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Connections help senior determine career path

Feb 2, 2023
A woman smiles for a picture.
A woman smiles for a picture.

KOKOMO, Ind. —  Taking college classes her senior year in high school set Courtney Brackett up for success.

Brackett, who graduates in May, was among the first group of students in Indiana University Kokomo’s Tomorrow’s Teachers program, which allows high school students to take School of Education classes at their high school during junior and senior year.

“I grew a lot, and without that program, I don’t think I would have been prepared for college,” she said. “I made that first mistake of not following my syllabus, and I learned from it and never made that mistake again. My freshman year would have been rough if I hadn’t had the chance to try college with high school support.”

The program also connected her with Dean Leah Nellis, who helped her narrow down her career path within education. Brackett knew she wanted to work with children, but suspected the classroom teacher role wasn’t the right fit.

“I found myself lingering with the kids labeled as troublemakers, or the kids who have IEPs, but I knew special education wasn’t my place,” she said. “I talked with Dean Nellis about what I was feeling, did some research, and found that school psychology is where I can do what I want, and support both teachers and students.”

Nellis arranged for her to job shadow a school psychologist, allowing her to ask questions and see for herself what the work is like. Brackett is now in the application process for graduate programs in school psychology. She’s thankful for the extra guidance to help her make her decision.

“I don’t think I would have gotten that at another school,” she said. “Having that small class size, you know your faculty and the dean of your school by their first name. That’s really special for me.”

In her final semester, Brackett is participating in another unique School of Education experience, the teacher residency program. It allows her to student teach at Sweetser Elementary School for a full school year with a stipend, so she can focus on teaching and not an outside job.

“Having a year-long experience in a classroom before I go to graduate school is really appealing,” she said. “When I am a school psychologist, I will know what it’s like to be the teacher in the classroom, and what support teachers need to help their students be successful. I want to be that support for both of them.”

For the fall semester, Brackett learned from watching her mentor teachers as she gradually took on more teaching duty. This semester, she’s leading the classroom, learning time management, classroom management, and more.

“Last semester I was the fun extra person, but now I’ve had to flip the switch and be the teacher,” she said. “The first few days were hard, but it’s been a good experience.”

Her IU Kokomo classes — especially the practicums in local schools — prepared her for her student teaching.

“You can read a book about what to do with kids in a classroom, but the hands-on experiences with our practicums and now the teacher residency are really where you learn,” she said. “Being with kids in a classroom is how you become a teacher. I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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