- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

Eighteen-year-old Alex Leap knows how important classroom management and a well-drafted lesson plan are to a good teacher.

Mr. Leap, a senior at Park View High School in Sterling, Va., is preparing a lesson plan on the role of the Supreme Court for an eighth-grade civics class he is teaching this week. He plans to include a lecture, game and quiz in the 90-minute class at Sterling Middle School.

“It’s a lot of work, definitely,” says Mr. Leap, who wants to be a high school government teacher and eventually a high school principal. “That’s a true test for all teachers: whether they can get the amount of information [across] in the amount of time they have.”

Mr. Leap is helping teach students through Teachers for Tomorrow, a yearlong one-credit high school course modeled on the Teacher Cadet curriculum. The curriculum, developed in 1985 in South Carolina and taught at the college level, gives juniors and seniors aspiring to be teachers an opportunity to learn about the profession while gaining practical experience in the classroom.

Students are required to have a 2.7 grade-point average to participate in Teacher Cadets, but some programs in the area require a 3.0 GPA while giving students an opportunity to earn three to four college credits.

“We hope that every student who goes through the program will become a teacher” but realize not all of them will, says Sharron K. Glasscock, program specialist of family and consumer science at the Virginia Department of Education.

Loudoun County piloted the Teachers for Tomorrow program during the 2002-03 school year, making it the first school district in Northern Virginia to do so. Alexandria, Fairfax County and Prince William County have since implemented the program; Arlington’s program is slated to start this fall.

“It gives students a real understanding of what it’s like to be a teacher,” says Shirley Bazdar, director of career, technical and adult education at Loudoun County Public Schools.

The Teacher Cadet curriculum focuses on the learning process of students and the profession of teaching.

In Loudoun County, where the program is offered at five high schools, Teacher Cadet students study learning styles, types of intelligence and child development through their reading assignments, lectures, projects and research papers. They learn about classroom management and varying teaching styles and how to write lesson plans and assess student progress. They also learn about how schools are organized and governed.

“By the time they are finished with my course, they have had such an introduction to this career, they know whether or not it’s the career for them,” says Pamela Smith, family and consumer science teacher and Teacher Cadet instructor at Park View High School.

After taking Mrs. Smith’s course, Deana Johnston, now a sophomore at Radford University in Radford, Va., decided to major in elementary education to prepare for teaching third grade.

“The big part of Teacher Cadet is you get to work with all different ages,” the 19-year-old says.

Ms. Johnston and other Teacher Cadets in Loudoun County, required to be in their senior year, participate in field experiences by working with and observing mentor teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 during 10 to 12 school visits. They work alongside their mentor teachers, help grade papers, tutor students, and prepare and teach lesson plans.

Ms. Johnston, like most teachers, likes seeing the moment when students understand what she is teaching them.

“There is never a dull moment. They always keep you on your toes,” she says.

Students in other programs engage in similar field experiences.

“They realize this is a lot of work. They understand that a lot of planning, creativity and hard work goes into lesson plans,” says Sandra Jones, coordinator of family and consumer science at Fairfax County Public Schools.

Fairfax County implemented Teachers for Tomorrow in fall 2003 and offers it at five high schools. Arlington Public Schools plans to offer the program this fall at Washington-Lee High School.

The students get teaching experience but are not left alone in the classroom, says Jennifer Zimmerman, family and consumer science teacher at Washington-Lee.

“In the second semester, they’re still under the direction of me and the cooperative teacher at the school,” Mrs. Zimmerman says. “It’s not like they’re taking over. The teacher would never leave the room with just the teacher cadet and her or his students.”

In Alexandria, Teachers for Tomorrow was implemented in the fall at T.C. Williams High School.

“It provides a reality base of why they’re going to school,” says Mat Pasquale, director of career, technical and adult education for Alexandria City Public Schools. “They actually learn things in class and apply them on the job.”

The teachers, too, benefit from the program, says Emily O’Connor, teacher and chairwoman of the family and consumer science department at Gar-Field Senior High School in Prince William County. The school system implemented the program in fall 2003 and offers it at three high schools.

“It re-energizes us,” Ms. O’Connor says. “We see students who are motivated, who are excited about learning. It reinforces our love of learning.”

One of the goals of Teachers for Tomorrow is “growing our own teachers,” Mrs. Smith says.

“The kids who will graduate in the field of education in the state of Virginia this year are less than what Loudoun County and Fairfax County need to hire,” she says.

In Montgomery County, the Maryland Academy for Teacher Education, based on the Teacher Cadet curriculum, will be offered this fall at 10 high schools. It will consist of four one-credit courses offered for students in grades 10 through 12, including human growth and development, teaching as a profession, foundations of curriculum and instruction, and an education academy internship with a mentor teacher. Students will be able to earn three college credits through the program.

“They’ll get a good exposure to the full, vast array of careers that are available in education so they can see which area fits best for them,” says Mary Yeates, instructional supervisor for the division of career and technology education at Montgomery County Public Schools.

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