Future Georgia Educators Day aims to recruit high schoolers to teach

I t’s hard to know what career path to take as a young adult. In many cases, students face challenges understanding what a specific job entails and therefore have a hard time visualizing themselves in that career.
To respond to those challenges and help bridge the teacher shortage gap, Georgia College’s John H. Lounsbury College of Education along with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) partnered to bring nearly 200 high school students to campus to see first-hand what a career in education could look like for them. 
Students came from across the state to participate in the Future Georgia Educators (FGE) Day.

Georgia’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman
Georgia’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman
“They are invited to come to a college for a day where we talk to them about a career in teaching,” said Mary Ruth Ray, FGE coordinator for PAGE. “They hear a presentation from an award-winning educator, and they participate in interactive workshops presented by the host college about teaching topics, teaching strategies or college life in general.” 
Georgia’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman presented the keynote address recounting her journey from a career in advertising to education. 
“When I stepped into the classroom, I stepped into my passion, and with each and every day, I believe in it more and more,” said Goldman, who teaches in Savannah-Chatham County. “I can assure you that if you ultimately get into teaching, you are getting into something that has a purpose. You are getting into something that makes a difference. You are getting into a job that you can believe in.”
That sentiment echoed throughout the day as the high schoolers visited a College Fair and sat in on presentations from Georgia College students. Dozens of education majors and others from across campus volunteered to make presentations or assist with the day’s events. 
“I spoke in a session and walked them through cohort life in the education programs and the benefits of becoming a teacher,” said senior Georgia Denny, special education major. 
Georgia Denny (left) makes a presentation for high school students."
Georgia Denny (left) makes a presentation for high school students."
She was joined by other students from the early childhood and middle grades programs to help the high school students understand the paths in college to become a teacher.
“We're basically trying to recruit them and show them that, if you want to be a teacher, it is possible. It's not as scary as it seems,” Denny said.  “We want to plant that seed in their head that they can do it.”
Like so many educators Denny felt called to the field. She “wants to make a difference,” and has found she has an innate ability to connect with students with disabilities. 
The same is true for other college students like junior Catherine Waters. She decided to pursue middle grades teaching because “it's such a big changing point when a student starts figuring out who he or she is as a person.” Waters hoped to provide information about middle grades education to pique interest in the young students. 
“For the high school students, we're really pinpointing what middle grades is because a lot of people know about early and special education, but they don't really know much about middle grades,” said Waters. “There's so much that goes on in the middle of school, so we're giving an overview of that.” 
Catherine Waters works with students.
Catherine Waters works with students.

The high school student's knowledge about the education field varied. Some knew very little about the process to become a teacher, while others had already decided this was going to be their career. 
Ky-Amber Butts, a senior at Baldwin High, wanted to attend FGE Day to learn more about the profession she’s wanted to pursue most of her life.
“I want to be a teacher because students like me—they need somebody to push them,” she said. “I feel like I can find students that relate to me and help them.”
Tapping into those passions and skills in high school students is one reason FGE Day exists. 
“As the state's largest education association, part of our responsibility is to reach out and cultivate the next generation of teachers,” Ray said. “We think bringing them to a college campus is a key part.”
“For a lot of these students, this might be the first time they've ever set foot on a college campus. If they go to college, they might be the first one in their family to ever attend college,” Ray said. “By partnering with our friends in the colleges, we're almost breaking down barriers that some students might have, so they might begin to envision themselves attending college for the first time.”
Mary Ruth Ray
Mary Ruth Ray

Students from 11 high schools across the state participated, coming from as far away as Carroll and Thomas Counties. Local schools from counties including Baldwin, Jones and Washington sent student delegations as well. 
“We were so grateful for the turnout and for the opportunity to host FGE Day for the first time,” said Claire Garrett, GC College of Education’s partnership and field placement director.
FGE Days take place across the state at different colleges. The pandemic put a halt to many events, but in a typical year, PAGE hosts about eight to 10 FGE Days per year. 
“Our goal in the College of Education is to highlight the positive aspects of being an educator and to let students know that it's not just an admirable profession, but it's a career in which you can make a positive difference in the lives of children as they learn and grow. There are not many professions where you can do that,” said Garrett. 
FGE Day is a great example of just one way the College of Education works to connect with those interested in education, share their knowledge and empower young adults to pursue a teaching career.
The College Fair brought together colleges and universities from across the state to provide information to students.
The College Fair brought together colleges and universities from across the state to provide information to students.