Avery Wyatt’s journey to Tennessee’s Governor’s School for Prospective Teachers at UTC began many years ago when her “students” were really her stuffed animals.

“I’ve always known I wanted to become a teacher. I started playing school when I was very young. I used my mom’s bedside table as my podium to teach ‘lessons,’” Wyatt, a rising senior at Christian Academy Knoxville, said.

Now Wyatt has the chance to teach students as part of the Governor’s School, a five-week summer program for rising eleventh and twelfth grade students funded by the Tennessee State Department of Education. During the fourth week, the students create lesson plans in preparation to teach a class of students in Youth University at UTC, a summer enrichment program for young children.

According to Dr. Valerie Rutledge, Director of the UTC Teacher Preparation Academy, the purpose of the Governor’s School is two-fold.

“The program exposes students both to the education profession and to a college setting. Students leave the program much more aware of what it takes to reach their goal of becoming a teacher and to graduate with an education degree,” she said.

The participating students are enrolled in two education courses at UTC. The classes provide an overview of the myths and realities of the profession; an examination of effective teaching strategies, resources, and computer and other technological applications; observations and critiques of teaching performances; analyses of exemplary teaching; an introspective view of learning and teaching styles.

Students are selected at attend the program from a pool of applicants and rated according to high school grade point averages, standardized test scores, recommendations from guidance counselors and teachers, as well as resumes and statements regarding perceptions of their potential as professional educators.

April Sanford, Field Placement Coordinator and Adjunct Professor of the UTC Teacher Preparation Academy, teaches the students in the Foundations of Education in America class.

“This class gives students an overview of the history of education in the United States and where it’s going. We talk about a lot of topics that students might find taboo and haven’t been discussed before in a high school setting, like current laws in the education and what effective teaching is. The class gives them a glimpse of what teaching is like. It gives them an early start to being a better educator,” she said.

In addition to receiving college credit, the students also live in campus residence halls, eat at the dining facilities, and study at the Lupton Library.

To succeed in Governor’s School, a student has to be willing to try something new, said Dr. Beth Crawford, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Academic Director of this year’s Governor’s School.

“Governor’s School is an immersion into college life.  They live with roommates and take classes every day. It’s hard for some of them to be away from home for so long, but they make connections to the profession, each other, and the University that they couldn’t get with just a campus visitation,” she said.

For Michael Truelove, a rising senior at Columbia High School in Columbia, Tennessee, the program has helped him solidify his decision to become a teacher.

“It’s been a very positive experience. The classes have been eye-opening and I’m enjoying the hands-on atmosphere. The camaraderie between all of us has been great. It’s helped people be who they want to be instead of what they think they’re expected to be,” he said.

Unlike some others, Truelove wasn’t sure he wanted to teach until recently.

“I’ve always wanted to work with people, but it wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I’ve been blessed with great teachers who cared about me as a person, not just how well I do on a test.  They’ve driven me to become a teacher. I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

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