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Teachers learning newest techniques

Sept. 26, 2003

By Erica DeLeon, reporter

The Baylor School of Education designed a new teacher education program last year for education majors, giving students more time to spend in the professional development schools.

'The change occurred because we needed to make the teacher education department relevant to contemporary schools,' said Dr. Betty Conoway, associate professor and chairwoman of the curriculum and instruction department. 'We needed to completely prepare the teacher candidates to work in today's schools.'

Education faculty and students work at 10 professional development schools in the Waco Independent School District. Nine of these schools are new to the education school.

'We had more professional development schools apply than we could accept,' Conoway said. 'We've had lots and lots of planning meetings to get ready for the new schools. This is a major commitment for the department, because faculty members spend a lot of time on these campuses.'

Freshman teaching education majors start by tutoring students in the development schools. During their sophomore year, they work with a small group of children. In the students' junior year, they are required to devote the majority of their time to the students.

'For the whole year they are in the schools working with students three hours a day, every day.' Conoway said. 'There are seminars associated with those field-based experiences so the candidate can get all the content they need in order to pass the Texas [teacher certification test].'

During their senior year everyone must participate in a full-year internship, a change initiated by the new program. Seniors are required to work in a classroom that has a teacher with a similar certification.

More field work, earlier field experiences and more opportunities to work closely with classroom teachers '[give] the teacher candidates more opportunities to see what schools look like today,' Conoway said. 'Because even though most of our teacher candidates graduated from high school just a few years ago, not all schools are the same. Waco schools are very typical of schools in larger cities, and if they can work in that type of setting, then they can work in smaller schools too.'

As the teacher candidates help tutor and teach at the development schools, Baylor faculty members watch them interact with the children.

'Sometimes teaching kids can get rough. It's hard to get five kindergartners to listen to me,' Tori Richardson, a Spring sophomore, said. 'I get so frustrated sometimes, but I know teaching kids is what I want to do, so I have to get over it.'

Conoway said Baylor faculty work with the teacher candidates and give them suggestions to help figure out any problems they may have.

Brooke Spain, a Dallas junior, and Sarah Horn, a Fort Worth junior, were part of the first class to begin the new teaching program.

'This program is at the very beginning, and in a few semesters it will be a very good program,' Spain said. 'But right now they're trying to figure out what works ... '

The two students teach five kindergarteners at Parkdale Elementary School.

'Instead of taking classes about [education] you're actually in there and figuring out how it all works,' Horn said.