Tomer Adnegeko admits he used to think teaching at the elementary level would be way easier than middle and high school. But having spent three days a week this school year helping in a classroom that cycles 45 first-graders in just over an hour, “I now have a totally different perspective,” he said.
Tomer, a senior at the high school, is a teacher cadet this year. Having learned Spanish and English at the same time in kindergarten, the Israel native’s fluency made him a perfect choice for Breton Downs, said Spanish teacher Katie Vicente.
“He’s super helpful,” Vicente said, “and man oh man, does he connect with the kids.”
Case in point: Tomer is two steps outside during recess when a group of girls shouts “Tomer!” and a first-grader named Isaac scrambles up to claim the high-schooler’s identification tag.
“That’s like, a thing, to get to wear my name tag while I’m here,” Tomer says with a laugh. But he gets to feel cool sometimes too, he admits.
“It used to be, ‘What would elementary kids care what I have to say?’ But they look to me like I’m the person who has the answers.
“And it feels super legit to get to write in the grade book.”
Teacher cadets spend two days a week in class with Christine Aardema, adviser to the program, where they learn about the role of teachers and study topics in education. They also hear from district administrators, and examine classroom and instruction strategies.
Since about three weeks into the school year, the current class of 25 seniors fan out three days a week to the district’s three elementary and middle schools. They are paired with a teacher and spend time leading class activities, preparing lesson plans, making copies and helping to prepare lesson materials.
“It’s really cool to see the cadets take ownership of their students, and to see how they grow throughout the year,” Ardema says.
Aardema, who is in her second year leading cadets, is herself a former EGR teacher cadet. The 2009 graduate said she knows of at least two other current EGR teachers who were cadets.
Her mother, Jan, has been a paraprofessional at the district since Aardema was in fourth grade, and her father is an attorney. Teaching and law were the only two choices she considered for her own career path, she said, and teaching won out “because of the kids. And I love that every day is different.”
Back when she was a cadet, most went on to become teachers, Aardema said.
“I think now some of them take it because they want to go into working with children somehow, from school psychologist to pediatrician. Or they just really enjoy being with kids.”