Lending a helping hand
It’s an early Monday morning in the life of a primary school teacher.
Coffee waits on the table, and objectives are written on the board. The bell rings, and the kids file in. The first thing they see is their teacher, greeting them at the door.
Then the teacher aide walks in, and the kids go wild with affection.
These student aides are part of Fredericksburg High School’s Practicum in Education Program which allows high school students to experience first-hand how a classroom is run and teaches them how to deal with young children in an educational setting.
“The classes give students the opportunity to go into the classroom and work with children before they decide on a major in college,” Donna Oehler, coordinator of the practicum classes, said.
These classes offer students a look behind the scenes of education and make them be more appreciative of teachers since they do everything the teacher does. It is also a way for students to learn work ethic and prepares them for the real world.
“These students work hard for me to help me keep all my programs running smoothly,” primary teacher and coach Patricia Smith said. “I can count on them when I need help setting up for the day, getting ready for upcoming events, helping students, and pretty much anything I need.”
Teachers are also appreciative of the additional support that their aides provide because it helps them with time management.
“It is such a great help to me and my busy schedule to have that one extra set of hands and eyes,” music teacher Alicia Elrod said. “Every teacher is so busy they can barely get their lessons completed in a day, so it’s amazing to have the student aide to fill in any gaps that may occur.”
High school students enjoy interacting with the younger students and have formed relationships with them.
“Getting to see the kids every day gives me something to look forward to,” Fredericksburg High School junior Anthony Hernandez said. “They’re all really welcoming and always giving me hugs when I walk in. They brighten my day.”
Teachers have also formed relationships with their aides and rely on them in their classroom.
“My relationship with my aide is more like a friendship. Yes, I am her teacher. Yes, I give her a grade, but I believe that if you want respect and quality work, you have to give respect and quality work,” kindergarten teacher Sandra Jacoby said. “I trust her with important tasks, and she means a lot to me.”
Not only are teachers and high school students benefitted by the program, but so are primary students. They get to have more individualized help in their work since the teacher aide assists them, along with the teacher.
“My favorite thing is that they help us do our work,” kindergartner Ava Sant’Anna said.
“They are fun and really kind to us all,” kindergartner Jocelyn Prado said.
“They keep us safe,” kindergartner Dutch Reid said.
These classes help high school students find themselves and some even change their future educational paths.
“I love kids, and I wanted to be a pediatric nurse, but then I got to work with primary students, and now I’ve decided to become a teacher,” Hernandez said. “The school system is really good here, and all the kids are well-behaved, so I want to come back and work here.”
The program also helps students gain more confidence since they are part of the authority in the classroom.
“It has been so fun to grow as a team,” Cheryl Fink, Pre-School Program for Children with Disabilities teacher, said. “I notice that she (Edith Gurrola) is confident and willing to take more initiative with students.”
The Practicum in Education Program is an extremely beneficial program for both students and teachers. It allows high school students to experiment with different paths for their future while also giving a helping hand to primary teachers and students.
“I love the help. I love building relationships with students both in high school and kindergarten,” Jacoby said.” I hope that one day, a student I taught in kindergarten will take this course and be my student one more time.”