Growing Our Own: Education and Training Program Encourages Former Students to Return to Teach in District12/13/2022
From kindergarten through senior year and now teaching at the elementary level, at only 25 years old, Kambree Stewart is in her 15th year in Wylie ISD.
Stewart completed the Education and Training Program of Study, WE Teach, at Wylie East High School and now teaches third grade at Birmingham Elementary.
“The education program put me way above my peers in college and is no doubt one of the best things to happen to me for my career,” Stewart said.
In Wylie ISD’s Education and Training Program of Study, a public service endorsement in the Career and Technical Education program, high school students receive real-world experience in Wylie ISD classrooms. Students complete this pathway with more than 200 hours of classroom experience in the education field. Many of them return to this very district to teach.
WEHS counselor Jessica Taylor sponsored the program for nine years. She had Stewart all four years of high school.
“The Education and Training Program of Study provides a very solid foundation for our future educators,” Taylor said. “They spend a significant amount of time in Wylie ISD classrooms learning from the best! What our education students learn in the courses is on-level with many teacher preparation programs.”
Kambree Stewart completed the education and training program at WEHS and chose to continue her path in education in Wylie ISD as a teacher. “I knew that Kambree would make an excellent teacher from the moment I met her,” Taylor said. “She is an amazing human, and Wylie ISD is a better place because of her.”
Stewart agrees that because of the WE Teach program at WEHS, she excelled at Texas A&M University–Commerce, where she earned her degree in interdisciplinary studies.
She recalls how one of her introductory course professors was stunned that she knew the definition of differentiation when he asked the class.
“I was the only person to raise my hand,” Stewart said. “I explained it like the textbook definition. My professor was really impressed. I thought everyone knew what differentiation meant, but they didn’t. Ms. Taylor set us up to succeed. It was like that all through college.”
Stewart returned to Wylie ISD to complete her student teaching at Tibbals Elementary.
She knew that the only district she wanted to work for was Wylie ISD.
“It’s home, but mostly I like how relationships are a big deal here,” Stewart said. “You can’t have good classroom management if you don’t have a good relationship with your students.”
Stewart is only one of the many Wylie ISD students who has returned to the district to teach. She credits the Education and Training Program of Study with her success in post-secondary education and why she returned to this district to begin her career as a teacher.
Like all CTE pathways, the Education and Training program has four courses students must complete to earn the education endorsement:
Principles of Education and Training
Human Growth and Development
IPET, Instructional Practices in Education and Training
Practicum of Education and Training
In the first introductory course, students learn about the basics of a career in education, such as various jobs in the education field, how teachers know what to teach, and the variety of learners in classrooms.
“Human Growth and Development takes students on a journey through the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of humans from birth through the end of life,” WEHS Education and Training teacher Jill Hill said.
Instructional Practices in Education and Training (IPET)
IPET is the third course students take and the first one that provides them with field site experience.
It is a double-blocked course where students spend three days per week with their high school Education and Training teacher, diving deeper into the basics of teaching. They learn about classroom management, effective teaching strategies and creating a positive classroom environment.
Recruiting at McMillan’s preview day, WEHS junior Avery Farris discusses the Education and Training program with eighth graders.
WEHS junior Avery Farris is in her third of the Education and Training program.
“I am honestly just grateful to be in a district where programs like these are possible,” Farris said. “I love this program, and am so blessed to be a part of it.”
Two days per week, the students visit kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms on a rotation to help teachers, build relationships with students and complete small instructional activities with their class. They visit four different grade levels during the year.
“This is valuable because they see a broad array of instructional practices and work with different grade levels,” Taylor said.
Practicum of Education and Training
The final course is Practicum of Education and Training.
This course allows the students to pick a grade level or subject area and spend all year interning with the same students and teacher where they develop and teach lesson plans, assist in instruction, work with students individually and get an in-depth internship experience.
