9 On Your Side Spotlight: Day in the life of a teacher - WNCN: News, Weather

9 On Your Side Spotlight: Day in the life of a teacher

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9OYS' Katie Banks co-teaches at South Central High School 9OYS' Katie Banks co-teaches at South Central High School
Rep. Brian Brown shadows a teacher for a day Rep. Brian Brown shadows a teacher for a day
First-year teacher Katie Riley helps a student with a project First-year teacher Katie Riley helps a student with a project
GREENVILLE, N.C. - You trust them to educate, mentor and nurture your children. You've also seen them at rallies across the state protesting budget cuts and pay freezes.

So what does a teacher actually do in the classroom for seven hours a day, five days a week? And what challenges do they really face?

Amidst talks of a teacher walkout last month, South Central High School in Winterville instead decided to host a walk-in – inviting community leaders, politicians and journalists into the classroom to experience firsthand the successes and challenges teachers and students face in our public schools.

9 On Your Side’s Katie Banks followed Katie Riley, an English teacher. Riley showed up an hour early in case any of her students needed help with homework or tutoring.

“It’s just working with them every single day and laughing with them and seeing them learn and grow is rewarding,” she says.

Riley is what's known as a "cart teacher,” meaning she doesn't have her own classroom because space is limited. Instead, she pushes this cart stuffed with all her teaching material from room to room. She says it's just one of many challenges she faces each day.

"I think another difficulty would be the number of students in a class,” she says. “It makes it really hard for me, so if I see kids that are struggling, I can pinpoint their issues; yet with the number of students, I can't physically give them that time they need."

Added to the list of teacher frustrations: budget cuts totaling $117 million,  the end of teacher tenure, and extended pay freezes when teacher salaries in our state already rank at the bottom in the nation.

"I feel like a pot of bowling water,” says Megan Busick, a Wake County teacher. ”I've gotten to that point where I’m at a rapid boil, and the froth is building and if I don't get there quick, I’m going to overflow."

For months, teachers across North Carolina have joined forces to rally against the changes; but some feel their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"This is the first time I have felt like I work for a state legislature that doesn't appreciate or understand what I do in the classroom," says Nicki Griffin, a Pitt County teacher.

"If we're going to have people outside the classroom affecting everything we do, telling us what we need to, what policies we need to follow, they need to see what we actually do," Riley agrees.

For Riley, that includes tutoring, lesson planning, hall duty and making the rounds to teach three English courses.  But her responsibilities extend far beyond academics.

"You kind of play the role of a mom, a counselor, a teacher, an electronic awesome person,” she says. “So you just play all these sorts of roles in their lives, because sometimes you're the only person that cares about them.

Her students take notice.

"She’s the type of teacher that cares,” sophomore Ajai Brown says. “She don't care how long it is, she'll sit there."

Adds sophomore Serena Mooney, "I love how she goes out of her way for our success. Especially, she holds groups outside of class to better our writing, to better our grammar skills, so I feel like she really cares about what we're going to do with our life."

Riley says its comments like that - despite the politics of it all – that make her job as a teacher well worth it.

"So at the end of the day, I know that I’ve made a difference when I go to sleep and that's really what matters,” Riley says.

Pitt County commissioners, Board of Education members and state congressmen also shadowed teachers for a day during American Education Week in late November.

Afterward, Rep. Brian Brown told 9 On Your Side the experience gave him a fresh perspective on challenges teachers are facing, and he plans to take his concerns about growing class sizes and access to resources back to the General Assembly.
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