Three undergraduate students have been given an opportunity to perfect their teaching skills before they become official student teachers and later pursue their careers.
Bridging the Gap is a campus organization that collaborates with Paschal High School to help education majors build connections and gain real-world experience, Loren Spice, assistant professor of mathematics, said.
“Often, these are rigidly stratified communities and you should not have faculty up here, dictating to [undergraduate] students down below,” he said. “Then they become teachers and nobody ever revisits these connections.”
Spice and Sarah Quebec Fuentes, assistant professor of mathematics education, have tried to create a more laid-back and flexible form of student teaching. Fuentes said Bridging the Gap does not have any of the structural requirements that are common in more traditional student teaching programs.
“They really feel like it’s a nice stepping stone that eases them into student teaching,” she said.
Senior middle school education major Paige Rodriguez said she appreciates being able to have hands-on experience in the classroom. The students work on lesson plans and grading as well as doing some teaching.
“Basically it’s like we’re student teaching before we student teach,” she said. “I’ve also learned a lot of experiences with the students, learning how to react to certain situations that occur in the classroom.”
Although Rodriguez has not taught an actual lesson yet, senior mathematics major Doug McDougal said for him, teaching and interacting with the students has been one of the most exciting tasks.
“[Students are] really receptive in having another instructor in the course,” he said. “And having someone else to walk around the room and help them understand the topics, they’ve shown nothing but respect for me.”
Throughout the semester-long program, participants are required to be present on the high school campus for at least five hours a week, Fuentes said.
For Rodriguez and McDougal, Bridging the Gap is a helpful opportunity that will guide them in their future.
“Teaching has always been the dream,” McDougal said. “And this has already made me more confident, and has reasserted my beliefs that I want to be a teacher.”