Graham High School student Jade Clyburn signed a letter of intent to attend Bluefield College during a formal ceremony on the GHS campus, Wednesday, May 9, but Clyburn didn’t ink a contract to play sports or to be a part of a BC athletic team. Instead, surrounded by family, friends, educators and the media, the standout GHS student signed an official document declaring her intentions to study teacher education at Bluefield College.
Planned and executed much like formal signing ceremonies for athletes, the event was designed not only to recognize Clyburn’s commitment to attend Bluefield College, but also to draw attention to the need to recruit outstanding students who aspire to be future teachers just like we recruit athletes.
“Currently, Virginia is facing a growing shortage of qualified teachers, so we need to be more intentional in our efforts to recruit quality teaching candidates,” said Dr. Thomas Brewster, dean of the School of Education at Bluefield College, about the purpose of the signing ceremony. “The shortage has become increasingly severe in terms of the number of unfilled positions and the number of subject areas that are hard to staff. We’ve always seen shortages in the areas of mathematics, special education, and career and technical education, but the shortages have also become severe in subjects such as foreign language, elementary education, and English.”
According to Dr. Brewster, the number of vacant teacher positions across the state has increased by 40 percent over the past 10 years from 760 to 1,080 and has reached critical proportions in certain areas of the state, especially those with high levels of poverty. Solving the crisis, he said, will require work from the middle school level up to create a pathway for students to teach.
“Solving this crisis is critical to the future economic growth and prosperity of our local communities,” said Dr. Brewster. “Teachers are preparing our future workforce, and without quality teachers the ability of our localities to attract business and industry will be greatly compromised. After all, teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible.”
Clyburn, Dr. Brewster added, serves as a role model representing all students planning to attend Bluefield College next fall to study teacher education. “It’s a big deal,” he said, “when an exceptional student like Jade decides to become a teacher. Our hope is that her decision will inspire others to choose teaching as a profession.”
Clyburn is a member of the Beta Club, a national honor society at Graham, and president of the GHS Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). In fact, she participated in the FBLA State Leadership Conference as a voting delegate. She said she’s always been familiar with Bluefield College, passing the school many days while growing up in Bluefield, Virginia, and now she’s thankful to be able to pursue her higher education at a college so close to home.
“I chose Bluefield because I get to have a full college experience while still living close to home,” said Clyburn. “I get to go to class and afterward come back to my house, which through the college decision-making process has been something very important to me.”
In addition to FBLA and the Beta Club, Clyburn is a member of the Commonwealth Alliance for Drug Resistance Education (CADRE), Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Pep Club, yearbook staff, and Sub-Debutantes of Bluefield, Virginia. Now, she said she’s excited to be joining the Bluefield College family, beginning her teacher education training, and becoming an active member of the BC campus community.
“I am extremely excited to become part of such a great school,” she said. “After being on the campus many times, Bluefield College just feels like the best and most fitting college for me.”
Clyburn will study business along with her teacher education courses at Bluefield College with the hope of becoming a high school business teacher. In fact, she said she’d really like to stay in Bluefield and maybe even go back to her alma mater, Graham High School, to teach business courses there.
“I enjoy helping others, and while other careers allow you to help people, teaching is one of the few that allows you to interact with and help people who need it almost every day,” said Clyburn. “Teaching is a way to help mold young adults and aid them in making life-changing decisions about careers and college choices.”
Bluefield College is a Christ-centered learning community developing transformational servant leaders. With a vision to graduate students who understand their life calling and transform the world, Bluefield is committed to developing students’ potential through academic excellence and the integration of faith, the liberal arts, career-oriented programs, and service to God and the global community. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the college offers more than 40 programs of study, including teacher education. Touted for its classroom technology, affordability and personalized instruction, Bluefield College also offers nine online degree programs, including four online master’s degrees.