Former UCPS student returns to classroom to teach

Former UCPS student returns to classroom to teach

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Schools across the state of North Carolina are always looking for new teachers.

The state of North Carolina had a teacher attrition rate of roughly 7.5% at the end of the 2020 school year, according to a N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

“Generally, teachers in North Carolina are remaining in the classroom,” the report states. The report details the 7.5% attrition rate equated to 7,111 teachers leaving classrooms last year.


What You Need To Know

State attrition rate for teachers was right at 7.5% in 2019-2020, according to DPI

Union County’s attrition rate was slightly under state average in 2019-2020

Student-teacher used UCPS scholarship to help fund her college career in education


Union County’s state attrition rate was slightly less, at just under 7%. It also had a smaller number of vacancies to start the school year in 2019-2020, 27 across the county.

Spectrum News 1 has asked for the current number of teaching vacancies across UCPS institutions. 

But, a county scholarship program for graduating seniors helped one alumna return to her old high school to teach this year.

Kaitlyn Waters, a graduating student at Wingate University, still walks the halls of her old high school. Not as a student, but as a student teacher.

Waters has been teaching high schoolers American history since August. Her passion for history and teaching dates back to her childhood, when she lined up her stuffed animals and taught class.

“I love to kind of tell it as a story, ’cause that’s what makes it fun, that’s what made me enjoy it,” Waters said in her classroom.

Waters takes a unique approach to the classroom, saying part of the teaching is in the delivery.

“I think when we can talk about old dead people like we’re just gossiping about them, that’s maybe a little bit more intriguing than, ‘Here’s Fort Sumter, it’s located in South Carolina,’” Waters explained.

Waters, who graduated from Piedmont High School in 2018, is studying education and history at Wingate. She said it’s been fun, and sometimes weird, walking the halls of her old high school in a new role as student teacher.

“Some of my teachers still, I am Kaitlyn, I am still their student that they once knew and you know, enjoyed having in class. And so, it’s kind of weird to be here and like a co-worker with some of my favorite teachers,” Waters said with a smile.

Now, she has a full workload of classes to teach, overseeing history and civics classes. As a student teacher in her final semester, she used them to build her portfolio to finish at Wingate and earn her license. 

But, her journey to the front of the classroom started in another history classroom at the school. She credits her entire career to Marie Coggin.

“I fell in love with history in her classroom and it just inspired me so much, I want to do what she does everyday,” Waters said.

Coggin was Waters’ homeroom teacher back in freshman year 2014. Coggin said she still remembers Waters’ first few weeks and giving her advice about how to plan her classes.

As the two grew closer, Waters wrote a Sweet Salute about Coggin near the end of senior year. The brief essay, written about an inspiring teacher, earned Waters a $1,000 scholarship, which she used at Wingate to start her career.

The Sweet Salute, sponsored by the Union County Education Foundation, currently gives out eight scholarships of $1,500 each. 

“I want to teach history, and I want to have that kind of connection with my kids. I want them to have a room that they can come to, and they can feel safe. And they can be happy no matter what’s going on in their lives,” Waters explained.

“It’s humbling, because you just go through your day and try to reach as many kids as you can,” Coggin added.

The Sweet Salute is still framed in Coggin’s classroom, a testament to the impact Coggin had on her student.

Waters will apply for her license this December after graduating from Wingate. However, she is now working in the media center at Piedmont High School as a distance learning facilitator. The job was an opportunity to connect past and present for this aspiring history teacher.

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