October 2, 2013
World Teacher Day is Oct. 5.
In the big picture of preparing for a lifelong career, six weeks or a semester of on-the-job training doesn’t sound like much. And for most K-12 teachers, the brief period of student teaching might not be enough preparation to be able to walk into their first classroom as an effective educator.
An innovative teacher preparation program in Texas Tech University’s College of Education aims to change that equation by giving teachers an entire year in the classroom before they even graduate from college.
Effective transformation from student to teacher
Launched in the fall of 2011, TechTeach focuses on four key features that assure teachers will be effective in the classrooms and promise higher testing scores from their pupils, said Doug Hamman, associate professor of Curriculum & Instruction and director of teacher education.
The four keys to the TechTeach system:
Growing the program locally
Hamman said in May 2014 the first cohort of TechTeach candidates will complete the program, then the college will begin assessing data from the classrooms. TechTeach students currently are in Lubbock Independent School District (ISD), Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Roosevelt ISD schools.
Kristi Holly of Monahans is a senior who is student teaching at Bayless Elementary in the Lubbock Independent School District.
“I have felt so welcome by my school this semester,” Holly said. “All of the staff treats us like we are regular, full-time employees and it is such a nice feeling to know they view us as teachers. We have been able to participate in every aspect of teaching, including professional development, ARD [admission, review and dismissal] meetings, staff meetings, bus duty and many other ‘jobs.’ I am entering the teaching field with unlimited resources and ideas, as well as confidence in my teaching ability.”
Lisa Davis, the principal at Bayless, says TechTeach candidates are a wonderful addition to the Bayless family.
“Having them on campus for a longer period of time allows them the opportunity to truly get to know the children, our staff members, parents, and our way of doing things,” Davis said. “It also allows them the opportunity to see how teachers both start and end a school year. These type of experiences help prepare them for the rigor of setting up a classroom, writing lesson plans, teaching and working with struggling students.”
Davis also said the opportunity provided through TechTeach to videotape their lessons, reflect upon them, and receive feedback from Texas Tech faculty, helps the soon-to-be teachers to improve their practice on a regular basis.
“As a campus administrator, when hiring a new teacher, I would take all of this into consideration and the TechTeach candidate would move ahead of any other candidates from a traditional program,” she said. “It is a fantastic opportunity that will benefit not only Lubbock ISD, but other districts across the state. And the bottom line is that it will help Texas children.”
The TechTeach program, introduced by the college’s dean, Scott Ridley, is modeled after iTeach, Arizona State University’s teacher prep program also designed by Ridley.
“The current system of teacher preparation produces much variability in the teachers who end up in the classrooms,” Hamman said. “This system ensures effective skills. Also, there is a policy change coming, in which teacher prep programs will be held accountable for how well their graduates do in the classrooms. We want to be ahead of the curve on that.”
Spreading the system statewide
TechTeach is branching out to select metropolitan areas of the state in spring of 2014. While the original program is a 2+2 (two years of community college or undergraduate work and two years of TechTeach) and places students in K-12 classrooms, the version being implemented in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio is a distance-delivery 2+1 process. The students have two years at a community college and one full calendar year through Texas Tech’s program. In that time they complete their bachelor’s degree.
“The entire 54 hours are online so that the students can be in the classrooms student teaching instead of using up their time for coursework in a typical college classroom,” Hamman said.
The program also feeds an employment pipeline for the participating districts.
“A teaching candidate starts in a district, teaches in a district, and when it comes hiring time, the districts are going to look for people who know their schools well, evidence of competence, and who know the culture of the schools,” Hamman said. “The TechTeach candidates have already been in those schools a full year.”
Don’t miss the bus!
The TechTeach program is not exclusively for education majors, said Lauren Brownell, director of marketing for the College of Education. Students from many other majors can find a supplemental home in the college to get teacher certification.
“Spot the Bus” contest runs through Nov. 1.
“We are making a determined effort to reach out to math and science majors, engineering majors, agriculture majors to let them know they can minor in our college and get their teaching certificate,” Brownell said.
To that end, the college has sponsored two campus buses, wrapped with a depiction of a Superman-style double T shirt, and the phrase “Become more – join an elite force of future educators.”