“The best way to prepare for teaching is by teaching,” Rhonda Pearce-Marven, WHS Education and Training teacher, said.
Seniors spend three to four days per week with their class and the other one or two days of the week are spent back in their high school classroom, debriefing and working on assignments.
“Discussions and reflections are a big part of what goes on in the classroom at Wylie High School,” Pearce-Marven said. “Sometimes they share precious, heartwarming stories. Sometimes they share dilemmas and challenges they are facing, and we talk through what they can do to experience success for themselves and the students they are working with. Before students ever go to their field site, they are taught about the importance of confidentiality, so we always are sure to practice confidentiality when having our class discussions.”
In the fourth and final course of the Education and Training program, WHS senior Aubrey Perez is mentored by kindergarten teacher Brandi Orr at Smith Elementary.
WHS senior Aubrey Perez is in the Practicum course. She reports to Smith Elementary four days a week where she interns under kindergarten teacher Brandi Orr.
“I was with her last year too,” Perez said. “I requested to have Mrs. Orr again because she has taught me a lot about teaching.”
Perez encourages students to take the Education and Training program.
“If you are on the fence of being in education, you still learn valuable stuff for if you have kids in the future,” Perez said. “You get to see how kids and the school system work.”
After completing all of these courses in high school, students earn their Education and Training Program of Study endorsement, which is required for graduation.
“They are also able to earn their Educational Aide Certification,” Hill said. “This allows students to work as an aide in schools right after graduation.”
After high school, education majors must student-teach under a certified teacher.
A&M–Commerce senior Jordan Smith went through the Education and Training Program of Study at Wylie East in 2019 and just finished her student teaching at Akin Elementary.
Former Wylie ISD student Jordan Smith has just completed her student teaching at Akin Elementary with Leslie Cobb. She graduates from Texas A&M University–Commerce in May and plans to return to Wylie ISD to teach.
“I still have all of my notes from my education courses in high school,” Smith said. “Because of the Education and Training program, I already have a library of lessons prepared.”
After missing a week of their class to take her college finals, student-teacher Jordan Smith is welcomed back by her kindergarteners at Akin Elementary.
Smith said she was able to use many of the lessons she created in high school for her college courses.
“It is very eye-opening if you have a true passion for teaching,” Smith said. “The Education and Training program in high school makes you fall in love with teaching even more.”
Molly Villasenor took the education and training courses at Wylie High School.
She now teaches at WEHS and co-sponsors TAFE, the Texas Association of Future Educators co-curricular student organization, in which she was also a member while attending WHS.
Assisting a student in her chemistry class, WHS graduate Molly Villasenor is in her third year of teaching.
Like Stewart, Villasenor agrees that Wylie ISD’s education coursework put her ahead of her peers while studying education in college.
“I had already done most of the things they were asking in my college courses when I was in high school,” Villasenor said. “We had so much hands-on experience in high school. In college, we mostly just observed.”
Stephanie Shepherd was Molly Villasenor’s education teacher when she attended WHS. “She enabled us to think for ourselves and taught us the importance of having an educational philosophy,” Villasenor said. “She was good at building relationships and showed us what that looked like.”
Creating and teaching lesson plans in her senior year of high school allowed Villasenor to actually experience being an educator.
“That was extremely helpful in deciding to become a teacher,” Villasenor said. “It solidified my decision by actually practicing the profession.”
She said that many of her peers in college decided they did not want to pursue being an educator after student teaching.
Growing our Own
Wylie ISD wants these Education and Training students to return to the district to teach.
Last year, the district announced that former Wylie ISD students will receive a guaranteed interview for priority hiring when they apply to teach in the district. To qualify, they must have also completed the practicum program with an 80 or higher, received a bachelor’s degree, and be fully certified.
“These kids that go through this program are immersed in Wylie ISD,” Hill said. “They gain valuable experience. We want to invite them back to teach here. It’s a seamless process and they start out ahead.”