The Teacher Cadet program gives high school students an opportunity to explore a career in education and allows the district to form a pool of future teacher candidates.
By Megan Boldt | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
NOTE: This story was picked up by the AP and EdWeek Online as Program helps students consider a teaching career 5 April
As part of the Teacher Cadet program, East Ridge High School junior Christine Lash, second from left, helps four-year-old preschooler Ian Wollschlager, second from right, build a Lego bridge at the school in Woodbury on Thursday, March 18, 2010. The program lets students see what it’s like to work in education. (Pioneer Press: Richard Marshall)
25 March 2010 -- Morgan Davis wants to be a math teacher someday.
So the 17-year-old senior at Woodbury High School decided Teacher Cadet, a course that lets students see what it's like to work in education, was the perfect fit for her.
"This class seemed like a good opportunity to see how this career works," she said.
That's exactly what South Washington County schools planned. The district started the program this year at Woodbury and East Ridge high schools with hopes of creating its own pool of highly qualified, diverse teacher candidates. Students with high grade-point averages can apply for one of just 15 spots at each school for the yearlong course.
Woodbury High teacher Regina Seabrook said high school is a critical time for teenagers to get exposure to different fields, to test the waters without making a commitment.
"It's a course for kids to explore teaching," Seabrook said. "Even if they don't become a teacher, they're going to get some wonderful skills they can use as a parent or if they get a summer job working with kids."
Seabrook said she starts the course with a self-awareness and reflection unit so students can get to know who they are and what attributes they can bring to the class. Next come three themes: the learner, the classroom and the profession.
Teens learn how children have different learning styles and needs. Some of the lessons include learning about special education, English-language learners and multicultural education.
For Jacqelyn Doyle, learning about the social and emotional development of children and how it affects learning really surprised her.
"I'm kind of enjoying that we're learning what the psychology is behind teaching," the 18-year-old senior said.
"You need to know your kids first before you teach them," Seabrook agreed.
"You have to know yourself first, as well," chimed in Sarah Larson. The 17-year-old senior said she always wanted to be a teacher because so many of her family members are in education.
Michelle Young, 16, said she likes creating lesson plans and other hands-on experiences. Students get exposure to classrooms from prekindergarten to high school.
Last week, the Teacher Cadet students from Woodbury and East Ridge got together for some firsthand learning in childhood development. As they played blocks and kitchen with preschoolers, the students observed how the children played and interacted with others.
Teacher Cadet is a program that got its start at four South Carolina high schools in 1985. It is now taught nationwide, although South Washington County's program could be the first in Minnesota.
Superintendent Mark Porter heard about the program a few years ago when he was the district's human resources director. At the time, about 2 percent of South Washington County's teachers were minorities, and he was trying to recruit more.
It wasn't working. Porter was at job fairs competing with school districts from across the country, many with much more diverse student populations.
"It was really frustrating," Porter said. "It was an effort that wasn't yielding the results we were looking for. We decided it might be more effective to grow our own candidates."
Teacher Cadet is open to all students, but its organizers hope to attract minority students.
Porter said he hopes that if the program captures the interest of just a few students, they will come back after they graduate from college and want to teach in their home district. South Washington County usually hires one or two of its own graduates each year.
For Doyle, the program is sparking an interest.
"I think this class really inspires us to be the kind of teachers who really make a difference," she said.