by Mary David Miller

Thanks to a recent community partnership, education majors at the University of West Georgia now have more access to real classroom situations and hands-on teaching experience. UWG’s College of Education joined forces with Carroll County Schools and named Central Elementary and Sand Hill Elementary as premier learning sites for UWG students, dubbing the partnership the Professional Development School Partnership.

A student teacher helps a childAs part of the Professional Development School, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, seniors in the early-childhood program at UWG are placed in classrooms at these schools and participate in field work with current teachers. The students also enroll in an on-site literacy course that covers writing instruction and the reading-writing connection. The class meets once a week and teaches the students the best practices for developing young writers and teaching students to read like writers.

Dr. Jennifer Allen, assistant professor in the Department of Literacy and Special Education, teaches the class for the Professional Development School model (PDS) and is the PDS coordinator for the College of Education. Dr. Laura Smith, associate dean for educational preparation, explained that the PDS model refers to innovative partnerships between professional education programs and p-12 schools. These partnerships focus on continuous school improvement and student achievement through the preparation of teacher candidates and professional development of P-20 education.

“In addition to reading about, discussing, and simulating these best practices in our university classroom, my students gain authentic experience with their learning – and thus a deeper understanding – by implementing their learning in real classrooms with real elementary students,” Allen said. “These partnerships are mutually beneficial in the sense that the pre-service teachers at the university are immersed in the school culture as they learn best practices in education through hands-on experiences in classrooms while the classroom teachers and students at the school benefit from exposure to cutting-edge ideas as well as a more optimal teacher-student ratio.”

As graduation draws near, it is important for UWG students to be equipped for the workforce. Allen said by completing this program, students become more confident teachers after student teaching through the early-childhood program. Not only does it give them a chance to explore the field, but also to learn different teaching and writing styles, and how to interact with their pupils.

“It has given me the opportunity to work so closely with one of the largest schools in Carroll County,” said Monica Nacey, UWG student and current student teacher at Central Elementary School. “In fifth grade alone, there are six classrooms. They [teachers] affect so many lives. Being right along side them for the entire year and being trained by them, I believe, will only lead me closer to having success as a future educator.”

Posted on November 21, 2016