Classes are back in session at the Vermillion School District. While most people think of the end of winter break as a time for students to get back into the educational swing of things, there is another group they might at first overlook.
Each year, the district helps to educate a number of student teachers, depending on the number of applicants and available classes.
Vermillion Middle School Principal Pat Anderson said it�s a good thing that this kind of program is available, as it gives the future educators a chance to �get the full benefits of learning what being a teacher is all about.�
While the district does get some student teachers from Yankton�s Mount Marty College, �about 95 percent� of them come from the University of South Dakota, Anderson said.
Each semester, a list is presented to the school that gives the names of the student teacher candidates, who are then placed within the district, if possible.
�We try to assist the (School of Education),� Anderson said. �They place quite a few kids, and we try to place as many in Vermillion as we possibly can, but they place them all around the area. �
�We don�t always place every one that we are requested to, but I think we have a pretty good track record,� he said.
Some of the student teachers are assigned to single classrooms, while others are given what is referred to as a �split assignment.�
�For instance, the music people will sometimes do mornings at the elementary and afternoons at the middle school, or afternoons at the middle school and mornings at the high school,� Anderson explained. �A lot of those specialty areas like music and art are certified K-12, and that certification means they have to get experience at each level.�
Other student teachers are fit in where space is available.
�If it�s a social studies person, we can be sixth, seventh or eighth grade,� Anderson said. �Sometimes they may have a strength area of American history, but I can only get them into geography or world cultures, which is a world history class. We try our best to place them in their area, but sometimes the best thing we can do is get them into social studies.�
USD�s student teacher program could expand in the near future, thanks to a grant from the Bush Foundation.
According to USD�s Web site, the school will participate in a partnership focused on transforming teacher-preparation programs in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Collectively, the institutions plan to produce at least 25,000 new teachers in the next decade.
The university has worked to expand its program for some time, Anderson said.
�They�ve gone from (having student teachers serve for) a couple of months to a semester, and now they�re looking at a full year placement to get their experience,� he said.
USD also offers the Professional Development Center (PDC) program, which allows student teachers to work for a full year as regular teachers while simultaneously receiving their master�s degree.
Under PDC, the teachers who had formerly filled these positions also work to receive their master�s while serving as the student teachers� mentors.
�Individuals who are certified teachers can start right out and get into the classroom and at the same time take college classes at a reduced rate,� said Vermillion superintendent Mark Froke. �So they�re teaching and they�re working through the weekends to get their masters degree in teaching.�
The program provides its participants with a great opportunity, Froke said.
�I believe it�s exceptionally valuable, where they can receive a year�s worth of experience at the same time where they�re getting a masters degree, as well as being guided by a mentor in the district, as well as professors from the college,� he said. �So while they�re getting extra credentials � they�re also receiving excellent mentorship from people in the field.
�It�s been a benefit for the district, as well as our students,� he said.