FLORENCE, S.C. – Teacher interns in Florence One Schools have finished their first week teaching in the district.

To fill teacher vacancies within the district, Florence One Schools began a teacher intern program for student teachers. The students have not yet received their college diplomas but are in their last semester.

Traditionally, students are placed in a class under the supervision of a certified teacher. Under this program, the students will teach in a class without direct supervision in the classroom.

Nathaniel Marshall, the district's chief personnel officer, said the students have completed all of their coursework except student teaching, passed their pedagogy exams and received recommendations from their universities.

Students in the program will be paid by the district but will be paid less than that of a certified teacher. Upon finishing their student teaching, the students will be able to continue teaching in the district on a normal teacher salary, Marshall said.

Florence One hired six students from Francis Marion University and one from Anderson University.

Hannah Owens, a kindergarten teacher at Theodore Lester Elementary, is one of the student teachers. Owens said she was nervous that upon graduation in December, she wouldn’t be able to find a teaching job in the middle of the school year.

“It’s great knowing that even after graduation I’m set for the whole rest of the school year,” Owens said. “It’s exciting.”

Owens started at the school on Aug. 12 and had one week to get her Dr. Seuss-themed classroom ready for the first day of school.

“It’s been so fun getting to decorate,” Owens said. “My momma has been a big help, because she’s taught kindergarten for the past few years, so she knew where things needed to go and how to decorate stuff.”

At the end of the first week, Owens said her students have already made a lot of progress, and they know a lot more than she was expecting based on state standards.

“It was a little hectic getting my kids in the swing of having a set schedule and getting used to rules and sitting at a table doing class work, but they’ve adapted really well, and I’m really proud of how much progress they’ve made this week,” Owens said.

Owens said Lester Elementary faculty and staff have been very supportive of her, answering her questions, offering her items for her classroom and helping her prepare. She said she’s also been working closely with Makayla Bailey, the other kindergarten teacher in the school.

Marshall said the district wanted to make sure that they are supporting the student teachers as well as possible, because it wants success for them. The district has provided several supports for student teachers, such as the director of teacher quality and contact coordinators.

“We strongly support them, and we feel that we did not only just fill a vacancy, but we have found people that we’re hoping to keep and retain in our district,” Marshall said.

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