Maymester program gives prospective teachers hands-on, early on

Release Date: 5/28/2010

Clarksville, Ark. --- All education majors go through some form of teacher training during their college years, typically a semester working in a real school classroom environment – or, in the case of Ozarks' outstanding education program, double that amount.

Pedagogy: The study of being a teacher. Students in the Ozarks teacher education program got to experience classroom situations during Maymester, a three-week long intensive practicum.

However, Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Donna Wake and her colleagues have taken the training of the university’s future teachers a big step further the past two years.

“Rather than wait until their last year to give them classroom experience – and the chance to find out if this is really what they want to do with their lives – we offer education majors a three-week intensive practicum early on,” said Dr. Wake. “For those three weeks, faculty members reside with the students in Bagwell Dorm; we cook for them, work with them on their teaching skills, and we go with them daily to either the high school or junior high – we alternate years – where they get direct hands-on teaching experience.”

Each day’s outing ends back on the U of O campus with an hour of technology training with Instructional Technology Coordinator Nathan Sain.

This year’s group consisted of eight students – one Art Education major, two English, two Biology, and three Math – monitored and assisted by Dr. Wake, Associate Professor of Life Science Education Dr. Kim Van Scoy, and Instructor of Mathematics Stacy Key.

“These student teachers fit right in with our program and our school year,” said Clarksville High School Biology teacher Michelle Savell. “It not only gives them hands-on experience with kids, but it gives our kids something valuable to do at the end of the school year.”

Science Education majors Elodie Adams and Kayla Quertermous instructed and supervised their students in dissecting starfish. “I didn’t think they would be so gooey on the inside and so crunchy on the outside!” said one student.

Ozarks' Math Major Mei-Yee Chew dressed in the traditional baju kurung of Malaysia as part of her Maymester teaching experience.

Math majors Kim Corley, Meiko Warren, and Mei-Yee Chew all instructed students in the intricacies of their chosen field, and Mei-Yee, dressed in the traditional and beautiful baju kurung, gave a wonderful slide presentation on her homeland, Malaysia, talking animatedly about everything from its multi-cultural foods and clothing, to religion and political system.

Art Education major Ginny Gardner worked with her students on personalized art books which incorporated several specific art design principles. “For my senior show I’m working mainly with recycled art,” said Gardner. “Along similar lines, I’m having my students here take old books and re-purpose them. Some of the results are really beautiful, and it’s a chance to encourage the students to develop their own art.” Gardner added she encouraged interaction and feedback among class members. “I tell them to respond to the others’ projects on three levels,” she said. “Praise, Propose, and Question. In other words, say what you liked, then propose positive changes to what they did, and finally, ask questions for clarification.”

English Ed majors Shayla Morrow and Natalie Grove pursued a parallel project with their students, art book projects based around their reading of John Steinbeck’s classic novel of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath. “Each student team worked with different themes for their book,” said Morrow. “These included journal entries, postcards, song lyrics, and poems. For example, one team focused on the sorts of entertainment the Okies would have enjoyed during that time period – music on the radio, including jazz, and events like the famous Joe Louis – Max Schmeling boxing match.” She said working with the novels on multiple levels in this way brought the events of the story to life for its readers.

Clarksville High School Math teacher Joann Lynch lauded the Maymester program, as well as its student teachers. “Miss Chew taught my pre-calculus class. She did a fabulous job not only in sharing her mathematics knowledge, but also her culture. It was a real treat, especially this time of the year. The students are sick to death of my voice by this point. Plus it helps for us, as teachers, to see new ideas. It kind of keeps us on our toes as well! And I know it helps the student teachers find out what they’re getting into as Education majors. That’s something I wish a lot more colleges did!”

This year’s Maymester practicum ends June 4.

Two students show off the scrapbook they made in one of the Maymester classes.