ETL Reflections

Rachel Nelson, Empowering Teacher Learning Assistant Director for Teacher Outreach, reflects on the progress and growth of the program over the past few years. 

I have had the honor of working with the Empowering Teacher Learning program for the last two and a half years. Our program’s implementation began during one of the most difficult school years in recent history, 2021-2022. It was during this time that teachers were being pulled between a seemingly normal classroom and liminal online spaces. A study released from Johns Hopkins University (Kush et al., 2022) found educators were 40% more likely to report anxiety symptoms during the height of the pandemic than healthcare workers. I truly believe this was because in many cases they were carrying concern for their students with them every day. My role during this time was one of a teacher navigator for our project. I provided help and support to teachers as they completed micro-credentials amidst a global pandemic. To say that those teachers left a lasting impact on me would be an understatement. 

Fast forward two school years and my respect for teachers only continues to grow. We can certainly claim that we are “back to normal” in regards to pandemic schooling but yet there are lasting impacts for students and teachers that often go unnoticed. Our teachers continue to press on and show up every day for their students. 

I am proud to say that our project is one of teacher advocacy. We love to recognize our teachers and everything they have accomplished. Last year our project partnered with 31 schools in Western North Carolina and provided over $190,000 in stipends to both schools and individuals. When given the opportunity to direct their own learning, our teachers are saying “yes, please!” 

This fall we began the second full year of the implementation of our program. We were excited to have 52 new teachers join our cohort of teachers! What this tells us is that they are interested in directing their own professional learning and, of course, earning stipends for their time spent bettering their teaching practice. 

Our team continues to grow as well. We have three new navigators to guide our teachers on their self-directed learning journey: Heather Childress-Custer, Sherry Paddie, and Erin West. Along with our veteran navigator, Holly Weaver, our team supports every teacher in the creation and progress towards reaching their self-directed learning goals. 

Seasonally our team sends out a newsletter to participants in our program. We want to highlight a few of our teachers from our fall newsletter here as well:  

Patti Elkin named NCCTM Outstanding Secondary Mathematics Teacher: We are proud to spotlight our very own Patti Elkin, who was recently selected as the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM) Outstanding Secondary Mathematics Teacher for 2022-2023 in Macon County! Finalists are selected by their principal and voted on by their LEA. Congratulations on this noteworthy achievement, Patti!

Julie Colglazier's class wins 3rd place in the NC Coding in Minecraft contest: Julie Colglazier, the computer science teacher at Central Wilkes Middle School, won 3rd place in the North Carolina ‘Coding in Minecraft’ contest for the 2022–2023 school year!

Assistant Principal Takiyah McCathern, RITASEE Scholar, begins doctoral program: Central Wilkes Middle School Assistant Principal Takiyah McCathern enrolled in a doctoral program in December 2022. She is a Rural Initiative for Training Administrators in Special Education Expertise (RITASEE) Scholar. 

We often say that teachers and principals do “all the things” but as you can see, this is most certainly true! While we’re well on our way into a new school year, we ask that everyone take a moment and thank a teacher. We certainly can’t do our work without them! 


ETL Loves Teachers
Published: Oct 22, 2023 8:57am