High school senior and Careers in Education student Scully Falcon-Rosas, center, reads to students in Carol Patrick’s class at Ogden Elementary. “She’s really nice and she knows how to work with kids,” said fifth-grader Jeremiah Miller.
Careers in Education program of choice designed for future educators
Elizabeth Janney’s first time in front of a class was stressful. “I remember being terrified,” she said. It was more than just new-educator jitters. Janney was still a high school student when she taught her first class, at Minnehaha Elementary. “But once I got into it, it felt more comfortable. I wasn’t so afraid anymore.”
Her time at Minnehaha Elementary marked a tangible step toward Janney’s realization of her long-held—and now achieved—goal to enter education. Her maternal grandmother was a teacher, and Janney decided to become a teacher after being in Cathy McVicker’s class at Franklin Elementary. “She wanted to make sure that the responsibility was on us to take ownership of our learning,” Janney said. “She inspired me to love learning.”
Janney’s dream might have waited until she started college if not for the Kids Care program at Discovery Middle School and the Careers in Education program at Hudson’s Bay High School. Her desire to teach at the secondary level morphed through Careers in Education as she worked with infants in Bay’s program for teen mothers and with elementary kids at Minnehaha.
Her philosophy of education began to take shape. In one assignment, she outlined tenets about acceptance and supporting one another that she still practices in her second-grade classroom at Washington Elementary. “Starting to teach that reflective process to new teachers is so important, because as we reflect in our teaching, we’re able to grow and become a better teacher for our students. It was a powerful thing to teach a high school student to do,” Janney said.
By the time she reached Western Washington University, she was well prepared for college, thanks to her time in the Careers in Education program and credits from Clark College earned through Running Start. Her already-narrow focus on elementary put her ahead of many of her fellow education majors.
Today she credits the Careers in Education program with a foundational role in her professional development. She plans to teach at Washington as long as the school will have her there. “I want kids to love learning the way that I do now,” she said. “That lightbulb moment, when they figure it out or they get excited about something: That’s why I’m here. That’s why I teach.”
“Starting to teach that reflective process to new teachers is so important, because as we reflect in our teaching, we’re able to grow and become a better teacher for our students. It was a powerful thing to teach a high school student to do.”
—Elizabeth Janney, former Careers in Education student and current teacher at Washington Elementary School
Guaranteed interview with VPS
Janney and students from around Vancouver charted a path from Careers in Education to jobs with districts. But due to low enrollment, the program eventually was scaled back to a single one-period class by the same name at Fort Vancouver High School.
That didn’t stem the need for teachers. The state of Washington’s Professional Educator Standards Board in 2016 identified a 250 percent increase in demand for teachers over the previous five years.
District leaders in Vancouver also are interested in further diversifying its teaching workforce. During the 2016-17 school year, 41.8 percent of Vancouver Public Schools students were students of color. By comparison, 11.1 percent of VPS teachers were teachers of color. Studies have shown that students often to do better in school when at least one of their teachers is of a race or ethnicity similar to their own.
Now Vancouver Public Schools is banking on the new Careers in Education program to create a pipeline for the next generation of teachers. The program will return in fall 2018 for students in 11th through 12th grades. It will be located at the Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies, but students from all over the district may apply beginning Jan. 10.
Over two class periods each day, students will learn the theory and mechanics of teaching, such as lesson planning. They’ll also put their learning into practice in a real classroom, where they’ll be paired with a mentor teacher.
The benefits extend beyond high school. Students can earn up to five college credits through Lower Columbia College and prepare to take the Washington state paraeducator exam. Passing the exam and earning a high school diploma could lead to employment anywhere in the state. VPS also will guarantee an interview for any student who has completed the Careers in Education program and wishes to work in the district.
Fort Vancouver teacher Megan St. Clair, who currently teaches the class, believes that the resurrected program can serve students interested in a range of jobs beyond the teaching profession, including nursing, counseling and social and human service occupations.
“I am excited to see different perspectives coming into the classroom and them being able to do that hands-on experience every day so that they can apply what they learned in class and actually go out into the field,” St. Clair said.
High school senior Alexandra Mayo, left, works with a kindergartner at Ogden Elementary School.
A different world
Like Janney, Alexandra Mayo got the teaching bug early. “I started wanting to be a teacher in fifth grade. I like helping people,” said the now-senior at the Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies.
After observing and student teaching at both the high school and elementary levels through her education class at Fort, Mayo plans to attend Washington State University Vancouver next year and eventually teach history at the secondary level. “I think my teaching style will be fun and creative, but still bring back older tactics that teachers have used,” she said, adding, “I’m excited to have my own classroom.”
For this future teacher, Careers in Education is a powerful introduction to the profession. “You get to see a new perspective,” Mayo said. “Being a student, you don’t think about the teacher’s side of everything. … It’s like a different world.”