With the stroke of her pen, Lanier High School senior Jillian Forbes erased any potential anxiety she could have had trying to find a job after graduating from Kennesaw State University with a degree in secondary education.

Gwinnett County Public Schools held a ceremony Tuesday at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Center where Forbes and fellow seniors from GCPS school seeking careers in education, signed unofficial job offers. In the same way a student-athlete might have a signing ceremony to celebrate their acceptance of a college scholarship, this group of future teachers signed their own letters of intent to earn their education degree and one day return to GCPS to launch their young careers.

In a sense, the school system celebrated Teacher Appreciation Day by providing a safety net to future teachers.

“It’s great to know my passion is turning into something real,” Forbes said. “I could only imagine if anybody in my school could sign something and say, ‘Wow, my future is getting there, eventually.’”

Approximately 34 students from schools in the Gwinnett system participated in the school system’s third annual Promise of Gwinnett Ceremony, which encourages current GCPS students interested in pursuing teaching careers to keep their home district in mind once they received their degrees. The event was open to graduating seniors in local Future Educators of America clubs at GCPS schools. While this is the third Promise of Gwinnett event, Tuesday’s event was the first time the letter of intent was introduced.

The letters of intent serve as a "conditional hire" for students who earn their degrees in education.

Of the approximately 6,000 teachers hired in Georgia annually, GCPS hires roughly 2,000.

After the ceremony, students heard some advice from GCPS’ Teachers of the Year — Kelly Specht from Riverside Elementary School, Lindsey Saa from Couch Middle School and Heidi Campbell from Parkview High School. The trio gave students advice about how to spend summer vacation, how to remember students’ names and how to spend the first day of school each year.

Forbes also plans to minor in biology. She said she wants to pass down the inspiration she received from her teachers onto her future students. She believes she can do that by not only emphasizing the importance of reading, but making it enjoyable.

“People are like, ‘Where’s the correlation with science?’ But there’s a lot of correlation with science,” she said. “You have to know your stuff. People are like, ‘Science is all memorization.’ But you still make it fun to learn and read about that. Literacy doesn’t have to be reading out of a textbook.”

There was also a fair for college recruiters prior to the program, where undecided students could meet with representatives from colleges and universities face-to-face.

The event is a gesture of support, but also illustration of the school system’s confidence in its own students. Associate Superintendent Linda Anderson said for GCPS to grow its own employees means the school system is hiring students with an preconceived understanding of the communities they are employed in.

GCPS took contact information from students to be used to follow up over the next four years and ensure them the school system plans to keep up its end of the bargain.

“We want you to come back. We know you’re going to have a choice,” Anderson said to the students gathered in the boardroom. “We want to extend to you our commitment and our support for you as you move forward.”

Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories in the county he grew up in.

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