Mohonasen High School junior Jessica Royer couldn’t believe how much paperwork is involved in being a teacher.
“I didn’t know they made all those copies. They make a lot of copies,” she said.
At least for the moment, the 16-year-old Royer is helping Pinewood Intermediate School fourth-grade teacher Michelle Howard make those copies of readings and worksheets. She’s getting a first-hand look at teaching as part of the district’s Childhood Education Career Exploration internship program.
Students help out in elementary school classes from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every other day and then they are bused back to the high school.
Howard said the older students assist with tasks such as checking homework and working with students who need extra help.
“If somebody is absent, it’s a great opportunity for them to catch up,” she said.
Royer said she got interested in teaching through her experience as a Pop Warner cheerleader. She participated the program since she was very young and when she got older, she stayed on as a coach. “I love working with kids,” she said.
She wants to teach fourth grade in particular.
“They’re the perfect age. They’re not miserable, [giving] an attitude,” she said.
Jeane Vause, coordinator for the program, said she tries to match up the students to the age of children they want to teach. Students get to see all aspects of teaching, according to Vause. That way, if they don’t think the career is for them, they discover it now before entering college, she said. “They really know that this is it and this what they want to do,” she said.
To participate in the program, students must fill out an application and get references from teachers and coaches and be interviewed.
“Because it’s a selective process, you’re getting the cream of the crop,” Vause said.
Students dress nicely, complete with an identification tag hanging from a lanyard around their neck. They take the job seriously.
“They know it’s a privilege and they can be removed if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” Vause said.
Those who are chosen for the program, which has been around since 1988, are assigned a teacher who mentors them for half of the year. For the second half of the year, they switch to a different teacher. The purpose is to expose the students to the various grade levels, according to Vause. Sometimes teachers get reassigned and go from teaching fourth grade one year to kindergarten the next. “You never know where you’re going to be put,” she said. “You could be put anywhere. You don’t get to pick.”
Students are also required to write essays concerning education by finding journal articles about educational trends and summarizing them for their fellow students.
Students can earn up to one credit for this internship. They also have the opportunity to take a childhood development course through the University in the High School Program, which could possibly earn them college credit.
This year, 22 students are participating in the internship program, according to Vause. They have had more in previous years but budget cuts reduced the number of sections of the class from two to one.
The young students seem to like having Royer in the classroom.
“If kids have trouble with stuff, they can ask her for help,” said 9-year-old Joshua Shadick.
The next generation of interns may have been sitting in that classroom. Nine-year-old Isabella Vanderwarker said she also wants to become a teacher.
“I like to help kids a lot and when you’re a teacher, you learn stuff too,” she said.