First to be hired through Grow Our Own program; will start teaching in Sept.

(March 1, 2019) The Worcester County Board of Education incorporated Black History Month in several events and activities, including the hiring of its first educator through the Grow Our Own program.

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Celebrating the first educator to enter Worcester County Public Schools as a part of the Grow Our Own program at the Board of Education Central Office in Newark, Tuesday, Feb. 19, from left, are Human Resources Director Dr. Dwayne Abt, Superintendent Lou Taylor, new educator Maya Nicole Batson and her mother, Terri, and Shirleen Church, WCPS coordinator for Minority Student Achievement.

Pocomoke High School graduate, Maya Nicole Batson, became the first African-American and young educator raised in Worcester County to sign on as a teacher for Worcester County Public Schools through the Grow Our Own program on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Worcester County Board of Education office building in Newark.

Batson, who graduated from Pocomoke High School in 2015, is studying early education at Salisbury University. She will graduate in May from Salisbury and is currently an intern teacher at Snow Hill Elementary School.

“There is a lot of pride today,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said. “It’s an honor ... to sign our first Grow Our Own student who will become in September a part of our professional staff here in Worcester County.”

The Grow Our Own program identifies minority high school students with an aptitude and interest in pursuing a career in education. These students are offered support through high school and higher education with the goal that they will return to the school system as educators. 

“Being the first individual to graduate from this program is truly an honor,” Batson said. “I have had multiple opportunities to participate in professional development opportunities, mentoring opportunities, that have prepared me to be an uprising educator. I am more than grateful for these opportunities.”

The Grow Our Own program started in 2016 in Worcester County. Fifteen graduates from all three Worcester high schools are currently taking part in the program. Two are expected to graduate from the program next year and sign with Worcester County Public Schools.

“When I became the superintendent in 2016, one of the three goals [the board] said to me was, ‘We need to do a better job, Lou, with hiring diversity,’” Taylor said. “One of the things that we work hard on, we want to put in front of our kids [are] people that look like them. Whether they’re Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic ... whatever it is, we need to diversify our teaching staff.”

Taylor also revealed that in 2018, Worcester County had the highest percentage of diverse new hires in Maryland.

“There’s a national teacher shortage in general today, but we led the state with 12.4 percent of our new hires being people of color or diverse and we are very proud of that and we will continue to work on that,” Taylor said.

Batson comes from a family of teachers. Her mother, Terri, works as an administrator at Pocomoke High School and her father, Robert Batson Jr., was a band teacher at Pocomoke High School until he passed away in a car accident in the 1990s.

“This September, I am truly looking forward to finally having my own classroom,” Batson said. “Throughout my college experience I have been with amazing mentor teachers who have tailored me into the teacher I am today. I am elated to be able to put their teachings into my own instruction this fall.”

“She’s a beautiful young lady and she’s going to bring a lot of pride to our kids,” Taylor said. “I’m not letting Wicomico County and those other counties get her.”

Batson signed the paperwork required to become a teacher in front of the board of education members as well as a group of former Worcester High alumni, who were celebrating the former black school’s dedication. Dr. Dwayne Abt, supervisor of human resources, handed Batson the paperwork.

“It is with pride and privilege that we make this offer to you to work in Worcester County Schools,” Abt said. “Welcome to the Worcester County family.”

“We are excited to have her part of the Worcester County family,” Taylor said. “We’re all in this together to make sure our kids from all walks of life, from 3 years old to 18 … we’re in it for them.”

Batson will begin teaching in September, though she does not know which school she will be assigned to yet.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with the fine educators with the Worcester County Public School System,” Batson said.

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