“The bus is one of the most visible aspects of that effort to recruit other majors to come to us and not just the ones who come here to major in, say, elementary education,” Brownell said.
Brownell said the college is stepping up its social media presence as well, and anyone can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, Brownell has a “Spot the Bus” contest running through Nov. 1.
“Simply spot the buses around campus, take a photo, upload it to the Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #techteach, and be eligible for one of six prize packs from the college,” she said.
But Brownell is quick to say that the real prize is the many young people who become certified as teachers and believe they can make a difference in the lives of the students they will eventually instruct.
“These future educators truly believe they can have an influence, and our program
prepares them to maximize that impact,” Brownell said.
The college’s goal is to have the measurably best teachers in the state because of the TechTeach program, and for the plan to become a national model of teacher education.
I have felt so welcome by my school this semester. All the staff treats us like we are regular, full-time employees, and it is such a nice feeling to know they view us as teachers. My site coordinator also has been such a positive light in the experience. It is so helpful having someone there at all times to ask questions and just to have someone who is rooting for me and is doing everything possible to help me be successful.
It has been challenging for me to figure out how to make time for planning, creating lesson plans, and getting things ready for my capstone course; although, I am thankful I am learning this lesson now and not when I am a full time teacher.
The fact that you literally share the role of teaching with your mentor teacher is an experience that is invaluable. I feel so confident and comfortable getting up in front of my students and teaching a lesson. We participate in every aspect of teaching, including professional development, ARD meetings, staff meetings, bus duty and many other “jobs.” Having these experiences promote confidence in the classroom. Another aspect of TechTeach that has been unbelievably helpful to me is the planning process. My mentor teacher and I sat down and planned the entire six weeks. During this planning time, I learned how to plan. I received so many resources and was just able to pick my teacher’s brain. I am truly thankful for this experience, and I am entering the teaching field with unlimited resources and ideas, as well as confidence in my teaching ability.
The program is preparing me to become an amazing teacher. The site coordinators (teachers the students work with) are incredible. They guide, prepare and help me through the entire student teaching experience. The other positive feature is that the student teaching lasts an entire school year. It gives me a full example of how to set up a classroom, work with the students and be prepared when I go out on my own. When I graduate from TechTeach, I will have a year’s worth of experience instead of a semester, which gives me an advantage over other candidates.
The most challenging thing is figuring out what kind of teacher I want to be. Every teacher has their unique way of teaching; it is all about finding what is most comfortable. The other part is balancing time. Since I am student teaching for a full year, I am learning to balance my education classes, preparing lesson plans and working to pay the bills.
As a secondary minor in education, I have a different kind of schedule than education majors. I felt most prepared through the block schedules. In block one I was taking education classes and observing at a school for one entire day. In block two and three I student teach on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday while attending education classes on Wednesday. I am teaching, planning, and going to meetings with my mentor teachers, who I am with for an entire year. My professors are always there for me as well. Overall the TechTeach Program is a good experience; it is preparing me for the future. My goal in life is to become a principal of a high school.
The most positive aspect is being able to student-teach and be in a real classroom teaching for a full year. There is so much more practice and personal growth that happens with the extra semester. Upon graduation, each TechTeach candidate has a full year in the classroom under their belt, and that is huge. Being in a classroom for a full year allows the teacher candidates to see the growth and maturation of a group of students that one-semester student teachers are not fortunate to experience. Another positive aspect of the Tech Teach program is being able to observe and learn from your mentor teacher. Each mentor teacher is chosen carefully and has so much to offer to the teacher candidate. I have learned many classroom management tools and how to improvement my teaching with each lesson that I teach.
I see the most challenging aspect of the TechTeach program being time management, both inside and outside of the program. In the program, you have to learn how to balance all of your lessons with your performance assessments and keeping up with the students. Outside of the program, you have to learn how to balance your other class work. It is a big adjustment from being in all college courses, but it is well worth it.
The feature that has made me feel most prepared to teach is all of the evaluation given on your teaching. Having many different people view your teaching and give you feedback makes a very positive impact on your teaching style. As of now, I have taught in every subject and feel more than prepared to grab the reins of my own classroom.