The UTC School of Education has partnered with the Hamilton County Department of Education to pair UTC students with accomplished teacher mentors as a part of a new student teacher pilot program.
“We’re able to come together through this pilot program to place our pre-k through 3rd grade teacher candidates with outstanding teachers for an extended placement. They will be able to learn from the very best teachers so that they can grow and become the very best they can be,” said Dr. Renee Murley, the new Director of the School of Education.
Teacher mentors were hand picked from nine diverse Hamilton County schools and strategically placed with UTC students. August 23 marked the official start to the pilot program, when teacher mentors, principals, and UTC students met for a reception in the University Center.
“Many of the teachers chosen were graduates of UTC, so this was something of a homecoming for them. That’s a good thing, because they will be able to talk specifically about their training as it relates to their experience at our University. It also shows that there are a lot of high quality, high performing graduates from our School of Education, and our current students can learn so much from them,” said Dr. Valerie Rutledge, Dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this program. As a UTC grad myself, I’m excited to work with a current student from UTC. I’m looking forward to bring them into my own classroom, to work with them and be that partner to help lead them through this process,” Bailey said.
UTC students were able to meet and talk with their new mentors as they prepared for their semester-long student teaching experience. Under the new program, students will stay in the same classroom for 14 weeks. This is a departure from the two seven week placements student teachers have previously done.
“The research shows that the more extended time a student has in a field placement for student teaching, the better qualified and more successful they are,” Murley said.
Rutledge explained, “Prior to this pilot program, students had two student placements of about seven weeks at each location. The challenge was that, by the time our students were just getting comfortable – getting to know the school, the students in the class, the teacher they were working with – it was time to move to a new placement.”
Throughout the semester, the longer placement will offer students more opportunities to co-teach and to take over the classrooms on their own. Students will be able to learn first hand from their seasoned mentors, in addition to a professor in residence provided by UTC. This provides focused support to ensure that our education majors will be successful.
“By the time students graduate, they will have extensive experience in the classroom, in a variety of different settings, with different populations in different communities. We want to provide a mixture of experiences while they are here so that they are fully prepared and confident that they can succeed. Though they may not end up working at the schools where they were placed, familiarity with the Hamilton County school system and the community is a great advantage. Not all of these students will stay and teach in Hamilton County, but our goal is to prepare them to that they are comfortable teaching in any classroom across the country,” Rutledge said.
The program was one of the first undertakings by Murley, who hopes to improve the quality of teacher preparation here at UTC while also strengthen University ties to the community.
“This is such a wonderful partnership between the School of Education and the Hamilton County Department of Education,” Murley said.
After this year, data from the pilot program will be examined to show where the program has succeeded and how it can be improved. Moving forward, the program will hopefully be able to keep student mentees and teacher mentors in contact even after the students graduate and enter their first classrooms.
“We also want to look into the possibility of creating a year long residency model. This would include things like being there from the start of the school year so our students can help with classroom setup and experience how that’s done. This year, UTC’s school year started a few weeks after theirs, so by the time our students arrived for their student teaching appointments, classrooms had already been set up and in session for a time. We want students to see behind the scenes to see what has to be done prior to the start of school, and all the other aspects that go into teaching,” Rutledge said. “The goal is to expand the program as much as possible. We hope to continue to develop this program in a way that benefits the UTC School of Education as well as Hamilton County.”