|PDS Program offers unique student teaching opportunity|
|Written by Tim Crisp, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Sunday, 07 September 2008 18:00|
Since its inception in 1857, ISU has built a reputation as one of the most progressive institutions in teacher education. Continuing that tradition is the College of Education's Professional Development School.
PDS takes normal semester-long student teaching experience and extends it to a full year immersion process for the teaching candidate. The program allows for the student to gain a more complete look at the teaching process, spending a semester as an intern, before getting in front of the class.
By working for a year with the same cooperating teacher in the same classroom, the student can gain substantial insight into the clinical, curricular and cultural experience that comes with the life of being a teacher.
"You're getting more than 'the show,'" Gary Weilbacher, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and director of the PDS middle level program said. "You're seeing the entire way of life."
And the results leave little room for argument. "When [the teacher candidates] go into the market, they are looked at as first-year teachers, not as being right out of college," Weilbacher said.
"Honestly, I have no idea what I would be doing next year if I wasn't doing this program," Alexis Santiago, senior early childhood education major and PDS student said. "I got to see everything happen from square one, as opposed to coming in halfway through the year when everything is already done for you."
Santiago, whose cooperating with a first grade class at Metcalf, gleamed over her experience thus far.
"With elementary students, classroom management is obviously the most important piece. That is all established within the first two weeks. I've been able to see that process and it's been so beneficial," Santiago said.
By the second semester of the program, the teaching candidate will begin student teaching with an estimated 400-600 student contact hours. Through the normal program, the candidate will have around 100 contact hours when they start.
But the benefits of the PDS program are not limited to the student teacher. Weilbacher said that his experience has shown that cooperating teachers feel "revitalized" when working with the PDS student. The student brings in an exciting energy to the classroom, which the teacher reciprocates.
Weilbacher feels that his work through PDS has been able to help him grow as an educator. "It keeps me in touch with what's really going on in classrooms right now, and I am able to bring that to my own teaching at ISU," he said.
The most important element to the PDS program, as it is for all classroom initiatives, is the positive effect it has on the actual students. They are what matters most, and the program brings plenty of positive aspects to each class.
"It's as if there are two teachers running the class, the PDS student is able to jump in and help out if necessary, making the management much easier," Weilbacher said. PDS students are also available to provide individual help to students in the class.
Bloomington Jr. High School, one of the middle level program's partnering schools, has been making considerable progress over the past couple of years with test scores. While it cannot be physically quantified, Weilbacher and the administrators at BJHS agree that the PDS is a big part of this change.
"When it comes down to it, this is a program that helps kids. Everything else is an added bonus," Weilbacher said.
While the PDS program's benefits are far-reaching, there is still a need for the traditional student teaching program. Simply stated, PDS is not designed for everyone.
During the first semester, PDS students are taking at least a 12-credit hour course load on top of their time spent in the classroom. It is an intense commitment that most students cannot make.
But for those who are able, the PDS program offers a unique student teaching experience with benefits running across the board.