Honoring future teachers: BCSC holds “signing day” for seniors planning to pursue a degree in education

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation Superintendent Jim Roberts addresses a group of Columbus North seniors that are signing a letter of intent to pursue college degrees to become teachers during a Future Educators Signing Day event at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, May 1, 2024.

Columbus North and Columbus East seniors expressed their intention to pursue a career in education on Wednesday in two separate events that honored their decisions and placed an emphasis on the teaching profession.

Nine Bulldogs and 14 Olympians took part in BCSC’s inaugural Future Educator Day.

“We’re gathered here to honor and recognize the commitment and passion of our seniors who have chosen to embark on a noble journey of educating future generations within BCSC,” BCSC Director of Human Resources Gina Pleak said. “In a world where the role of educators is more crucial than ever, we are privileged to have individuals like you who are dedicated to shaping the minds and hearts of our students.”

The students sat behind a long table on the stage in each high school auditorium with an audience filled with families, teachers and other community members.

“It’s such a noble profession and we need to encourage it,” Pleak told The Republic. “We need to give the respect the profession deserves and shine a light on these students who are committed.”

Pleak, who helped organize the event, said she had the idea for Future Educator Day for awhile and that this year seemed like the right year to do it.

Seniors were sent a Google form and if they were interested in education, they were asked if they wished to participate in the event. Principals of each senior cohort and guidance counselors helped with the process, according to Pleak.

During each ceremony, Pleak would say the name of the student, the student and their family would rise and Pleak would read a short biography, including which BCSC schools they attended and where each will attend college, along with their chosen major.

Students were asked to pick a favorite BCSC teacher, who provided testimonials for each respective student, documenting their growth and reflecting on each student’s decision to pursue the same career as them.

Many of those teachers were also in attendance and stood as Pleak read what they had to say about each future educator. Some teachers were retired and others had moved several states away, but they still took the time to acknowledge each student’s journey.

“Kailey’s kind and caring personality is displayed while interacting with her peers, often offering to help her classmates when it is needed,” C4 early childhood teacher Sara Vanderburgh said of North’s Kailey Peetz. “… As you leave Columbus North High School and begin your chapter at IU Bloomington to study early childhood education, I know that you will soar. You are made for this, I am proud of you.”

Columbus East Department Chair Chasidy Kannianen said this of Sara Durnil, who is attending Ball State with plans to major in elementary education: “The work you’re about to embark upon will seem lonely at times but it is necessary,” Kannianen wrote. “We need tough birds like you in education, so stick with it and reach out to colleagues and peers when you need support and encouragement. I’m so very proud to have been a small part of your journey and look forward to seeing all the great things you will continue to do in this world.”

Then students put pen to paper, announcing their intention. All received a yard sign declaring themselves a future educator.

Pleak left off with an open invitation for the students to keep in touch and return to BCSC after earning their degrees to work. She also mentioned each are welcome to substitute teach, which was met with enthusiastic applause from the teachers in the audience.

“We would love to see each and every one of you back in our schools for student teaching or internship hours in a few years,” Pleak said. “… We have a sense of joy when we get to make a job offer to one of our former students, it makes us proud to do so and we would love to welcome you back home to BCSC.”

The event was similar to student-athletes committing to play a sport at the next level.

BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said it was a way to show the value that BCSC places on teachers themselves and it serves as a recruitment strategy in itself. Roberts mentioned the event is part of BCSC’s Grow-Your-Own program, outlined in the school system’s strategic plan.

“There aren’t a lot of people going into the education profession right now, or at least not the numbers we would like to see. And so as we courage that, as a school system, we want to recognize those who are making that choice.”

“We certainly take time to recognize people for all kinds of reasons, including our athletes, who are signing to go off and play sports, why not recognize our students who are going off to be teachers and then work as a school system to bring them back?” Roberts said.

Longtime BCSC teacher and this years’ BCSC Education Hall of Fame recipient Sandy Watts, who was at North to support the students, thought the event was a worthwhile idea given the importance of teaching in shaping everyone’s future.

“These are the people that are going to mold our community or country, it makes such a difference,” Watts said. “When kids talk about people they remember, it’s not the athletes, it’s their teachers.”

Roberts said he wishes the day will be something each student could look back on fondly.

“My hope is they remember how special they were made to feel for going into what I think is the most noble profession in the world,” Roberts said. “And that would be something that is long lasting for them and make them feel good to complete their degree and actually start their teaching career somewhere— hopefully here.”

The students recognized were:

Columbus North

  • Dylan Edwards
  • Bryce Fischer
  • Brilynn Martin
  • London Orme
  • Kailey Peetz
  • Brycen Thompson
  • Elizabeth Tindell
  • Emily Torres-Garduza
  • Abayomi Wright

Columbus East

  • Michaela Brown
  • Kaydalynn Bozell
  • Emma Burkett
  • Abigail Clore
  • Sara Durnil
  • Allyson Herold
  • Betsy Hoene
  • Antoinette Hughes
  • Makayla Jefferes
  • Cheyenne Lund
  • Carly Otte
  • Jocelyn Schoettmer
  • Chasney Ward
  • Miya Whitlock