219 Public School Teachers, 74 NC Counties, and Over 30,660 K-12 Students

If you question what impact the North Caroliniana Society is making across the state of North Carolina, just consider the incredible popularity and influence of the William Friday Teacher Retreats, offered in partnership with Carolina K-12, a program of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Public Humanities, since 2016. These retreats, the most recent of which was held at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library in honor of H.G. Jones, provide K-12 teachers with three dynamic days to about North Carolina’s captivating history, literature, and culture in an academic, professional and celebratory retreat atmosphere. To date, 219 public school teachers from 74 NC counties have particpated. These teachers will reach a minimum of 30,660 K-12 students each school year.

As 4th grade teacher and 2019 Friday Retreat participant Shawna Penland said, “With the current state of education and its impact on lowering teacher morale in North Carolina, the North Caroliniana Society’s support of teachers is invaluable.”

 At the November 2019 event, Shawna, in addition to 28 teachers representing 22 counties, experienced the compelling mix of historical content presentations and interactive exploration of innovative teaching strategies for which the Friday Retreats have become known. The agenda also included exploration of primary sources and online resources from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, with a particular focus on Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection. Featured presentations included North Caroliniana Society members such as Dr. Karl Campbell, who presented “Notable North Carolinians:  Using the Stories of Individual Lives to Engage Students,” and Bland Simpson, who treated attendees to readings from several of his books in “A Sound Country Serenade.” Additionally, over 100 members of the community joined us for an evening performance of “The Color of Courage,” a show in which local performers Mitch Capel and Sonny Kelly bring to life the untold stories of the African American soldiers who fought for freedom during the Civil War.

Time for discussion and collaboration among attending teachers, a rarity in the hectic schedules of educators, but crucial for forging a network of teacher support around the state, was also provided. Perhaps most important, however, was the Retreat’s priority of providing constant affirmation and appreciation for the work of teachers and the challenges they face, including a Teacher AppreciationDinner hosted at the Chapel Hill staple, 411 West. Addresses from Dr. Jim Clark, North Caroliniana Society president, and Dr. Lloyd Kramer, director of Carolina Public Humanities, served to inspire attending teachers regarding the importance of their role in our society, the value we place in their profession, and the genuine appreciation the Society feels towards those making their profession one of such great importance. As middle school teacher Bethany Wilcox noted, “Beginning the conference with appreciation and the repeated sentiments of respect and support went such a long way. I genuinely felt that everyone who spoke to us was an ally in our fight.”

Two retreats are being planned for 2020, one to be held at the historic Carolina Theatre in Durham with a special focus on arts integration; the other will be held at UNC-Chapel Hill. An third special event will be held in Wilmington, in partnership with the Watson School of Education, with a specific focus on the 1898 Wilmington Coup. Each event will be open to any teacher statewide.

To read more about the William Friday Teacher Retreats, as well as additional work with teachers the North Caroliniana Society is engaging in with it’s ongoing partnership with Carolina K-12, click here.