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The Teaching as a Profession and Education Practicum classes both posed as they attend Teacher’s Day at SIUE. from left to right, front row: Natibida Rubalcava-Carreno, Jaylene Ortiz, Hannah Heidrich, Haley Fowler, Jazmine Howard, Kennedy Staggs; back row: Jake White (Edwardsville), Ben Dobbs, Alexis Garcia-Tavera, Jazmyn Rivera, Sophia Ditter and Kirra Reed (Edwardsville) everyone else is from CHS. Photo courtesy of CUSD 10
By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The first group of future teachers from Collinsville Area Vocational Center’s Education Practicum course, which teaches Kahoks to teach Kahoks, started student teaching on the elementary level recently at Collinsville Community Unit School District 10.
Collinsville High School seniors Jazmyn Rivera, Kennedy Staggs, Sophia Ditter and Jazmine Howard are the first students to take advantage of the practicum course at CAVC. They started their teaching rotation at Twin Echo Elementary.
All four Kahok seniors plan to attend Southwestern Illinois College after graduation and from there to transfer to a four-year university.
Jazmine Howard said she became inspired to become a teacher by watching how her past teachers interacted and helped their students adapt and learn new things. She said that she would have her mother pick up paper and pens so could pretend to teach a class of students.
“I would set up shoes to make it seem like students were in class. I would literally teach a real lesson,” Howard said. I really enjoy teaching.”
Howard said that CAVC has helped her hone and enhance the knowledge that she has gained. She said the center has helped her learn how to develop knowledge, skill and attitudes of young minds.
Kennedy Staggs said she would enjoy teaching secondary English because it is a subject that she excels in. She said as a kid that she wanted to be a nurse or veterinarian and still did not have a clear career path until she started the Intro to Early Childhood Education class.
Staggs said she realized that as she progressed through the class that she actually likes to teach. She said she would rather teach grades nine through 12. She said the first day on the other side of the teacher’s desk was scary, but she was excited along with the kids for the opportunity.
Staggs said that a teacher that has inspired her the most is Ms Perry, intro to early childhood education teacher. She said that Perry pushed her in the classroom to become the best version of herself.
Jazmyn Rivera has always wanted to teach, but said she is still deciding between teacher or social worker. She said she wants to be in a position to impact kids in a positive way.
“I want to be that person that helps students reach their full potential,” Rivera said.
According to Rivera, the program has helped her on her journey of wanting to become an educator by giving her the experience necessary. She said she values that classroom experience that has given her a new appreciation of what teachers have to deal with on a daily basis.
“At first I was scared about being on the other side of the teacher’s desk,” Rivera said. “I like seeing the kids happy and ready to learn.”
Sophia Ditter said that she has wanted to be a kindergarten teacher since the day she learned to speak. She said that she was a freshman in high school when she realized that becoming an educator is the career for her. She also has an interest in special education as well.
“I begged my counselor to let me take the childhood classes that the vocational center offered,” Ditter said. “Once I got into those classes I definitely realized that being a teacher is more than what I thought it would be.”
Ditter said the hard work that comes with teaching along with it being overwhelming at times, won’t deter her dream of becoming a teacher.
“The little kids are my motivation to become a teacher,” Ditter said. “I love kids and because of that I want to work with them for the rest of my life.”
The dual credit course worth 2.5 credit hours is one of three classes offered to inspire current CUSD 10 high school students to seek careers as educators. Besides education practicum, which allows students to receive workplace experience in fields related to education, students also attend Early Childhood and Teaching as a Profession classes These classes are also dual credit and are also worth 2.5 credit hours.
Shawn Geppert, early childhood education instructor for CAVC said the education practicum is a new course offered in 2022-23, to students at the vocational center. She said the class is part of the Kahoks Teaching Kahoks initiative, as well.
According to Geppert, the CUSD 10 student teachers will get plenty of hands-on experience as they work with elementary, intermediate and the middle school before completing the course in May.
“They are assigned to a classroom teacher assisting with various experiences such as grading, one-on-one assistance with students struggling in a subject area, creating bulletin boards, etc.,” Geppert said.
Geppert said she has been at CAVC her whole teaching career – since 1997 – and has also taught Child Development at CHS. She has a Masters Degree in Special Education.
Prior to becoming a teacher for CUSD 10, Geppert worked at a few daycare/ preschool centers. She said that she worked with foster children in a social services facility.
CUSD 10 established its “Grow Your Own” Future Teacher Program in 2021 to inspire current high school students to become educators in the district.
A district-wide Kahok Diversity and Equity Committee was introduced in 2019, and their initial job was to discuss ways to hire more underrepresented teachers. That conversation led to the district’s concluded effort to “grow” teachers from within.
Brad Skertich, CUSD 10 superintendent said their goal is to encourage, recruit and foster future Kahoks to not only teach, but to return to Collinsville to work and raise their families.
The Kahoks Teaching Kahoks program includes specialized classes available to students in grades nine through 12, CHS seniors who will be education majors. Plans are in the works to provide additional funds for loan repayment to students who become a teacher in the district once getting certified as an educator, per the release.
The Kahoks Teaching Kahoks Future Teachers Scholarship is open to CHS seniors. After being selected, scholarship recipients will be awarded $1,000 per year to pay for college expenses for four years.
“As a former educator myself, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that can be made in the lives of people who look like them and come from similar backgrounds,” Skertich said.