Teaching Teachers

CHS's education pathway aims to reduce teacher shortage

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Cartersville High School is doing its part to help alleviate the teacher shortage in Georgia. 

As part of its career, technical and agricultural education department, the school launched an education pathway called Teaching as a Profession in the fall to encourage students to consider a career in the classroom. 

The school had the pathway, led by Dr. Kim Foster, about 11 years ago but hasn’t offered it again since then until this academic year. 

I have wanted to bring it back for seven years or so to promote teaching as a profession,” CTAE Director/Assistant Administrator Marc Collier said. “Our two local school systems provide many job opportunities. CHS teachers and staff are devoted to our students' success and growth. We would like to train future educators to carry on our compassion for students and their successes, either in Cartersville or elsewhere.”

The pathway consists of three courses — Examining the Teaching Profession, the course all 28 pathway students are taking now; Contemporary Issues in Education; and an internship, Foster said, noting they take one course a year.

“So the kids in there that are in ninth and 10th grade, if they stay with it, they will actually be placed [as interns] in the elementary and primary schools as juniors and seniors,” she said. “That is their class, to actually do a practicum with teachers in the classroom.” 

We, hopefully, can offer real-life experiences for our level 2 and level 3 students by plugging them into classrooms at CPS, CES or CMS [Cartersville Middle School],” Collier said. “These opportunities to serve our younger students can have several effects: provide support for younger students, provide experience for the pathway students and provide younger students with role models that the younger students can relate to.”

Foster said the school was approached by Kennesaw State University “to sort of do like a pipeline” of students interested in majoring in education.

“There’s a teacher shortage, obviously, huge, so the idea is that if you take all three of these courses, you will matriculate a course at Kennesaw, and you’ll get a college credit,” she said. “My sister-in-law is taking early childhood education classes, and everything they’re doing is exactly what we’re doing in here. … So that’s the way the courses work, and it’s to encourage kids to teach and to hopefully come back to Cartersville or at least stay in Georgia because there’s a teacher shortage.”

Since this is the first year for the pathway, Foster said she has students from all four grades in the class.

“But I think as the program builds, you’ll see mostly ninth and 10th in the first course, 10th and 11th in the second course, 11th and 12th in the third course,” she said.

She and department officials, however, have a tricky situation to resolve with the 11th-graders in the class.

“We have a couple of juniors that have really loved this, and so we’re trying to figure out a way to get them to take the second course next year and the internship, to do both, because they’ll be seniors, especially the ones that want the college credit,” she said. “You can’t beat that. And the experience to work with kids will be awesome for them to really see if this is really what they want to do.”

There also is something a little unusual about this particular class. 

“It’s a very diverse group, and it’s got seven boys,” Foster said, calling the class “really fun.” “Any guest speakers I’ve had in here are always like, ‘You have boys in here?’ … And they sit right in the front, and they’re very eager. They want to learn.” 

In the first class, students learn about all the different educational theories that are out there, Foster said. “There’s about a bajillion,” she said. “Our textbook covered about 10. So what we did as a class was like an overview — ‘These are educational theories. This is how they might affect education.’”

To help them with their presentation and public speaking skills in a “safe place to learn,” Foster asks teachers to volunteer to let small groups of her students speak to their class for five to 10 minutes about an education-related topic.

Thursday, six groups of four or five students visited classrooms for a second time to do a short presentation “that was both presenting and interactive” on a developmental teaching theory in education, Foster said.

One group, made up of junior Andrew Lanham, sophomore Bill Archer and freshmen Joshua Alvarez and Carson Harris, chose Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory to present to graphic communications teacher Valerie Veiga’s class.  

While Andrew, Bill and Carson stood in front presenting the information, Joshua and a couple of students created distractions to make the setting more realistic.

The presenters attempted to make the class interactive by asking questions and rewarding those who answered with candy, but though they were begging their peers just to venture a guess, only a couple responded.

Veiga had to grade the students on their presentation — she gave them a 100 and told them they did “great.”  

“That was a realistic experience,” she told the quartet. “Your eye contact was good. You did a good job.”

The future educators were hoping for better results, but they weren’t surprised by the outcome.

“It’s not exactly what we were hoping for, but I guess it’s kind of realistic because we sit in the classrooms, and we have about the same reactions they do so it’s to be expected,” said Andrew, who wants to teach history on the high school and college levels. “But we feel like it’s what we expected. We thought it would be a lot better, though.”

“It could be a lot better if they were more interactive, but like [Andrew] said, it’s just like how we are in class,” added Joshua, who wants to return to CHS to teach history or physical education and coach the wrestling team.

Bill, who hopes to coach CHS’s cross country and track teams and maybe teach history or PE, wondered if the group “could’ve done some things different.”

“But for what we did, we thought maybe we could get some more responses,” he said. “But maybe there was something that we could’ve done that could’ve had the students more interactive.”

Foster was sure her students “did OK” with the presentation part of the assignment. 

“It’s the interacting part that’s very scary for them because they’re trying to get them to interact with the theory,” she said. 

Students were “petrified” the first time they had to do a presentation, but they’ve worked “really hard” on their presenting skills, Foster said.

“That scares them to death to talk in front of people,” she said. “I didn’t realize how scared they were. I’ve always taught seniors so these little ninth-graders can’t even get up and say their name.”

For the second presentation, Foster said they were “a little bit more confident,” even though they were “freaking out” when told someone from the newspaper might show up to hear their presentation.

“It’s good for them because if you want to be a teacher, you have to talk to all kinds of people all the time about all kinds of stuff you may or may not know so they need more of those real, tangible experiences, way out of their comfort zone — way, way out,” she said.

Collier said he thinks the progress made in this pathway so far has been “significant.”

Dr. Foster is just as excited as the students are,” he said, calling her a “great fit and role model” for the program. “I have spoken with several students, and they feel that they have benefited from public speaking, lesson-plan preparation and the teamwork involved with this class. Several of the students have told me that this pathway has reaffirmed their decisions to become educators. The students in this pathway epitomize the diversity of CHS and the high expectations that we have for all of our students. I hope that this pathway will continue to grow and that our future teachers take the love of education and the importance of relationship-building wherever they go on their journey in life.”