KOKOMO, Ind. – First-day-of-school jitters. Pre-Christmas break slump. Standardized testing time tensions. End-of-year traditions. And everything in between.
Student teachers don’t always get the full picture of a typical school year. But through the Teachers in Residency program, it’s an opportunity for future educators to get a real taste of those 180 days.
For Tayler Sampson, B.S. ’21, it makes all the difference.
“By being there the whole year, I experienced all the highs and lows,” she said. “I never felt like I was a student teacher. I was part of the class and it was my classroom.
Last year, Sampson joined a group of students who piloted the program, in place of traditional student teaching experiences that last a semester at a time.
“This program made me realize this is what I want to do. I really do want to be a teacher,” said Sampson, who taught a third-grade class at Green Meadows Intermediate School in Frankfort. In fact, she had such a great experience and performed so well that before the school year ended, she was hired.
Joining Community Schools of Frankfort in Clinton County in the newly launched venture included two schools within the Maconaquah School Corporation in Miami County. Administrators have discovered the benefit goes both ways. By observing these future teachers at work in the classroom, there is potential to have the first chance at hiring them — a critical advantage during a teacher shortage.
Lindsey Bright, Green Meadows principal, said the program is impressive, choosing to participate to prepare teachers more fully for the profession.
“I think back on my own teacher preparation, and we certainly didn’t get this kind of student teaching experience,” she said, noting that most are in the schools for less than a semester.
“Seeing the school year from start to finish is a great benefit. They are learning from the best of the best, in my opinion,” Bright added. “They really get to dig in and see start to finish what the school year looks like.”
The year-long, hands-on approach helps these students form realistic expectations going in, making them more likely to stay in the classroom long term. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.
The School of Education began offering this extended program after the two school systems applied for and received a grant from the Higher Education Commission. The grant funds stipends to the students and their mentors.
Leah Nellis, dean of the School of Education, explained that when student teaching takes place for a semester the student cannot be paid. However, a year-long residency allows for payment in the form of a stipend.
“It allows for teacher candidates to receive some compensation and can devote time, attention and energy to student teaching, instead of also trying to have a part-time job to pay expenses,” Nellis said.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
“When these students spend time in the classroom with an experienced teacher, they emerge with better skills and are more confident in themselves,” she added.
The experience has been a positive one for Sampson. Now, she’s taking that confidence and applying it to her first teaching job. “I knew that within a month I would love to be a teacher here if there was an opening,” she said. “I was very blessed when a job opened up and I was able to accept it. I already knew the culture, and that I would fit in with the team.”