Introduction to Teaching program provides unique opportunities for students


Marjorie Lichner

The Introduction to Teaching essentials when getting ready to go to their field schools, a name badge and car keys.

Twenty smiling five-year-olds sit quietly on the rainbow alphabet rug, ready for their favorite part of their kindergarten class — story time, led by a 17-year-old high school student.

Introduction to Teaching is a DGS program that allows students to earn dual credit at College of DuPage (COD) by going to an internship for part of the school day.

This year, 14 students leave DGS for two periods, three days a week, to go teach. Teaching positions vary all the way from kindergarten to middle school. These students get to join a classroom in a District 58 or 61 community. 

All of the schools the Introduction to Teaching students attend play a major role for this program. The teachers at these middle and elementary schools have approved of having a student in their class for part of the day. 

Students in this program help their mentor teachers with copying, grading and monitoring classroom flow. Students also get to work on larger projects such as a classroom design project, where they help create a visual display for their adopted classrooms.

Valerie Hardy is the teacher for the program this year, and has been for the past few years. Outside of this program Hardy also teaches English at DGS. 

Hardy believes that this program is a very unique experience that many other schools may not have. Hardy describes how students get involved in the class.

“Students apply to make it into the program, and they [must] meet the requirements of grades, good attendance and a good disciplinary record… Once they are in they spend the first few weeks learning expectations for their internship and learning about teaching, students, school systems and other material attached to what they will be doing during the year. From there after they have gotten used to the class… they go out to a field school. They express a preference in age, subject and we try to pair them with a mentor teacher at our local elementary or middle schools that match their preferences,” Hardy said.

One of Hardy’s students is senior Kayla Reed. Reed has been interested in teaching for as long as she can remember. Through the Introduction to Teaching program, Reed has had the opportunity to help teach first graders at Indian Trail Elementary School.

Reed believes this program is going to help prepare her for a teaching career in the future. She explains why this program is so beneficial to her and how she has a deeper understanding of what teachers do because of it.

“It really showed me the ins and outs of teaching, planning and preparing for certain things. When you look at it [teaching] from face value you don’t really realize that there is actually a lot of things that go on in teaching. This really showed me everything underneath [the surface],” Reed said.

Reed was not always confident about her skills as a future educator. When she first started her internship, she was nervous, especially about the impact she would have on the students. She explains how she struggled, but eventually overcame this situation.

“At first I struggled with having a connection with some of the students. First graders are six and seven, so when they see someone new their kind of on guard at first. I was also kind of scared because I wanted them to like me, [but] as time went on I’ve grown a [great] relationship with a lot of the kids,” Reed said.

All of the 14 DGS students taking Introduction to Teaching this year are female. Along with Reed, senior Taylor Ferrer is another student in Hardy’s class. Ferrer spends her time in two kindergarten classes for her internship.

Ferrer believes that this program has helped her realize her passion for teaching. She explains how this class swayed her decision about what she wants to do after college.

“I have always been interested in teaching and I took this course to confirm that I wanted to be a teacher. It really influenced my decision in a positive way because I get to work and see kids everyday,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer enjoys this program because of how different it is from other courses. She explains what she enjoys about this course.

“My favorite thing is that we get to do hands on learning and learn for ourselves when we go to school. There are not many classes that you get to leave the building and actually full on experience what you are passionate about,” Ferrer said.

As this is a dual college and high school class, DGS students who take this course must complete assignments that follow the COD’s course expectations. Reed talks about how her homework load is affected by this class.

“I try to figure out our big [teaching] projects that take time [first] and then I go down to smaller class [assignments] and knock those out along the way. [It’s] not really bad,” Reed said.

Both Reed and Ferrer enjoy taking the Introduction to Teaching class this year. Reed expressed her belief that students should take this class.

“I just really would recommend that everyone take it [Introduction to Teaching] and if you have the slightest inclination that you want to be an educator, it is a really good class… I would recommend this class if you like working with kids, if you have an open time in your schedule, or if you want to go into education when you grow up,” Reed said.