Student Teachers at BC
Student teachers at BC have the opportunity to try out their career before graduation.
Casey Palmer, Sara Melby
April 4, 2012
College students aren’t always thrilled to wake up for their morning classes, but others love it, and actually plan to attend school the rest of their lives.
That thought might be frightening to some, but for student teachers in the education department at Bluefield College, it’s exciting to know that one day they’ll be in front of a classroom.
Studen Teachers at BC
“I want to be a physical and health education teacher,” said Ashley Strickland, a senior from Galax, Va., who is now also endorsed to teach drivers education.
BC currently has nine seniors who are student teaching in the area: Emily Minter (elementary), Emily Sears (secondary English), Erin Darnell (elementary), Beth Tinsley (K-12 music), Heather Lane (6-12 business), Leah Cline (elementary), Holly Dillon (elementary), Lindsey Burris (6-12 math), and Strickland (health and physical education K-12).
Burris, a senior and student teacher from Grayson Co. Va., said student teaching has been very rewarding for her.
“So many children come from broken homes or families where they feel unappreciated,” said Burris. “So when you’re teaching you can get a positive attitude and focus from the children if you just let them know you care and that you know they can succeed.”
Dr. Donna Watson, chair of the education division and director of teacher education, explained that students who want to be teachers must complete bachelor's degrees as well as the requirements for a teaching license, which include successful completion of 18-24 hours of coursework, three pre-student teaching field experiences, student teaching during the last semester, licensure tests required by the state, and a student teaching portfolio.
The teaching portfolios, which students will present this year on April 26 in the Gerald E. Clay Curriculum Lab in Easley are not taken lightly.
“That’s the other big part of student teaching that no one talks about,” said Strickland. “It’s harder than going in the classroom. Teaching the students and making the lesson plans is the easiest part; it’s the portfolio that’s hard.”
Once the portfolio is completed, the students present it to their professors and two outside evaluators.
“Our accreditation requires that we have outside evaluators so it’s not just Dr. Watson and I that are deciding because getting a licensure is a significant thing,” said Phyllis Owens, assistant professor of education at BC.
Tomorrow’s teachers must also meet a GPA requirement.
“If you get below a 2.75 you can’t student teach,” said Strickland. “And if you get that while you’re student teaching, they’ll take you out of the program.”
Strickland taught ninth and tenth grade physical education and health at Graham High School during her first placement. Currently she’s teaching physical education for Kindergarten through second grade at Whitethorn and Memorial Elementary Schools. When Strickland graduates in May, she’ll be able to teach grades K-12.
Owens said there’s a lot involved in the student teaching process that is above and beyond classwork.
The student teachers attend a weekly seminar meeting every Monday at the college. During this time they discuss their experiences with their professors and talk about things they can improve.
Watson and Owens visit the schools where the student teachers are assigned during each semester to observe the students’ performance.
Owens said this is one of the most exciting parts for her when it comes to student teaching: “Watching them move from their freshman year when they have an interest and then following them all the way, and watching the growth, and then going to observe them in the actual classroom and seeing the amazing transformation from the time they start student teaching to the end.”
Senior Emily Sears, from Hinton, W.Va., explained that a student teacher must act as if he or she is the teacher. Although the mentor teacher is still present in the classroom, the student teacher makes the lesson plans, grades the papers, and studies the content and curriculum as the mentor teacher normally would.
Although Sears described student teaching as extremely time-consuming, she did not neglect to describe how meaningful it is to her.
“Being a student teacher is a great opportunity because you get to try out your career before you are actually hired,” she said. “The thing with teaching is that it is one thing to study about it, read books about teaching ideas and classroom management, and learn about the best ways students learn.
“However, actually getting up in front of a class with the materials you have created is the best way to learn how to teach. I have learned so much by being in front of my eighth-grade classroom, and it has made me fall in love with teaching. I used to be uncertain if I wanted to be a teacher, but student teaching has confirmed that I made the correct choice in choosing my major. The students you get to work with in your placements are what make it absolutely worth it, though. In case I haven't already said it, the students are the best part.”
By successfully completing student teaching and all other teacher licensure requirements, a person is eligible for a Virginia Professional Collegiate License as soon as he or she graduates, Watson explained. Without student teaching, potential teachers cannot apply for this five-year renewable license and can only apply for a non-renewable three-year provisional license, and this is only if they are first hired by a school system.
Heather Lane, a senior and student teacher from Bluefield, W.Va., said the best part about student teaching is applying the strategies she’s learned at BC in the classroom.
“Student teaching is like gardening,” said Emily Minter, a senior and student teacher from King George, Va., “You plant the seeds, wait for the sprout, pull up the weeds, water, and care for the tender plant. The work is hard, but the rewards are well worth all the toil and effort.”