ISSUED: 12 October 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Dana Costa
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Four Shepherd University education majors are getting a comprehensive inside look at being a classroom teacher thanks to an $8,914 grant from the West Virginia Department of Education. These four students are spending an entire school year working alongside classroom teachers instead of doing the typical one-semester student teaching assignment, now called a residency.
“They’re working in a classroom with a licensed teacher learning about the daily life of a teacher and what teachers have to do every day,” said Dr. Dori Hargrove, interim director, School of Education. “They’re getting a great deal more experience learning how to run a classroom before they go out and have their own classroom after they graduate.”
Hargrove said the grant will help with the cost incurred in a yearlong residency such as covering stipends for cooperating teachers and helping with supervisory costs, professional development, and gathering and interpreting data.
“They’re learning how a teacher has to look at data and what decisions they have to make,” Hargrove said. “Especially after the pandemic, they’ll need to learn how to help bring students forward and get them caught up now that they’re all back in school face-to-face.”
Normally, students do one 14-week semester of student teaching, or residency, spending seven weeks in a primary grade level and seven weeks in an intermediate grade level.
“In a 14-week residency, students don’t start until the second or third week of school when the classroom is all set up,” Hargrove said. “The yearlong residency allows them to prepare for the students and help set up the classroom. The same is true at the end of the year where they experience more than the average student teacher by helping to take the classroom down and get records together for the next teacher when the student moves up a grade.”
Hargrove believes yearlong residencies will ultimately help schools that hire Shepherd graduates retain more teachers.
“They’ll be more confident and know better how to get started,” she said.
Brooke Dunn of Manassas, Virginia, who is currently doing her yearlong residency, said she hopes the experience will give her more confidence.
“I didn’t think seven weeks at one place and seven weeks at another would make me feel very confident and comfortable in what I was doing,” Dunn said. “I wanted to be a professional and to know how to set up a room and put in place the rules and policies at the beginning of the year. The same thing about tearing down, graduating students, and what happens if you have to keep a student back—all the little things that go into those.”
Dunn hopes to join the Peace Corps after she graduates and eventually wants to teach in second to fourth grade. So far, she’s enjoying the residency experience because she gets to do more co-teaching where she and her cooperating teacher plan and teach together.
Being able to gain more experience in the classroom is what prompted Andrea Mitchell of Shepherdstown to sign up for the yearlong residency.
“I was always wondering how you get these kids to listen to you, follow directions, come in immediately, and do what they’re supposed to do. I would ask teachers ‘how did you set that up?’” said Mitchell, whose dream is to teach grades three through five in Jefferson County Schools. “Teachers would say ‘it just takes time.’”
Being there to help set up the classroom has taught Mitchell that her expectations for how long it would take to organize a classroom were not realistic. She said participating in this program gives her a behind-the-scenes look at how things operate and will give her confidence to go into her first year of teaching with realistic expectations.
“I believe that being a part of the yearlong teaching residency will prepare me for the ups and downs of teaching,” said Mikayla Viands of Martinsburg. “Through my participation in the yearlong residency, I will learn and develop the skills necessary to be an effective educator.”
Viands said her goals include developing a positive classroom environment that is built around community and respect, cultivating relationships within the community, and remaining a lifelong learner.
“I was born and raised in Martinsburg,” Viands said. “Personally, I think being placed as a student teacher in the county where I grew up is very rewarding and gives me a chance to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”
Matthew Sneathen of Augusta hopes to land a teaching position after graduation at Slanesville Elementary School, which he attended.
“By participating in this fantastic yearlong teaching program, I know I am setting myself up for success when I have my own classroom next fall,” Sneathen said “I also plan to be the best educator that I can be for my students. I hope to make a lifelong impact on the students that come through my classroom.”
While the yearlong residency program in Berkeley County Schools is still in the pilot stage, Hargrove said by 2024 there will be a permanent yearlong residency program, with plans to branch out to other counties.
Audio of Hargrove, Dunn, and Mitchell is available here.
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