Published on February 5, 2004 by Mary Wimberley  

Samford University’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies is a lead partner in a project to assist new Alabama teachers in their early career years.

The “BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative,” is the result of a grant funded by The BellSouth Foundation, BellSouth Alabama Operations and BellSouth Pioneer Volunteers.

The Samford school of education will manage the project, and Birmingham City School teachers will be the first participants in the innovative program.

The Initiative is a five-year program that will direct more than $10 million toward professional development, recruitment and retention across BellSouth’s nine-state region of the U.S.

“Professional growth and development are critical to get new teachers off to a good start,” said Tom Hamby, president, BellSouth Alabama. “We are committing dollars and volunteers to provide training and resources to help them at the beginning of their careers.”

According to Dr. Ruth Ash, dean of Samford’s School of Education, nationally, half of all new teachers in urban areas leave the profession in the first five years, often because they feel overwhelmed by the requirements and scope of the job.

“This new BellSouth program goes beyond simply helping new teachers survive their first years in the classroom. It will ensure they have access to high-quality professional development, targeted to their needs,” said Dr. Ash. “Most importantly, it will make a significant difference in their success as educators.”

Dr. Deborah Childs-Bowen, director of the School of Education’s Institute for Teaching and Student Achievement, will lead the university’s involvement in the program.

The first phase involved identifying high quality teachers to serve as mentors. “We have trained 26 teachers to define what quality teaching looks like, and to be able to coach new teachers,” said Dr. Childs-Bowen. In addition to assisting new teachers, she said, the program will “honor the skills of veteran teachers.”

Representatives of Samford, BellSouth and Birmingham City Schools announced the program at a news conference at Glen Iris Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb. 4. Several Glen Iris teachers have been identified as mentors and are already actively involved in assisting new teachers.

“We are all concerned with the quality of teaching in the classroom,” said Samford president Thomas E. Corts, noting that teaching quality is considered the number one factor in student development. “This program allows Samford to participate in a practical way. It is less ivory tower, more hands-on, in approach. It is very community oriented.”

In its first year, the project will fund continuing education for about 100 new Birmingham City School teachers. In addition, BellSouth Pioneer volunteers will conduct focus group meetings with participating Birmingham City School System teachers to identify and match teacher needs with the volunteer organizations’ resources to help with those needs.

In the remaining years of the grant, additional participation will be offered to other selected school systems in Alabama cities.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.