Above: Cameron Grier works with certified teacher Margeaux Coyne ’98 (M.Ed.) ’01 to discuss a classroom activity with a student at the Kids on Point summer camp.

Cameron Grier looks over some lemons and limes in his hands while chatting with a little boy about how to make a craft on the life cycle of citrus trees, before heading over to talk with another child who is holding a chicken that has made a visit to the classroom that day. It’s a great opportunity for the future teacher to help guide his students in hands-on activities meant to inspire curiosity and creativity. 

Grier is among a group of education majors in the College of Charleston’s Call Me MISTER Program getting a head start on their careers this summer through a new partnership with the educational nonprofit Kids on Point, which is hosting a six-week summer program June 26-Aug. 4, 2023, on the College’s campus. 

a student teacher talks with a child about a chicken

Cameron Grier talks with a student about the chicken life cycle. (Photos by Catie Cleveland)

A rising sophomore majoring in elementary education, Grier, who is from Newberry, South Carolina, has been learning the importance of not only teaching facts and figures, but also developing his young students’ fine motor skills through crafts and hands-on projects to improve their handwriting and manual dexterity. 

“This is phenomenal – it’s a great experience,” says Grier. “It makes me want to get in the classroom even more.”  

Sterling Savage ’12, director of the College’s Call Me MISTER Program, says the new partnership provides Call Me MISTER students with real-world experience working with children in a classroom setting alongside certified K-12 teachers, including alumni of the College’s Call Me MISTER Program. Additionally, the MISTERs participate in weekly professional and personal development workshops during the summer program aimed at further familiarizing them with classroom management skills and lesson plan pedagogy as well as tips on how to take care of themselves mentally and physically so they can be at their best in the classroom. 

“You know how we like to talk about the ‘education of the whole child,’ well, we like to also focus on the whole mister here,” says Savage, who was among the first graduates of the College’s Call Me MISTER Program. “To me, personal development is more important than professional development. Professional development is just skills. But knowing who you are as a person and how you interact with the world, that’s more important to me and is critical to being a successful teacher.” 

Left: Jared Gambrell ’13 greets Kids on Point students ahead of a field trip. Right: Deondre Pendergrass (M.A.T.” ’22 leads a classroom activity on space exploration.

The Call Me MISTER Program is a statewide initiative that supports male minority students majoring in education who plan to become teachers. A total of nine MISTERs from across the state are participating in the program this summer with Kids on Point, including four MISTERs from the College of Charleston, three from Charleston Southern University, one from Clemson University and one from Trident Technical College.  

Founded in 2009 to embolden the potential of students through access, exposure and opportunities, Kids on Point, which is housed at the College, provides academic support and life skills in addition to enrichment opportunities during the school year as well as through its summer program. 

The new partnership with the Call Me MISTER Program gives Kids on Point students, many of whom are Black and brown, the opportunity to interact with mentors who look like them, says Lauren Herterich, executive director of Kids on Point. 

“Having role models in the classroom is so important,” says Herterich. “I am hoping this is the beginning of a long-term partnership.” 

Working with the MISTERs is a full-circle moment for Jared Gambrell ’13, who is in his fifth year of running a class with the Kids on Point summer program. As a graduate of the College’s Call Me MISTER Program and a veteran elementary school teacher, Gambrell knows what it takes to succeed as a teacher, particularly as a minority male teacher. 

a student teacher works with elementary kids to make a clay craft

Mike Patterson helps Kids on Point students with a lesson.

“I think this is just a groundbreaking idea,” he says. “When you first start your clinical internship in student teaching, you’re kind of thrown into it. But through this summer camp, the MISTERs get a really good opportunity to navigate some of those things sooner so, when they get to that point, they’ll be in a better position to get the most out of student teaching.” 

Deondre Pendergrass ’22 (M.A.T.), an alumnus of the College’s MISTER program who worked with the Kids on Point camp while earning his master’s degree, agrees that the hands-on experiences and mentorship is invaluable. 

“There’s so much support here,” says Pendergrass, who is serving as a certified teacher for the Kids on Point summer camp this year. “I think it’s an experience that will encourage them to continue in the field of education.” 

That is definitely the case for College of Charleston MISTER Mike Patterson, a rising sophomore majoring in early childhood education. Patterson, who is from Summerville, South Carolina, says working alongside a seasoned classroom teacher has given him the chance to brainstorm different activities for the students and learn how to refine the classroom schedule to help the day run more smoothly. 

Patterson says the professional and personal development workshops are particularly helpful for reflecting on what he’s learning this summer and how he can take care of himself so he is at his best for his students. 

“Having yourself prepared for the kids is just as important as the kids being prepared for you,” he says.