Education degree ends in classrooms with student teaching

Cassie Hallmark, senior elementary education major, answers students’ questions about a math lesson while student teaching at Alamo Elementary School. | Photo by Anna Richoux

By Kathryn Moore, Staff Writer

Instead of completing a capstone project before graduation, the 51 graduating seniors in the School of Education’s Teacher Education Program conduct field experiences in classrooms.

Dottie Myatt, professor of education and assistant dean for teacher education and accreditation, said Union student teachers must be present in a classroom for 15 weeks, the equivalent of a Union semester. The student teachers begin by observing the classes and gradually build up to teaching each period during the day.

Union’s student teachers are placed at two different schools throughout the semester, and the School of Education requires one placement to be in an urban school district.

The Jackson-Madison County School System meets the urban school district requirement, allowing most student teachers to perform at least one placement locally.

Education students also have the option to execute one of their  student-teaching placements internationally. Myatt said five student teachers taught internationally this semester in countries such as Cameroon, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Student teachers are required to give a pre-test on a particular concept, plan a unit of lessons built around the concept, teach that unit and give a post-test to evaluate and assess the students’ gain scores.

The day-to-day responsibilities of student teachers vary by school, grade and subject.

Cassie Hallmark, senior elementary education major, spent the first 10 weeks of her student teaching at Alamo Elementary School. She taught second-grade math to five classes each day.

“My education classes really prepared me for being in a classroom,” she said. “Each student learns differently, so I had to use different techniques in the classroom to give each child the opportunity to learn.”

Seth Kincaid, senior math major, said adjusting to an eight-hour workday is one of student teachers’ biggest challenges. He had to get used to waking early to make it to Northside High School at 6:50 a.m. each day, he said.

Kincaid also said another challenge was creating a barrier between him and his students.

“Even though I’m only four years older than them, I am their superior,” he said. “I have the right to ask them to stop talking, even if it might be uncomfortable.”

Each student teacher is paired with a professor in the education department for mentoring. The supervisors visit the student teacher’s classroom about once a week to give evaluations that assess his progress.

The School of Education uses the same type of formal teacher evaluations used by the State of Tennessee.

“Our student teachers are well aware of the evaluation system they will be facing if they are hired in Tennessee,” Myatt said.

Myatt said the best part of mentoring student teachers is seeing evidence of their professional growth.

“It is like a butterfly that’s starting to emerge,” she said. “Over just one semester of  student teaching, the butterfly comes out. It’s heartwarming to see them living out the calling in spite of the difficulties.”

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