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UNC-BEST graduates inaugural class of science teachers

Photo of UNC-BEST Graduates

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The inaugural graduates of UNC-BEST gather in Peabody Hall. (front row, l to r) Devon Lategan, Monica Kim, Erin Burns, Jenny Holt. (back row, l to r) Aaron Foreman, Chase Martin, Benjamin Lin, Josh Lawrence.

Photo by Dan Sears

The first eight students to complete the new UNC-BEST program graduated at UNC-Chapel Hill’s commencement, Sunday, May 10. The program─UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching─allows students to earn North Carolina teaching licenses while majoring in science or mathematics. Previously, students had to continue in college to earn teaching licenses after receiving their degrees.

A collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, UNC-BEST is intended to address the shortage of science and mathematics teachers in public schools across the state. All eight graduates are seeking teaching positions in N.C. high schools.

The UNC-BEST graduates are profiled below:

Erin Burns: Addressing societal issues through teaching

Erin Burns of Jamestown, who graduated from South Guilford High School in High Point, earned a biology degree with a minor in entrepreneurship. She did her student teaching this spring at Carrboro High School. Her goals: to teach middle or high school science and eventually earn master’s and doctoral degrees in education – milestones that she can reach sooner because of her UNC-BEST courses.

“I think lack of education is the root of almost all societal issues, so becoming a science teacher allows me to be a small part of helping address numerous other larger issues,” she said.

Aaron Foreman: Colleges, 2; babies, 1 and counting

Aaron Foreman, 27, of Durham, didn’t go to college after graduating from Hillside High in 1999. He worked in real estate and restaurants. He renovated houses. He got married. He tended bar in a pub and cooked in a bed and breakfast in England.

After returning to Durham, “I decided to go to college, because I didn’t feel like my foundation was set and stable enough in real estate,” he said.

By this time, he had a little boy to help support. He started taking classes at Durham Technical Community College in 2005 and entered a program called C-STEP: Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program. Funded by the Jack Kent Cook Foundation, C-STEP identifies talented low- to moderate-income students and guarantees their eventual transfer admission to Carolina if they earn an appropriate associate degree at one of the three partner colleges, including Durham Tech.

Foreman worked construction while attending the community college. Work was no longer an option once he transferred to Carolina, he said. He has funded his way through with loans and earlier real estate investments, but he also won a scholarship from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in Research Triangle Park. The award─$6,000 for his senior year─also will pay him a $5,000 annual salary supplement for his first five years of teaching; it requires him to teach in North Carolina.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and is awaiting the birth of his second child. He hopes to relate well to students, especially those of the same mindset that he had before college: “I was a terrible student in high school. I didn’t behave poorly, I just didn’t work.” Now, after four straight years in college, he’ll be the teacher.

In college, he said, “I had some good teachers and started thinking about my time in high school. I started to realize the difference a teacher could make. The teacher defines the whole experience of students.”

Jenny Holt: Biology, the know-how; BEST, the confidence

Jenny Holt, a graduate of North Stanly High School in New London, N.C., hopes to teach ninth- and 10th-grade biology. She could have graduated with a biology degree last December but stayed another semester to complete UNC-BEST classes in the School of Education.

After student-teaching at Orange High School in Hillsborough this spring, Holt said, “I feel like I’ve been able to make a positive impact on the students in my classroom. The extensive knowledge of biology that I’ve obtained at UNC leaves me feeling well prepared with the content, and the training I’ve had with UNC-BEST has given me the confidence to teach classes in a student-centered, interactive way.”

Monica Kim: What the world needs now─Doctors, lawyers or teachers?

A 2005 graduate of East Chapel Hill High School, Monica Kim changed courses along her way toward a degree in biology. “After I came to Carolina, I saw that America is in more need of science and math teachers instead of doctors and lawyers,” she said. “I wanted to serve people, and I thought that this particular fast-track program was a great way to do that.”

She has one more course to complete this summer. Afterward, she hopes, she will teach biology.

Devon Lategan: UNC-BEST prompted career decision

UNC-BEST student Devon Lategan earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. A graduate of Chapel Hill High School, he will be licensed to teach biology, chemistry, physics and Earth science. He hopes to land a job in the Triangle.

“Teaching was always an interest of mine, but I never seriously considered pursuing it in college,” he said. “My junior year, I was still undecided about the career I wanted to pursue. When I saw the UNC-BEST program, I really felt like it was speaking to me and that it was a perfect program for my interests.”

Josh Lawrence: Teachers inspire graduate to follow their path

Biology major Josh Lawrence hopes to teach high school science in the Triangle. A graduate of South Brunswick High School in Southport, he gives the school high marks.

“I decided to become a UNC-BEST student for a couple of reasons,” he said. “First, I love biology, and the reason I do is because of the teachers that I had in high school. Furthermore, I have known for a couple of years that I wanted to teach high school to make an impact on the lives of teenagers, just like my teachers did for me when I was in high school.”

Benjamin Lin: Making a difference through education

Benjamin Lin, a graduate of Providence High School in Charlotte, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Sunday’s UNC commencement. He hopes to teach ninth-grade science.

Benjamin wants to give back to a discipline in which his family strongly believes: education. “Teaching looked like a great opportunity to make a difference,” he said. “I believe that an education will change the lives of students for the better.”

Chase Martin: Juggling his way through mathematics lesson

Chase Martin of Huntersville, a physics major and graduate of Hopewell High School, hopes to teach 11th- and 12th-grade physics, as well as algebra, in the Charlotte area. He said he enrolled in UNC-BEST for two reasons. “First, it allowed me to get into the classroom and teaching faster than any other options, which is great, because I’m very eager to get started. Second, it was financially much more rewarding. The Master of Arts in Teaching program would have meant one less year of pay and one more year of school.”

While he student-taught at Northern High School in Durham, Martin used his considerable skill at juggling to teach a concept in mathematics. He has been tutoring friends since high school, when he first discovered his knack for teaching. “What got me the most excited was when I was working with someone who didn’t understand a concept and having the person come to understanding through my instruction.”

Student profiles courtesy of UNC News Services.