By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The expansion of North East Carolina Prep School (NECP) is bringing new faces to Edgecombe County. The charter school’s new teachers arrived on campus this week and began training for the upcoming school year.
“They come from far and wide,” said Diane LeFiles, director of communications at NECP. The approximate 40 new teachers come from all over the United States – Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina and Utah. Out of the new teachers, about 25 are first-year teachers, while others are classroom veterans.
“There’s a wide range of experience in the room,” LeFiles said. Lindsey Simson of Long Island, N.Y. is among the first-year teachers at NECP.
“I think the staff is really supportive,” Simson said. “These veteran teachers and the speakers that we’ve had have been so helpful and this training environment that we have this month is something that we would’ve never found elsewhere.”
Before heading into the classroom to teach for the first time on Aug. 1, Simson will receive a solid month of staff development, including training on the eight “multiple intelligences” of children and teaching techniques related to the various styles of learning.
Bob Henderson, director of staff development and instruction for NECP, is leading the training. On Tuesday, he gave the teachers tidbits of advice from a survey of middle school students at NECP, such as “Be a role model for all students” and “Don’t give easy work.”
“Our students are used to being challenged,” Henderson said. NECP is gearing up for its second year of operation, and will grow from 400 students last year to 900 this year.
“I think the basis of our success as a school is the training that we put in during the summertime,” said John Westberg, executive director of NECP. He said some of the teachers at NECP are from different countries, including Mexico, Denmark and Romania, adding their cultural experiences to the mix.
“Each teacher brings their experiences from wherever they’re from and naturally they’re different. They can bring a different perspective to their classroom than somebody from the United States. That in itself is an education for the children,” Westberg said. He said the new teachers relocation to Edgecombe County is not only a “cultural plus” but also an “economic plus” for the community.
Birgit Hertel-Wulff brings her experiences from her native country of Denmark and most recent home of Utah to NECP this year. The veteran teacher moved to Tarboro this week and already feels at home.
“Every single person welcomed me very openly by a hug and volunteered information about the community, so I certainly feel very welcome,” Hertel-Wulff said. She looks forward to teaching mathematics at the middle school level, using a critical thinking approach.
“I’ve been looking for a school that used critical learning theory applied to use,” Hertel-Wulff said. She likes the fact that NECP’s teaching model encourages reasoning and asking questions to gain knowledge because it “emphasizes the students’ ways of expression, their ways of thinking.”
For first-year teacher Tom McGuire of New York, joining the staff at NECP was an opportunity to be part of something new.
“It’s a new school, so we’re able to kind of pave our own road,” McGuire said. “It’s nice to be part of something that’s starting from the bottom up.”
McGuire will teach middle school physical education and coach.
Another New Yorker, Alexandria Coubertier, said she came to NECP to teach exceptional children because she liked the idea of a smaller caseload and the opportunity to work one-on-one with students.
For Steve Shorter of Pennsylvania, the appeal of NECP was the “flexibility and freedom” that he will have to use different teaching styles in the classroom, along with the newness of the school. Shorter will teach middle school and high school science and coach baseball at NECP.