FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Francis Marion University is being recognized for its Teacher Cadet Program that is now the largest in South Carolina. 

The Teacher Cadet Program started in South Carolina in 1985. Through the program, colleges and universities partner with state high schools to offer college courses and credit to aspiring teachers. Dr. Tracy Holcombe, the Dean of the School of Education, says FMU currently partners with 22 high schools (private and public) and recruits about 400 junior and senior students each year. 

“Their program of study is a four-year degree. A Bachelor or Science in either early childhood, elementary, middle level, secondary or art,” said Dr. Holcombe. “And in that course, they get credit and it’s the very first course they take in education.” She says the program is certified by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement. 

Dr. Holcombe says the university hosts Teacher Cadet Day each semester, which introduces students to the program, campus, faculty, and fellow teacher cadets. It also gives them a glimpse into the world of teaching and education. According to Dr. Holcombe, more than 300 students attended the fall semester Teacher Cadet Day just a few weeks ago. 

“Teaching, like a lot of professions, is a calling. The earlier we can expose them to what it’s about and what the teaching profession is about, the earlier we can hook them, the better we are,” she said. “Anything we can do to encourage and inspire high school students to major in education— good high school students— to major in education.”

Dr. Holcombe says another major focus of the program is addressing the teacher shortage. She says a lot of teachers are retiring and early recruitment can help offset that number. 

“We have classrooms, not a lot of them in the Pee Dee area yet, but we do have some that may have long term subs in the classrooms. Certainly that’s not ideal but it’s the only option some superintendents have,” she said. “We have some students in high school who are taking online courses, partnering with another high school because it’s the only option to make available whatever credit it is they’re trying to pick up in high school.”

Dr. Holcombe says she meets once a month with superintendents in the area to discuss recruiting efforts. She credits her faculty and staff with the continued success of the Teacher Cadet Program and the School of Education. 

To be qualified for the Teacher Cadet Program, students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. They will earn three hours of college credit upon completing the course which will give them a head start to their undergraduate degree in Education.