TOWN OF BELOIT - Twenty-two Turner High School students spent their Thursday afternoon class designing their ideal school. This is one of many assignments in a class meant to help prepare students who are interested in becoming educators for a possible career.
Social Studies teacher Matt Bright co-teaches an Introduction to Education class with Liz Langer, school technology integrator. This is the first time the class has been offered.
"We thought that high school education would be the place to start and get a point program going," Bright said on Thursday. "I know we're only two weeks into the class, but it's really fun."
Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the district has been working through a Academic and Career Planning curriculum for the school, and pathways for students was a focus of the discussion.
"One challenge we have been discussing, along with a good share of the state and nation, is a severe shortage in teacher candidates," McCarthy said. "As we began to discuss this issue we came to the reality of saying...we have all of these career pathways, but which one should we have the best knowledge of?"
Of course, he said the answer was education. There are very few programs like this across the state, but he said the district researched a strong program in the Chicago-land area and began the process of creating coursework for what would become the Introduction to Education class. The course was designed last spring by current Assistant Principal Chris Koeppen, Social Studies teacher Jeff Clowes and former Powers Principal Dr. Sue Brandenburg.
Bright said students in the year-long course will spend the first semester learning about the foundations of the educational system and what it's like to be a teacher, and they will spend the second semester in the actual classrooms that interests them, such as elementary or special education. By the end of the year, the students will have built an e-portfolio that has documents similar to ones candidates would have at the end of a teaching certification program. They then can take these portfolios with them to college.
"I feel like they'll probably be more prepared than most other students going into a (education) program like that," Bright said. "It also helps determine if an interest is going to be appropriate for a career, or if it's not going to be appropriate for a career. That's just as valuable."
The students will be learning about the history of education, educational philosophies, current issues in education, steps to obtaining their licenses and more. He's also hoping to have the students develop podcasts about interesting projects teachers are doing.
Seniors Carly Coldren and Addison Elliot in the class were inspired to possibly join the teaching profession after student directing the middle school's play production. Coldren said she has a passion for theater and would like to potentially teach it one day. Elliot agrees, but isn't sure about going into theater education specifically.
"Student directing opened my eyes to teaching," Elliot said. "I liked the atmosphere of it."
Sophomore Sarah Matysiak took the class to see if teaching would be a viable future career for her. Senior Allisa Falkenthal wants to either become a teacher or major in Business. She said the most interesting item she's learned so far is how much technology is changing education.
"The argument is technology is making us less social, but it's also easier to find information," Falkenthal said.
Bright hopes this is a springboard for students to take other classes similar to the Introduction to Education course, such as first-years later taking child development classes that would connect to a career in education. He said pathway classes to careers other than education also could be developed in the district by using the education course as a prototype.
"We're hoping it will guide students into a more meaningful course selection process rather than just clicking on something because they have to have a full schedule," Bright said. "This has the potential to make students more motivated and engaged in their classes...because (students) can see the courses as a connection to their life outside of high school."