Target – Engaged Community Partners – FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.
Action Step – (1) Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences. (2) Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process.
Indicator of Success – Students are engaged with local resources and create community learning labs based on projects.
Bethany True descends from a long line of professional educators. Her father teaches high school social studies. Her aunt and uncle are retired middle school math teachers. Her grandfather and uncle are college professors. One might say that education is in her genes.
“I knew that I wanted to be a teacher when I was 10 years old,” True said, recalling time spent visiting her father’s classroom as a young child. “About half of my family members are teachers and they all talk so highly of their profession.”
Helping to set up her father’s classroom over the summer at roughly age seven, True says she didn’t yet imagine herself teaching in a classroom of her own. Back then, she still dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Little did she know that she was destined to help the next generation reach for the stars.
“I definitely have the bug,” True joked yesterday of the love of children and teaching that she has developed since childhood.
After several field placements in local schools since 2011 as part of her college coursework, True donned a black robe and cap and took one of the proudest walks of her life on Saturday, graduating from Johnson State College with her degree in education. But, not before student teaching full-time with kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman at Fletcher Elementary since January.
“It was intimidating at first,” True said. “But once I taught my first lesson it was really fun and exciting. I got to show everyone that I am a real teacher and they got to see what I am capable of.”
True’s student teaching placement in Fletcher is an example of an engaged community partnership between the college and Fletcher School. Partnering with local schools to provide hands-on experience for future teachers is an integral part of the Johnson State College teacher preparation program. It allows students to experience first hand the theories and methods that they have learned about in their classes.
“We love having the opportunity to send students out into the field to benefit from the expertise of classroom teachers. We hope to send our students into the classroom ready to work with kids and teachers and to be an asset to the classroom environment while they are learning,” said Kathy Light, Teacher Education Placement Coordinator at Johnson State College.
According to kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman, True’s supervising teacher at Fletcher, the relationship between she and True was one of mutual learning.
“Having a student teacher like Bethany was a great experience for me and my students. I enjoyed watching her navigate the many challenges that teachers face every day, and tried to guide her as well as show her that no one has all of the answers all of the time. Bethany had some strengths that were different from mine. My students all developed a close relationship with her and benefitted by getting to know her and sharing her interests such as dance and Dr. Seuss. I feel very lucky to have had her join our kindergarten family and to have developed a co-teacher role with her,” Blackman said.
“In my classes they discussed realistic things that might happen and throughout student teaching you saw those things coming to life. Instead of just following the the book you have to take what you have seen the cooperating teacher do and what you have read and mix it all together to create the best reaction for that situation,” True said.
“We know that mentoring student teachers elevates everyone’s practice and gives opportunities for reflection and growth,” Light said. “The students benefit from having strong and inspiring role models in the classroom and from having several teachers in the room. Typically, students love having student teachers and miss them when they are gone.”
True says that one of the biggest surprises of her student teaching was to learn how different adults approach classroom management differently, and how important it is for all of the adults at school to work together. She also learned quickly how to be flexible.
“I learned quickly that things don’t always go the way I want,” True said. “As an educator you need to have flexibility.”
True also believes that kindness towards students and colleagues, along with strong classroom management, are key to running a successful classroom.
“Blending theory with practice is an art,” Blackman said, “and can only happen when teachers try to apply what they have learned in courses…I feel it is the responsibility of all veteran teachers to help develop the next generation of educators…We can all learn from each other. The collaboration and colleagueship between teachers is powerful and the students benefit from this. Colleges need to form bonds with schools, and schools with colleges. Being a graduate of Johnson State College, I am eager to enter this role with the college. I still remember my own student teaching and draw upon those experiences.”