Many youngsters begin making decisions about their future careers as early as the seventh grade. So that's when South Carolina begins recruiting its best and brightest students to consider a career in teaching.
Under a statewide program begun in 1989, middle school students are given opportunities to learn about the work of teaching and the requirements to become a teacher. Those who show an interest enter a pipeline of programs that provide support and encouragement through high school, college, and their first years of teaching.
A key part of South Carolina's effort is the Teacher Cadet program, a yearlong elective course for outstanding students offered at 77 percent of the state's high schools. Practicing teachers wrote -- and regularly revise -- the Teacher Cadet curriculum, which covers such topics as child development, effective teaching, and the organizational aspects of schools. In one language arts project, for example, students write an original script and create hand puppets for use in an elementary classroom.
Cadets also attend regional conferences at local universities. Some 7,500 former Teacher Cadets have enrolled in teacher education programs, forming the core of a next generation of teachers that will increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the state's teaching force and alleviate teacher shortages in areas such as science, math, and special education.