Course offers 'cadet teachers' classroom experience
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – The little girl in Kristi Johnson’s third grade class at Clinton Primary School is the first to hold up a hand almost as soon as the “cadet teacher” enters the classroom; and, Ms. Johnson smiles.

“They seem to be so attentive to her,” Johnson remarks. “They all just love her.”

The “cadet teacher,” Justice Lawson, is a Hope High School junior in her daily single-class practicum at CPS as part of the Orientation to Teaching program at HHS.

“It’s what I want to be,” Lawson says of teaching as a career.

She intends to complete the course, which is part of the concurrent credit curriculum at HHS in conjunction with the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana. Lawson intends to major in social work in college with an emphasis in education.

She has completed her initial semester of classroom course work under HHS business teacher Terri Hoglund; and, Lawson will complete her five week single-class practicum, along with a three-day full-day practicum in Johnson’s classroom this semester.

“They are required to do 30 hours of observation,” Hoglund explained. “They do five hours at each level; and, we do those hours in the fall.”

Spring semester work in the one-year junior and senior level class is devoted to practicum work, she said.

“They chose a grade level they are interested in teaching,” Hoglund said. “While they are doing that, they are required to teach a class lesson.”

Pre-requisite work includes courses in Family and Consumer Science and Child Development, she said.

Hoglund said the Orientation to Teaching program currently has 10 students enrolled, but it is not strictly limited to students who intend to pursue teaching. She said some students take the course work as concurrent credit electives, since it is transferable credit to four-year colleges in Arkansas.

Hoglund said the classroom coursework required before a student takes on a practicum covers all of the basics in classroom management, lesson planning, and the theory of education.

“We cover a lot before they get there,” she said.

The obvious nature of that preparation is evident in Lawson’s easy manner in Johnson’s classroom. She immediately recognizes which students need help, and which students simply want to chat; and, she winnows out the difference quickly.

“It’s basically being with the kids and watching them work,” Lawson noted.

Lawson chose Johnson’s class for a reason, which shows something of the history of the program itself.

“Terri Hoglund taught me when I was in high school, and I taught Justice in the third grade,” Johnson said. “It’s been a joy having her.”

She is effusive in her praise for Lawson and the program.

“She is such a hard worker and I am truly enjoying her in my class,” Johnson said. “She just comes right in and gets started with helping the students with whatever task they may need help with; or just simply checking their work, or making sure they stay on task, and for this I am truly thankful.”

The program has roots in Hope, as at least five current Hope Public Schools teachers started their careers as students in the Orientation to Teach program at HHS, Hoglund said.

“It’s a way to encourage students to go into education,” she said.

Hoglund said the program stemmed from a teacher shortage in Arkansas, and is funded, in part, through a grant from the Arkansas Department of Career Education.