From the desk to the teacher's lounge: Students in teacher education course get real-life teaching experience

Senior Jen Timmons walks into the classroom full of kindergartners at Sunrise Point Elementary.

She can’t help but smile as the children yell out “Miss Jen.”  

It makes her feel like she belongs in the classroom and she loves seeing how the kids look up to her.  

Practicum in Teacher Education I is a class that is open to juniors and seniors and offers a hands-on learning experience for students interested in education careers.                                   

“I love it,” Timmons said.  “It’s something I would recommend to anyone who is looking at this profession. Everyday is something different and it’s giving us a lot of experience before we try student teaching in college.”

Practicum students start off learning about different teaching styles and theories before they are allowed to work in field sites like Sunrise Point, Sunset Ridge, Blue River, Stanley, and others. 

They get to choose any grade level, school, or teacher they want to work with. 

“I want to be with younger kids because it fits my personality more,” Timmons said. “I have a lot of energy and it’s easy for me to keep up with the kids. The other thing is that the kids in kindergarten and first grade are excited to come to school. They want to hear what you have to say.”

For Timmons, the most difficult part of the program was saying goodbye to her students. 

“I got to know the kids so well that it’s sad to leave but also it’s a great test on your patience,” she said. “It really does test if you are cut out for the job.”

Senior Kassi Kaemmer has worked with fifth grade students and kindergartners at Stanley Elementary as well as eighth grade students at Prairie Star Middle School. 

“My favorite part about the program is being able to interact with children and see how they act in class,” Kaemmer said. “It’s a lot different watching kids in class than being one of them.”

Students make lesson plans, present and teach them to the class and write in daily journals.

 That is not including the other work they are assigned each week.

“There is never a day that we are sitting there twiddling our thumbs,” Timmons said. “Everything we do is completely related to us becoming better teachers.”

Practicum Education teacher Donna DeHart believes the class is extremely helpful. 

“It helps the students understand how they learn, gives them a better appreciation for their teachers, helps them decide if they want to be a teacher or not and therefore, can save them a great deal of money if they decide they don’t want to,” DeHart said.  

DeHart believes responsibility is definitely a character trait necessary in this program. 

“Responsibility, is extremely important in this class,” she said. “Students have to leave here and get to their field sites on time.”

 Despite the hard work, the class has its funny moments, too Kaemmer said.  

“Last year my class went with the second grade students of Eugene Ware, a Kansas City Elementary school, to the Kansas City Zoo,” she said. “The kids that we got to hang out with were awesome and very energetic.  As we were eating, a couple of geese came over and tried to get our food. It was a very intense couple of minutes for us. When the geese attacked us the kids left all their stuff right where it was and ran from the geese. It was definitely the most fun time I have had in Practicum.”

There are two levels to this class.

 Practicum in Teacher Education II, the second level, can be taken by seniors after completing the prerequisite of Practicum in Teacher Education I.

“The main difference between the two levels is you have to do more lessons but you get more time at the field sites because you don’t have to learn all the same stuff over,” Timmons said.

The Practicum in Teacher Education class  is in charge of  Future Educators of America (FEA).

 “It’s a club that is good at setting goals and reaching them,” Timmons said.

DeHart thinks that the Practicum class is good practice for student teaching in college.

“I’m hearing this from former students; they are a step ahead of the other students in their class,” DeHart said. 

Timmons believes this experience will be helpful when she tries student teaching in college.

“I am learning what type of teacher I am and what I  want to be,” she said. “I think that it has raised my responsibility. Up until now everything I have done in the classroom has been for myself, but now it’s for the kids.”

by Emily Brown