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First-time Memphis-Shelby County Schools teachers reflect on school year

“Instead of the child adapting to how I teach, I adapt to way that the students learns,” said Rochelle Solomon, Avon Lenox High School Special Education teacher.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When it comes to education, there are a lot of factors that impact how our students learn and how they are taught. In Tennessee, we’ve faced a shortage of teachers, pandemic setbacks, the third grade retention law, and in Memphis-Shelby County Schools, a superintendent search. 

How does all this impact teachers? 

ABC24 spoke with some first-time MSCS teachers about the successes and challenges they have had this year.

The pandemic really opened our eyes to what teachers face on a daily basis.

Relay Graduate School of Education, a nonprofit institute developing new teachers, helping in that support. We spoke with two students in the program who are first-time teachers with Memphis-Shelby County Schools.

Teaching is no easy task. “Every student learns differently,” said Rochelle Solomon, Avon Lenox High School Special Education. 

To meet that need, support is key.

Relay Graduate School of Education is a nonprofit organization that is building up the next generation of teachers. They partner with school districts across the country, including MSCS.

“We work closely with them for people that they recruit and try to retain them - giving our teachers the strategies, tools, processes, and resources necessary to meet the needs of their students every day,” said Lequite Manning, Relay Clinical Practice Department Chair and Residency Designer.

That has come in handy for MSCS first-time teachers Jerelyn Carmichael and Rochelle Solomon.

“Instead of the child adapting to how I teach, I adapt to way that the students learns,” said Solomon. “We do community-based instructions, and we also do work-based learning. We take our students outside in the community once a week to go around the city and visit different areas.”

“I’ve seen a couple different challenges as far as teaching and what they faced with COVID. Some of it is just learning to get along with other students,” said Carmichael, Oakshire Elementary School 3rd grade teacher.

Then, there is the third-grade retention law that requires 3rd graders to repeat the grade or go to summer school if they don’t pass Tennessee Ready Reading Test. 

“As a science teacher, my students still have to know how to read on grade level. We’ve really been focusing on making sure in my science class, even our math, and ELA classes of course that students bring literacy into those different subjects,” said Carmichael.

Both Solomon and Carmichael said Relay has helped them adjust to a reshaped educational environment. 

“It’s really given me the tools as far as lesson plan and really learning to manage a classroom,” said Carmichael.

“They know how to build a culturally responsive environment for students. They know how to create what social-emotional learning looks like,” said Manning.

“The lesson plans that they taught us, the role playing, and scenarios are amazing,” said Solomon.

Relay administrators said when it comes to challenges outside the classroom such as the MSCS superintendent search, they teach their educators to focus on what they can control; their classrooms and how students’ needs are met.

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