Appreciating teachers in our communities

When we reflect on who has most influenced our lives, many of us think back fondly on our teachers. Those who spent time with us, helping us learn a new concept or those who championed us both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers help influence future generations and we appreciate the hard work and sacrifice they make in our local communities.

But, as in many professions, teachers face a number of challenges. “Time is always a factor in education. Whether time for planning for the ever-changing instructional standards, attending various parent, school, community, district, or state meetings, or meeting with colleagues, time is the biggest hurdle to navigate,” says George Smith, principal, Kinard Elementary School in York, S.C. Having enough people to cover all the activities the school wants to offer is also a challenge.

That’s where volunteers come in.

Volunteers are vital to local schools. They can fill gaps by building positive, personal relationships with students that can change students’ mindsets about what they can become or accomplish.

As plant neighbors, our community schools often have close ties to our nuclear workers, who frequently fill those important volunteer roles. For example, many workers at the Catawba Nuclear Station in York, S.C., volunteer at Kinard Elementary School either by being a pen pal, teaching STEM workshops or hosting field trips after school events. “With the support of Catawba Nuclear Station, we are able to offer students before and after school opportunities,” says Smith.

Catawba employees have a variety of skill sets that allow them to give back to the school in unique ways, like mentoring students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. “The Catawba Nuclear Station volunteers provide an underrepresented area of expertise to our entire student body,” says Smith.

Across the Carolinas, employees at all of our nuclear plants are using their skills to give back to local teachers and schools. Employee efforts are complemented by donations to K-12 education programs through the Duke Energy Foundation. In addition, our nuclear energy education centers provide unique learning opportunities for teachers.

Ways to help teachers in your community

If you’re interested in volunteering, Smith shares his suggestions for how the community can help teachers in the classroom.

  • Assist teachers with administrative work like making copies or organizing their classrooms
  • Become a reading buddy or lunch buddy for a local student
  • Volunteer in the media center
  • Choose to be a student mentor


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