Our Alumni Spotlight series highlights the contributions of Kenan Fellows, showcasing their significant roles in schools, districts and communities. This month, we feature Beth Campbell, an award-winning educator with 27 years of experience and an advocate for alternative education.
As a Career Technical Education Teacher at an alternative high school, Beth Campbell works with some students whose families may be facing societal disadvantages. Many students have experienced academic setbacks, carrying the emotional burden of falling behind.
On a bulletin board outside of her classroom, Campbell displays notes of praise from industry professionals who participate in field trips or guest speaker sessions with her students. The notes remind students that their hard work is recognized and valued by someone other than their teacher.
“Since my fellowship, it has been my goal to encourage and empower my students in the same way I was supported and empowered as a Kenan Fellow,” Campbell stated. “Students are accustomed to receiving praise from their teachers, but just like the validation from industry professionals has been important to me, I know that my students are powerfully impacted by recognition from unexpected sources.”
Building Relationships through the Kenan Fellows Network
For Campbell, another benefit of the fellowship has been the relationships she made with other teachers. The Kenan Fellows network has given her unwavering support, guiding her through challenging moments in her career.
“I have gotten to see the ‘real’ side of other teachers and not just the polished versions of their open house-ready classrooms, but the ups and downs of everyday planning, the tips they use to get through stacks of grading, and the proof that yes, you can survive a full year of daily middle school lunch duty,” Campbell expressed.
“This network helped me recognize and market my strengths. I am confident that I have added value to my profession, and that would not have been possible without the support, perspective, and strength I gained as a Kenan Fellow.”Beth Campbell, 2015-16 Kenan Fellow
Bringing Citizen Science to the Classroom
Campbell, a 2016-17 Kenan Fellow, completed her fellowship at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, where she partnered with a team of researchers in the Paleontology Lab. “I was able to work with the tools they used, had access to their resources, and contributed to the findings they published,” she recalled. “Since then, I have been able to guide my students down similar paths and more clearly connect classroom learning to scientific thinking and methodology.”
By teaching applicable scientific practices, Campbell noticed students’ curiosity flourish. She believes every teacher should understand how the content they teach is applied in research and industry settings to give their students a better understanding of the “why” behind the content and concepts they are learning in school.
“I believe this is a fundamental truth about excellent teaching, and it has become a touchstone for me since my fellowship,” Campbell stated. “Educators should have a firm grasp on the relevance of their curriculum and a seat at the table where influential decisions are made.”
Advocating for Alternative Education
With 27 years of experience, Campbell has remained dedicated to the classroom, serving in various roles ranging from elementary to high school. She is on the executive board of a committee comprised of educators seeking to revitalize the North Carolina Association of Alternative Educators.
Campbell advocates for a more robust voice for alternative teachers, emphasizing the importance of responsible use of taxpayers’ money. This advocacy stems from her belief that alternative education is vital in serving students who may not thrive in a traditional school environment.
“We need to recognize the obstacles that stand in the way of success for some students and work to find paths around those obstacles,” she expressed. “I am proud to be a part of this effort and lend my expertise gained from working in alternative and traditional school settings across primary, intermediate, and secondary levels.”
Fostering Empowerment in the Teaching Community
Campbell has been named school-level Teacher of the Year twice, recently receiving the honor for the 2023-24 academic year. She holds six different subject/level teaching certifications, is a North Carolina Child Care Level 3 Administrator, and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Of all of her accomplishments, Campbell acknowledges that becoming a Kenan Fellow marked a pivotal moment in her teaching career.
“When I became a Kenan Fellow, I was handed my first box of business cards with my name printed on them. I was compensated for the time I contributed and the content I created,” Campbell recounted. “Because of the expertise I developed, I stepped onto stages where audiences of adults sat before me, and it was a new experience to see those grown bodies lean in when I spoke. Teachers are professionals, but sometimes we get more attention for our ability to hold a hand and tie a shoe than for our pedagogical expertise and our expert opinions on the impact of school culture.”
The fellowship empowered Campbell to advocate for her students and fellow teachers. Additionally, she has maintained a connection with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership, serving as a member of the faculty of educators who deliver professional development to the current cohort of Kenan Fellows.
“I have chosen to continue to be a full-time classroom teacher because I know that it is a hard job that I do well,” she stated. “The conversations and collaborations I have with other Kenan Fellows fuels my love of this work and the recognition and opportunities have elevated how I see myself and present myself to others as an accomplished professional.”