm on the way to college and this gives me an idea what college will be like."

Leslie noted that she has always liked helping people, and teachers can play an important role in helping students find their right path.

"Being a teacher is something that can impact people for the rest of their lives — I've had teachers that had an impact on my life," she added.

Ben Wampler, also a high school junior in Pittsfield, said he wanted to take the course because "it seemed like a great opportunity."

"I wanted to really take a step into college courses, and it was free, so I couldn't pass it up," he said. "And it seems really interesting — it connects with some of my other courses."

Ben said he is exploring the possibility of being a science teacher.

Students also will have the opportunity to work with someone from MCLA's admissions office and school guidance staff on navigating college and scholarship applications.

Program plans include workshops and speaker series, Eberwein said.

McCandless also said school officials hope to restart Future Educators of America club at both high schools.

"Berkshire County's future is only as bright as our public education system is strong," Greylock President Marilyn L. Sperling said in prepared remarks announcing the initiative. "As part of Greylock's ongoing efforts to support the community, we are excited to make this gift to MCLA and partner with them."

Lauding Greylock's donation, Eberwein said "It's a really fitting example of the strengths of partnerships that we have in the county."

Contact Ed Damon at 413-770-6979.


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