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Academy gives high-schoolers classroom teaching experience 

If the class fits, teach it

Leer en Español, traducido por El Vocero Hispano

Godwin Heights — It was pretty obvious who second-grader Julizza Calderon wanted to be her partner in the math game. 

As soon as teacher Nishel Timm gave the signal to select partners, Julizza made a beeline to where Godwin Heights junior Elisa Aguilar-Orozco sat.

“I wanted her to be my partner because she is one of the best teachers,” Julizza told a visitor. 

Elisa and Godwin senior Arrianna Heeter are the first cadets from the Kent Career Tech Center’s Teacher Academy to be working within the district. The academy, which started in 2021, introduces high-school students to the field of education. 

This year, there are about 125 juniors and seniors participating in the academy. Students who complete the first year of the program earn three college credits from Grand Valley State University, instructor Laura Robinson said. Through a partnership with the Michigan Education Corps, second-year students are partnered with a mentor teacher and provide tutoring support in reading, for which the student receives a stipend. 

“I like to connect to people and I am always doing that, so I know I want a career that would let me continue to do that,” Arrianna said. “I have looked at such careers as sociology, and it came down to whether I wanted to impact a person mentally or work with people. This provided me the opportunity to see if I wanted to work with students.”

Elisa said she too enjoys working with children, and has considered a career in social work. She thought the Teacher Academy would help her  decide on a career.

Getting first-hand experience in the world of teaching before heading off to college is something third-grade teacher Sarah David could appreciate.

“I feel this is just an amazing opportunity, and one that I wished I had had,” said David. “I have friends who have gone into the teaching field and discovered that it was not for them. By having this type of opportunity in high school, it gives students a chance to explore the teaching career, and I feel it is important for students to have the opportunity to figure out what they might like to do.”

‘It really is a valuable kind of idea to have a program like this where you can get hands-on experience, can work in a school and discover if this is something you want to do or don’t want to do.’

— junior Elisa Aguilar-Orozco

Someone To Look Up To

During the school year, students spend the first semester learning about teaching techniques, terminology such as individual education plan and English learner, icebreaker lessons and classroom activities. Second semester, students spend three days a week working in an actual classroom.

Both Elisa and Arrianna elected to have their teaching assignments in their home district. 

“I have been a part of Godwin since preschool,” Elisa said. “I know a lot of the staff members, and I knew that they would be very welcoming to me when I came in.”

West Godwin Principal Mary Lang and North Godwin Principal Steve Minard reached out to their staff about their interest in mentoring the students. Both Timm and David have had college teaching interns and volunteered to host. 

“Having a high-school student gives your students an opportunity to connect with them,” Timm said. “It gives them someone to look up to and something to dream about for their own future. You know, ‘Maybe I can come back and do something just like this.’”

Getting into the Classroom

Elisa and Arrianna started working in classrooms in January. Elisa is at West Godwin with Timm and Arrianna is at North Godwin with David. In their respective classrooms, both have worked with small groups and one-on-one with the younger students, helping with reading and math. 

As the semester progresses, the students will have more teaching opportunities and lead classroom activities. David said Arrianna was already planning an icebreaker game focused on multiplication, as that is what David’s class is studying. 

“It has been a cool experience,” Arrianna said, adding there is a lot more to teaching than she realized. “I like being able to interact with the students and learn their strengths and weaknesses, along with helping them become the best versions of themselves.”

Arriana said she has learned from David how to keep the students on track, make sure their work is done and help them get along with one another. The program also has taught her how to be professional in how she dresses and speaks, she said.

Junior Elisa Aguilar-Orozco works with a small group in Nishel Timm’s second-grade class

As for Elisa, “I’ve learned how to get students’ attention and to keep them engaged. (Timm) understands the importance of making connections with her students, and she shows them how much she cares about them.”

Elisa said her experience with Teacher Academy this year has encouraged her to sign up again next year. 

“It really is a valuable kind of idea to have a program like this where you can get hands-on experience, can work in a school and discover if this is something you want to do or don’t want to do,” she said. 

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
Filling the need for teachers within their own building
Growing the next generation of educators

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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