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First-year teachers come to Colleton classrooms

A bit of New York is coming into some of Colleton County’s classrooms, particularly through the talents of first-year teacher Trent Lefkowitz.

Lefkowitz is a New York native, and is a graduate of the University of Virginia. He is a first-year teacher who will be teaching English and English Honors to ninth and tenth-graders at Colleton County High School.

He is a part of the Teach For American program, which allows him to teach in partnered and rural school districts. Lefkowitz said he first toured Colleton County in 2017 and has since chosen to be a part of the schools in the Colleton community.

“I’m excited to get started,” he said. Leflowtiz spoke candidly on Sunday night about entering into his first year of teaching, and about having that experience in Colleton County.

He said he chose to be a part of the Teach for America educational program because of their mission statement, which pledges to provide each student in America with an honorable education experience. “I feel the passion about every student having every single opportunity to succeed,” he said.

“I love Colleton so far. Everybody here is incredibly nice, and the teachers are so willing to support you, both in the school and out of the school system.

“It seems people in the community are doing really great things,” he said.

Lefkowitz is among dozens of teachers from other nations who are now teaching in Colleton County classrooms. The influx of international educators is a part of the local strategy to solve a teacher shortage problem in Colleton County. Prior to these new hires coming on board, the district was experiencing a teacher shortage, with dozens of former teachers announcing their intention in May to not return to Colleton’s classrooms. The district currently has a shortage of about nine teachers.

About 90 new educators have been hired in recent months: these teachers are with an international teacher program, and also include first-year educators.

According to Cliff Warren, assistant superintendent with the Colleton County School District, the local school district used a variety of methods to supply the district with needed teachers.

Multiple representatives from across the county recently gathered to welcome these new educators to the community. The 4-day induction event included giving the new hires a tour of Colleton County. The new educators also met city and county elected leaders.

The incoming new teachers also met with current Colleton County School District staff members. Now retired principal and local educator Lynn Stroble was among those who recently met with the new teachers. Stroble is working with district officials as part of the district’s first-year teaching program. The program is a support system for teachers who are both new to education, and who are new to the United States. Colleton County has been using international teachers since the early 2000’s, said Stroble.

“We were one of the first districts in South Carolina to really embrace the out-of-country teaching program,” she said, in a recent interview with this newspaper. “We feel like it’s important to get everyone here, to feel welcomed and to introduce them to the county,” she said.

Lefkowitz was a part of the teachers who participated in that recent 4-day orientation experience. During that orientation, he said he was particularly grateful to have heard from Walterboro Mayor Bill Young, who shared the city’s growth plan. He says he is also impressed with the local schools and with the vision of the community leaders. “There’s a lot going on here,” he said.

As for the existing teacher shortage, Warren says the district is continuing to seek teachers. Until then, the district does have a “contingency plan” in place for those classrooms who do not yet teachers in place, said Warren.

Heather Walters (1474 Posts)