By Robert W. Dalton
Messiah Jones ’23 surprised himself while teaching at Meeting Street Academy during the fall semester.
Jones, a sociology and anthropology major from Chicago, Illinois, discovered that he enjoyed teaching.
“I honestly had no desire to be a teacher,” says Jones. “These children are all so intelligent. Spending time with them in the classroom is definitely something I enjoy doing. I could see myself being a teacher now.”
Jones’ time in the classroom was made possible by a new partnership between Wofford College and Meeting Street, a public school of innovation in Spartanburg School District 7. Meeting Street serves the Highland, Hampton Heights and downtown areas of Spartanburg. The median household income in the attendance zone is $11,973 and 91% of the children live in poverty.
The partnership came about after discussions between Christina Johnson, Wofford’s senior instructor of education, and Meeting Street principal Kyndran Hilton and community liaison Kathy Dunleavy. The 20 students in Johnson’s Foundations of Literacy class worked at the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays for eight class sessions during the semester.
“My goal was to give our students real classroom experience,” says Johnson. “It was really cool for the students to see all the things we talked about in class. They’ve gotten to use what we’ve done firsthand, and they’ve done a great job.”
While both sides have been learning as they go, the partnership has been mutually beneficial. Wofford students have gotten a taste of life in a classroom, while Meeting Street has received much-needed help.
“It really has been amazing, not just for the Wofford students but for our classroom teachers as well,” says Hilton. “The teachers have been very vocal about the support the students provide in their classrooms. They just jump in and work with the kids.”
The experience was invaluable for Finley Dickens ’25, a Spanish major from Raleigh, North Carolina, who plans to become a kindergarten teacher. It was her first time being in a classroom setting, and she says she learned a great deal about the way teachers best interact with young students.
“I was worried that I might not have the skills to teach younger children, but I’ve learned that I do,” she says. “It makes such a big difference being able to go into a classroom rather than just learning about it.”
The partnership will continue next semester, and both sides agree they would like to see it expand.
“This was like our test semester, and we saw that the relationship and the process work,” says Dunleavy. “Now the question is how can we do it better and do more? We don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.”