With six new student teachers at TJ this semester, Spartans are being educated while helping to educate.
by Morgan Dorn
photo by Manny Perez
With the opening of this semester, Thomas Jefferson High School gained some new students. But these are not your typical students – they are seven new student teachers, at TJ to educate Spartans, while they practice the craft of teaching.
TJ’s current student teachers come from the University of Denver, the University of Colorado and from Metro State College’s Teacher Quality Enrichment program (TQE), which is designed to give student teachers an urban teaching experience. In return for hosting the teachers, TJ gets money from a grant that has helped in redesigning courses. This year the stipend is being used to fund tutoring labs, vertical learning between TJ and middle schools, and the professional development of current teachers.
“Fall observe; take education classes; observe winter; teach Spring – GET JOB,” student teacher Spencer Wagner’s description of the student teaching process. Wagner attends the University of Denver and is a teaching under Aimee Witulski and Tim Owens in the math department. At first, student teachers observe the classroom goings-on, daily activities, and teacher-student interaction to learn how teachers teach, act, and work with students. The teachers do this for an entire semester before they are able to get their field experience, where they are actually teaching the class themselves.
Thomas Jefferson is a prime environment for learning how to teach. “The best way to learn it, is to do it, and the best place to do it is here,” said Mark Smith the coordinator of student teachers at TJ. They are in an environment varied student types where Smith says, “…they get to experience it all.”
However student teachers don’t just come to TJ because it’s a good learning environment. “I love the diversity here, I think you guys have a good school community,” said Natalie Blake, student teacher from the Metro State TQE program. Blake is teaching under English teacher Michael Palmeri.
Despite a good teaching environment, student teaching isn’t all fun and games, “doing homework and grading homework,” is the biggest challenge for Wagner, who balances a busy homework-filled college life, with student teaching.
Student teacher Emily Howard from Metro State College of Denver found it difficult to come into teaching, in the middle of the year. “It throws everyone off balance,” said Howard, although despite the challenges faced from joining half way through the year Spartan students are helping her along the way. “There is a lot of school spirit at TJ. Students are proud to be part of the school, I like that for the most part students seem to respect each other, and overall everyone is interested in learning.”
Not only are student teachers seeking to experience secondary school education by watching and performing strategies of classroom management and connecting with students; they also bring with them modern teaching styles and a different perspective of the classroom. Educational tactics are constantly updated, especially at times when there are new findings about how to increase student content absorption or ways to connect with all students of different learning styles.
The presence of a student teacher in class also means that instead of only having one teacher to answer multiple questions, there are now two. This gives students opportunities to get extra one-on-one assistance from a professional in training. The teachers also benefit from teaching, “I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think I will have fun and learn a lot from my cooperating teachers,” said Wagner.
List of Current Student Teachers:
Nathan Silver Venessa Angell
Michael Palmieri Natalie Blake
Gordon Heaton Emily Howard
Rachel Stutzman Julian Martinez
Carole Fulkerson Chad Leland
Loretta Gonzalez Scott Basgall
Tim Owens Spencer Wagner