New teachers often face the difficult task of providing equipment and supplies for their classrooms, but three 2015 graduates of the University of North Georgia's (UNG) College of Education have received help in the form of $1,000 grants from Georgia Power to support them in meeting the challenge.
"The foundation for Georgia's future economic is being laid in classrooms throughout Georgia every day," said Anne Kaiser, vice president of community and economic development for Georgia Power. "Supporting education is supporting our state's future and we're committed to assisting teachers as they guide and prepare tomorrow's leaders."
UNG graduates Tyler Cleveland, Jessica Peal and Ethan Shirley were nominated by their former professors to receive the grants, and each was selected. For Peal, the grant will do more than provide for simple materials such as pencils or glue.
"I found out I had received the grant after I had already purchased a lot of materials," said Peal, who teaches second grade at Chestatee Elementary in Forsyth County. "All of Forsyth County is 'Bring Your Own Technology,' meaning students are allowed to use personal electronic devices. Chestatee is also a Title I school; many of our children are from low-income families, so they may not have access to any technology to bring. I decided to spend the bulk of the grant money to buy tablets or iPads to give my students exposure to things they may not get at home."
Peal is currently searching for other grant opportunities to supplement the Georgia Power grant so she can bring her desire to fruition.
"The kids need to be exposed to this," she said. "We live in a technology-driven world, and these kinds of experiences with technology now produce foundational skills. It's important to me to be able to meet the needs of my students, whether it's providing technology, a positive environment or simply just being a stable influence in their lives."
Cleveland is now teaching at Riverview Elementary School in Dawsonville, and Shirley is teaching at Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch.
According to Georgia Power, teacher retention is in a national crisis, with research showing up to 50 percent of teachers leaving the profession within five years. The company encourages businesses in lending support to improve the quality of public education to ensure an educated workforce. The grant program is labeled as " one of Georgia Power's many ways of showing new teachers that their contributions are appreciated and that we hope they will remain committed to the profession."
Georgia Power's New Teacher Assistance Grant Program has been aiding new Georgia teachers for more than a decade, and distributed 41 grants across the state this academic year. According to the program's list of criteria, the teachers must be nominated by their college professors and approved by the dean of their institution's College of Education. Candidates must also be in the top 25 percent of their class academically, be a first-year teacher in a Georgia public school, and demonstrate a high aptitude for teaching.