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Students Learn Early if Teaching is for Them

Teacher Cadets Get a Foot in Classroom Door

It’s clear within seconds after Taylor Fox takes over Angie Freeland’s second-grade class at Pine Island Elementary: This high school senior is a natural in the classroom.

She did have a good teacher; Taylor was in Freeland’s class back when she was a first-grader.

“Everybody scootch up closer to me,” Taylor says with a confidence that puts her pint-sized charges at ease. “I want to know, how many of you have a bedtime?”

A show of hands, a quick finger to the lips to those who are a bit too eager to share their answers, and rapt attention as she reads aloud the Mo Willems book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late” prepare the class for today’s lesson on what it is to have prior knowledge.

Senior Marshall Kilgore works with Pine Island fifth-grader Matthew Swart on a poetry assignment
Senior Marshall Kilgore works with Pine Island fifth-grader Matthew Swart on a poetry assignment

Taylor is one of 20 high school students who are spending the year as Teacher Cadets. The year-long pilot course aims to recruit K-12 teachers while they are still juniors and seniors in high school.

“That’s where you can target your best and brightest and give them a foot in the door before they graduate,” said Cheryl Bischer, who leads the Teacher Cadets. “If they decide to be teachers, they have an advantage having already been in the classroom. If they decide not to be, that’s a success too, in that they’ve decided that before they get to college.”

Bischer, who also teaches health, culinary arts and child development at the high school, brought the program to Comstock Park from Brighton, where two of her former students there already have been hired as teachers in that district.

Teacher Cadets spend the first semester observing classrooms in all district buildings to get a feel for which grade level they would most like to try their hand at teaching. They also study learning styles, create lesson plans and work on their presentation skills.

The second semester, students spend one hour three days a week in the classroom.

Senior Taylor Fox asks second-grader Darian Williams about his prior knowledge of snow

‘Teaching Feels Perfect to Me’

Senior Marshall Kilgore chose to work with Pine Island fifth-graders because, he said, “They are young enough that they are all still sponges, just absorbing knowledge, but old enough that you don’t have to remind them to wipe their noses.”

Working with young people runs in Marshall’s family. His mother teaches criminal justice at Grand Rapids Community College and is a probation officer. Both his parents have social-work backgrounds.

“My No. 1 belief is that knowledge fights ignorance,” Marshall said. “What better way to help shape who children will become? Teaching is a pillar of social work, and helping children is what I want to do.”

He plans to attend Western Michigan University and major in elementary education.

“I’ve always loved being a leader and helping my peers,” Marshall said. “Teaching feels perfect to me, and I feel so comfortable in Teacher Cadets.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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