By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Indiana University Kokomo has made it a priority to get its education majors into local classrooms early and often.
Education major Ashley Spraker worked in an elementary school classroom her very first semester in the program. She said that experience let her know she had made the right career choice and gave her experience working with kids right away.
Tara Kingsley, assistant professor of education, said IU Kokomo’s future teachers will have at least 200 hours in classrooms before student teaching.
“It’s one of the unique aspects of our school of education,” she said. “We place our students in the field, and we place them in the field a lot. They learn to be outstanding teachers by teaching. Our program allows our students to experience the profession before they become teachers.”
Kingsley teaches her reading methods class at Pettit Park Elementary School, a one-to-one technology school in the Kokomo-Center School district.
Her class meets in the art room to discuss techniques of teaching reading. Then, students immediately put what they’ve learned into practice, working with children in the elementary school classrooms. They end the day with Kingsley, sharing their experiences and talking about what went well and what they might need to study more.
Other school of education classes partner with Kokomo’s Elwood Haynes and Sycamore elementary schools.
Kingsley said the classroom experience helps the students grow as teachers.
Teachers learn by doing, she said.
A technique can look good on paper, but until you take that plan and implement it with students, it’s not real, she said.
“They are able to try their ideas in a risk-free environment, so it’s authentic,” Kingsley said. “I’m able to serve as a mentor to them. I watch them in the classrooms and get feedback from their host teachers, which I can use to improve their teaching. It’s great to see the progress they make in skills and confidence through the year.”
Allyson Jewell, a junior, said in addition to learning in her own class, she’s benefited from working with the Pettit Park teachers. She said the staff there keep the college students up to date on the newest teaching strategies.
Junior Tyler Keck recently helped fifth-graders improve their reading fluency using strategies he learned in his class.
“Having our class at the school helps us learn the book strategies, and then give them a real world context,” he said. “It’s a good balance of scholarship and the real world. Reading about teaching students is totally different from actually teaching them, and this gives us valuable experience.”
The school and children also benefit from their efforts.
Pettit Park teacher Paul Dorisse, an IU Kokomo graduate, appreciates the extra assistance in his classroom and said his students look forward to their weekly visits.
“They get so excited every week, and they all want one of the IU Kokomo students to work with them,” he said. “I think we all benefit. I can help them learn some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of teaching, and they give me additional people who can work with my students. There is so much [that] sitting in a college classroom can’t teach you. You have to get out in a school, and get your feet wet.”
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