CHADRON – A successful year-long student teaching pilot with 10 Chadron State College students at three Nebraska partner school districts in Chadron, Scottsbluff and Sidney, has paved the way for the Education department to expand the new format to 16 Nebraska school districts and two in Wyoming this fall.
Dr. Don King, chair of Professional Studies, announced the collaboration in the fall of 2017 and then met with school officials in the spring of 2018 to work on details.
King describes the new, year-long format as a win-win situation.
“School districts can reduce their faculty work load, energize the work environment, receive in-service from CSC faculty, and choose from applicants they trained when positions open. Meanwhile, our students serve as a working part of the school’s faculty and staff, and improve their skills and knowledge so they can move seamlessly into their first year of teaching as a professional,” King said.
He said research proves that student teachers who follow this model are retained at a higher rate once they enter the profession compared to others who complete only a semester of student teaching. Each semester, each teacher intern spends a seven-week placement with a different cooperating teacher.
In the past, students completed 12 credit hours of professional block in the fall and 12 credit hours of student teaching in the spring. Now, block and student teaching are spread out across both semesters.
King spoke about the pilot program, the first in the state, at the Nebraska Council on Teacher Education meeting in May.
“It’s unique. I don’t know of any others like it in the upper Midwest,” King said.
Geena Carlson of Custer, South Dakota, who completed her student teaching at Sidney, said the year-long approach gives the participants more practice and time in the classroom to observe teachers and learn new ideas.
“My confidence has shot up from this experience through substituting and being a paraprofessional [when possible]. I feel it has really prepared me for my first year of teaching. I’m going into next year with a tool belt full of classroom management strategies, tips, and tricks to try with my own class,” Carlson said.
Working in the school district as substitute teachers, co-teachers, paraprofessionals, mentors, or tutors for pay is an important aspect of the new partnerships that could alleviate financial strain, and reduce loan amounts, historically experienced by student teachers who were not allowed to work while student teaching. Additionally, students can job shadow nurses, bus drivers, front office staff, principals, special education teachers, counselors or technology specialists.
Regan Hinton of Kimball, Nebraska, said she appreciated the opportunity to read, analyze, and interpret data to drive her instruction through a full school year.
“It’s basically like a sneak preview into your first year of teaching or teaching with training wheels, if you will. Learning to work in, and collaborate with a district, a team of administrators, teachers and support staff. Another benefit was not only building relationships with colleagues, but with many students,” Hinton said.