Dr. Leanne Howell, a faculty member in the School of Education (SOE), spends a lot of time sitting in tiny chairs at Spring Valley Elementary School in Midway ISD.
As University Liaison for the school, her life revolves around the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade campus. Whenever SOE students are there, so is Howell. Each of the SOE’s nine Professional Development School (PDS) campuses has a Baylor faculty member on site.
The day begins at 7:15 a.m. for the Baylor team at Spring Valley. Juniors in the SOE, known as “teaching associates” (or TAs), gather to organize before they report to their classrooms.Howell and site coordinator Paula Gardner, a district employee, are available to guide, mentor and provide support.
All 111 of the SOE’s TAs teach on a PDS campus. This experience immerses them in the rhythm a public school for part of each day and allows them the chance to prepare lessons and teach students with the support and guidance of faculty and staff.
Spring Valley principal Jay Fischer, BSEd ’00, said the school benefits deeply from the partnership. “Having our teachers see the energy of the young pre-service teacher candidates, getting to hear their ideas, and seeing them implement best-practice approaches is definitely a blessing,” he said.
From 7:50 to 9:05 a.m., the 16 Spring Valley TAs teach groups of four-to-five students. “Our Baylor students are taking state curriculum standards, planning and implementing effective lessons with the help of their classroom teachers, assessing students, and then letting that assessment drive instruction. They are impacting these K-4 students in so many positive ways,” Howell said.
Howell pointed out the importance of strong classroom teachers. “Our Spring Valley teachers are essential ingredients to our Baylor students’ success. They plan with them, model for them, observe them and offer constructive input,” she said.
Howell and Gardner conduct at least two formal observations per semester. As junior Anna Grace Thompson teaches her kindergarten group, Howell observes in the background. Perched in an under-sized chair, she types observations on her iPad, both the “glows” and the “grows” she will later share to help Thompson improve her pedagogy.
A transfer to Baylor, Thompson is glad to be in the field as a junior. “At the school I came from, you didn’t get into the field until your last semester,” she said. “I feel so much more prepared because of the Baylor program.”
At 9:15 a.m., the TAs become students again. Back in the Baylor PDS room, Howell and Gardner co-teach a daily hour-long class for the TAs. “Our class time together is an essential ingredient to their growth,” Howell said.
The students head back to Baylor at 10:15 for afternoon classes. Howell then turns her attention to some serious grading to give her students feedback on their written work, such as lesson plans and benchmarks.
Howell also supervises a group of Baylor seniors (interns), who teach at the PDS all day. So Howell dedicates much of her afternoons to observing and guiding them. Then on Fridays, she teaches a seminar class for them on the Baylor campus — her once-a-week appearance on an actual college