By Kassi Tarlton

I had no idea what I was agreeing to when I said “yes” to waking up early on Saturday mornings and working with the Carolina Teaching Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) in the initial 2017 cohort of participants. Little did I know then the impact CarolinaTIP would have on both my practice and professional outlook.

Six years later, I am using the leadership and coaching skills I gained from CarolinaTIP to make an impact on new teachers in my school.

The goal of CarolinaTIP is to serve as a bridge to support and retain new teachers. Throughout the three-year experience, we had coaches who supported, empowered, encouraged, and believed in us. Our coaches showed up for us personally and professionally. They met us where we were while challenging us to grow in new ways. We were not afraid to talk about our daily struggles. We did not put band-aids on problems we faced or saw in education. We received help from our coaches which made us more resilient. And we received tools that helped us be successful and proactive, not reactive in times of trouble.

We also built a community of teachers who continue to show up for one another, cheer each other on, and make each other better. CarolinaTIP gave me an additional support system outside of my school: people I can count on no matter what, people who believe in me, and coaches who foster confidence.

CarolinaTIP was my saving grace during my first three years of teaching. I would not be the teacher I am today without my coaches and this cohort. Between the demands and expectations of the job, managing student behaviors on my own, creating engaging lessons while keeping standards in mind, and juggling a personal life, I would have given up on something that I love doing, if I had to face the challenges of the first three years alone.

My experience captures the CarolinaTIP difference — the support all new teachers need and deserve when they enter the classroom if we hope to retain passionate educators in our state. 

Since 2017, TIP has supported new teachers through one-on-one coaching and boasts over a 90% teacher retention rate. According to the U.S. Department of Education, around 40% of teachers leave within the first five years of the profession, and new teachers are most likely to quit within their first three years.

So how has what I gained from CarolinaTIP given me the confidence to try to make an impact beyond my classroom?

CarolinaTIP made me realize that I am passionate about supporting and retaining new teachers and helped me see that I can make a positive impact beyond my classroom. When I first began teaching at my school, there was a group called “Most Valuable Gators” (MVGs) intended to support first and second-year teachers. During my first year, we met sporadically about things like staff expectations or the dreaded words “self-care.” It did not feel like a safe place to share or advocate for help. 

CarolinaTIP gave me the confidence to talk with our principal, as well as our reading coach and technology and learning coach (TLC), to fully commit to making MVG a safe place for new teachers to learn, grow, and vent.  

Now, we meet monthly with the needs of our MVGs in mind. At the beginning of the year, we assess to see what strengths new teachers bring and what needs remain. We offer choices through a menu of options, knowing new teachers may be unsure of their next steps. Throughout the year, we repeat this process and make adjustments as needed. During our meetings and through intentional activities, we build camaraderie and a sense of trust within our group. We share frustrations as veteran teachers and as new teachers. Our MVGs feel comfortable reaching out with any questions and asking for help.

In the most recent survey of our current and past MVGs, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that MVG has made a positive impact on them as a new teacher. One of our MVGs stated: “MVG has impacted me in many different and beneficial ways! One way it has benefited me would be multiple opportunities to speak and learn from other colleagues. I have been able to utilize strategies to help with classroom management, differentiation, and structure with lesson planning/small groups! Throughout the past two years, I’ve seen such a difference in the way children are learning by using the help from MVG! I truly can’t wait to continue learning and seeing how MVG helps first and second-year teachers like myself!”

Every new teacher deserves a group of motivated coaches and colleagues who will keep their needs in mind; a group that wants to see them thrive and continue to make professional growth within and outside the classroom. 

This is the CarolinaTIP difference.

Schools and districts should invest in CarolinaTIP as a resource to support and retain new teachers. In return, CarolinaTIP alumni can and will invest in new teachers at their school. 

Kassi Tarlton is a kindergarten teacher at Lake Carolina Elementary School – Lower Campus in Blythewood, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. This is her seventh year teaching. She is a CarolinaTIP Educator who completed the program during her first three years of teaching and is continuing to find ways to support new teachers. Kassi is also a Richland School District Two mentor teacher and a University of South Carolina master coaching teacher.

This story is published as part of a recent storytelling retreat hosted by CarolinaCrED, housed in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education. Mira Education, a CarolinaCrED partner, facilitated the retreat and provided editorial and publication support. Learn more about this work and read additional stories by following @Carolina_CrED and @miraeducation.