For a young woman who officially began teaching in her own elementary school classroom for the first time on Monday, Asia Butler has a lot of classroom experience under her belt.
Butler, 23, opened the 2018-2019 school year as a fourth-grade teacher at Northeast Elementary School, but she had actually been teaching almost continuously since last August – first as a permanent substitute teacher with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and then as a Teach for America corps member in training at TFA Summer School in Lenoir County.
In deciding on a career in teaching, she’s departing from a path that made her a history major at UNC-Wilmington and took her, after graduation in 2016, into the corporate world, to Charlotte and a job doing tax work for JP Morgan Chase.
“A lot of people who join Teach for America have my same story. We were working at a desk all day and it was kind of boring and we really didn’t feel like we were making an impact in our communities,” the Greensboro native said. “I decided to substitute teach for a year to see if I enjoyed it and if I did I was going to apply to Teach for America. I really did love it. Teaching is really fun.”
Her affinity for teaching bloomed during her stint as a substitute – “I just like working with kids,” she said – and was confirmed during TFA Summer School, when she taught first graders in the morning and attended professional development sessions in the afternoons and evenings.
She also became a better teacher, she said.
“Although I did substitute teach, there were a lot of things that we weren’t taught,” Butler said. “I think the main things TFA helps us with is creating a classroom culture, making a reward system and consequence system and making sure we have a procedure for everything that we’re doing in our classrooms.”
Her teacher training will continue with LCPS in an intense, year-long program required of all beginning teachers. Butler is one of about 45 new teachers in the district this school year — LCPS employs about 550 teachers — and one of a half-dozen placed through Teach for America, to which she applied last fall.
“I put ENC as my top region (for TFA placement) and then when I found out there was an elementary school here, specifically in Kinston and one that I’d heard about before, I said I definitely want to work there,” said Butler, who has relatives living here.
“I got hired (at Northeast) in April. Because I signed up with TFA early, I got to take my licensure test earlier and be placed earlier.”
Kendra Woods, the Northeast principal who hired her, recalled interviewing a young woman who knew she wanted to teach. “I interviewed Asia Butler early in the hiring process,” Woods said. “From that interview I saw a teacher who exuded dedication and passion! I am excited for all the great things she’ll do this year.”
As a full-fledged teacher for the first time, Butler has an idea of what she needs to work on – “getting students to open up to me about stuff” – and what will bring her pleasure in her job.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the families of the students I’ll be serving,” she said. “That was a fun thing with TFA Summer School because they made sure we contacted all of our children’s parents beforehand. That helped a lot. We stayed in touch with them throughout the summer. I feel like that will be fun. Kids are so happy when their parents tell them their teacher has called to say they’ve done something good.”