HOPE – The students in Terri Hoglund’s Orientation to Teaching class at Hope High School work on the question before them to define their philosophy of teaching; it’s a question that provokes quiet reflection.
In the spring, these students will put that philosophy into action in a 45-hour practicum that began with observation in the fall semester. Fifteen hours of observation are spent at the kindergarten through eighth grade level, while another thirty hours are spent in a specific classroom at the grade level each student intends to teach.
“They have to learn all of the students’ names and work with the teacher,” Hoglund said. “And, they have to teach one class lesson.”
Pre-requisite course work includes classes in Family and Consumer Science and Child Development. Currently, there are nine students enrolled in Hoglund’s Orientation to Teaching class who will become “teacher cadets.”
“They love children; that’s the reason they say they want to teach,” Hoglund explains. “I believe this program is vital to our profession. I can’t tell you the number of students who have been in this program and said they never thought they would want to teach, but because of the experience they had in Orientation Teaching decided they would love it.”
Hoglund said the program in Hope has produced teachers now educating children in Texarkana, Little Rock, Arkadelphia and in Hope.
The number of students involved is remarkable at the high school level when enrollment in first-time educator preparation licensure programs statewide has decreased by 58 percent, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.
The ADE has implemented multiple programs to recover the teacher pool in Arkansas, including the Teacher Cadet program, initiated in 2014-2015, that focused on the high school level for potential teachers.
“It’s a given that we are at a crossroads with our teacher workforce,” Jeff Dyer, ADE teacher recruitment and retention advisor, notes. “With the Arkansas Teacher Cadets Program, we are providing opportunities for students to learn more about the teaching profession and the positive experiences they can have as teachers.”
That resonates with the students in Hoglund’s class.
“I guess that was part of the fact that I always wanted to be a teacher,” junior Karina Hernandez said of her “playing school” as a child.
Hernandez admits that she once relished the idea of pressing her younger brother into being a “student” in her class of stuffed animal toys.
Teaching has been the only field of study she has ever considered. Hernandez plans to attend either Henderson State University in Arkadelphia or Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia to obtain her teaching degree.
She wants to teach second grade students because they are open to learning.
That is Khaliyl Box’s point, as well.
“I like kids,” the senior, who plans to teach kindergarten after graduation from SAU, notes.
He admits that becoming a Teacher Cadet wasn’t his plan originally.
“My mom wanted me to try it,” Box said.
He said counselors at HHS recommended that he consider the program. The class is open to junior and senior students who must have an overall grade point average of 3.0 to enroll.
Senior LaTavia Lard said tutoring other students gave her the incentive to consider the program. Lard intends to study at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock or Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She wants to teach fourth grade students.
“You can make a bigger impact at that age,” said Lard, who originally became interested in the program as a sophomore.
Beatriz Nava intends to take her love of math beyond the public school level; and, the Teacher Cadet program will help her do that as part of the concurrent credit curriculum HHS offers through the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana.
Nava, a junior, is undecided where she wants to complete her teaching degree, but she knows she wants to teach math at an advanced level.
“I’ve always liked math, and my ultimate goal is to become a college professor,” she said.
The Teacher Cadet program is not strictly limited to students who intend to purse teaching because the Orientation to Teaching course is part of the concurrent credit curriculum; it is transferable credit to a four-year college in Arkansas. That has helped the program across Arkansas grow, according to the ADE.
In 2015-2016, eight schools statewide participated with 115 students becoming Teacher Cadets, compared with 38 schools involved in the program this year, and more than 450 students statewide enrolled, according to ADE figures.
“I felt like I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” junior Jocelyne Mejia said. “I do want to keep my options open, but this gives me an idea of what it is like.”
So, Mejia, who has yet to decide where she will attend college, enrolled in the Orientation to Teach class as an elective choice.
“I know that I want to work with kids,” she said.