Students in Columbia Public Schools are getting a head start on real-world experience within the teaching industry.
“Fresh out of college, you rarely have anything significant to say in a job interview. No one asks about your accounting class or what grade you got on a group project,” Kaitlyn Tradbucco, founder of Educents by CoLearn, explained. “The best real work experience you can have is in your internship.”
That’s why the Columbia Area Career Center (CACC) has partnered with Columbia Public Schools’ elementary and middle school departments to allow high schoolers to get hands on experience in the classroom.
“I think our program allows students the opportunity to experience the classroom at an early age in order to make an informed decision as to if education is a career path they would like to pursue,” Regina Greenplate, teacher of Teaching Professionals, said.
For Gillian Frazier, junior and intern at Oakland Middle School, that dream to become a teacher sparked when she was a little girl. Despite playing ‘teacher’ with her barbie dolls when she returned from school at a young age, Frazier said her love for teaching didn’t develop until later in life.
“Over the years I’ve gotten some amazing opportunities to assist children’s camps and I’ve learned that I really love working with kids,” Frazier said. “I also have gotten passionate about the education system within the last year, and I want to advocate for change within it.”
Frazier, through her internship, has observed a sixth grade math classroom and teacher, along with getting one-on-one teaching experience with students.
Greenplate explained that this is the greatest aspect when it comes to the program.
“I continue to tell my students that the ‘book work’ part of my classes will be reinforced and at times repeated as they take their post-secondary journey,” Greenplate said. “But I believe that one of the best benefits of this program is the hands on experience they get working in the classroom alongside teachers and one-on-one with students. There’s so much that hands on experience can teach you that a book may not.”
Frazier has been interning for only a month now; however, she has seen much growth within herself as a teacher.
“I’ve learned that there isn’t one specific way to be a teacher. There’s no book telling you exactly how to teach. You have to learn through experience to be able to adapt depending on the class to best fit your students’ needs,” Frazier said.
The class is inspiring young adults at a time when the interest in becoming a teacher has declined in the United States. According to Market Watch, less than one out of every 10 Americans pursuing a college degree majored in education. Between 2015 and 2016, 23% of those who were majoring in education didn’t finish. The decline comes during a teacher shortage in public elementary and secondary schools.
Greenplate believes there are many reasons why students no longer want to pursue teaching as a profession.
“The potential earnings vs college debt in order to get their degree, the outside ‘negativity’ about teaching as a profession, and because the reality they face when they enter the classroom may not fit the ‘ideal’ they have created in their mind,” Greenplate said. “Unfortunately some students don’t face this reality until the end of their sophomore year or even junior year in college once they finally get to step into a classroom.”
Frazier acknowledges those difficulties exist within the classroom, but has no desire to pursue another profession.
“I love to help mentor and help kids. I had teachers at a young age who did the same for me,” Frazier said. “Teachers are essential for students to learn and grow, and if we don’t have students who want to become a teacher, it doesn’t only become detrimental to the education system but also to the kids.”
Greenplate added that there has been an increase in students pursuing the teaching industry after taking her class.