COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Columbia County schools and Augusta University came together on Wednesday for their inaugural TAP Talks event.

The event is meant to inspire and give advice to high school students who are wanting to become teachers and are in the Teaching as a Profession Pathway. 

The U.S. Department of Education said 27% of public schools had multiple teaching vacancies as of October 2022.

Programs like this are hoping to change that.

“Most of them, like me, have been told ‘are you sure you want to be a teacher? Think about the accountability, think about how difficult, do you know about the pay?’ all of those things,” said Dr. Judi Wilson, the Dean of the College of Education at AU. “So we’re really trying to change that narrative and help them understand that teachers impact the future.”

More than 250 students from five Columbia County schools who are in the program gathered at the performing arts center on Wednesday.

“I’m excited to like have my own kids when I become a teacher and just build those relationships with students,” said Jamison Perkins, a senior at Evans High School. “And I feel that this is a good thing for us to see cause what we see is usually negative surrounding teaching.”

“It’s just fun, like you just get to be around new people all the time and you get to inspire,” said Wesley Williams, a junior at Harlem High School. “That’s one thing that I got to see today, you just get to help other people.”

They got to hear Teachers of the Year speak, network, ask questions, receive prizes, and gain information on dual-credit and potential scholarships.

“I love to see new teachers who are coming into the field and they’re really passionate and excited,” said Allie Doyle, the district’s Rookie Teacher of the Year. “It’s bringing a really big new energy into the field that I think we’re really needing right now.”

One scholarship in particular is for $1,000. It will be awarded to one senior student from each of the five schools who is in the pathway program.

“I think they’re excited to be here, and I think they get to feel special,” said Brooks Smith, the CTAE Director for Columbia County schools “They feel like a VIP today and that’s exactly what we’re hoping for with this event.”

The scholarships will be awarded at the annual Future Georgia Educators Signing Day Event on May 17th.