Kameron Nettleton

The final step in the journey of education majors is a significant one – a semester of student-teaching.

For nine of OKWU’s education majors, that journey began in early August as they returned to campus for a few days of student-teacher training led by the OKWU education professors.

That training was a precursor to district-mandated training that began before the official first day of school. The student-teachers, who are teaching in classrooms in Bartlesville Public Schools and Dewey Public Schools, collaborated with their mentor teachers, their OKWU professors, and each other as they prepared for the semester ahead.

“Our goal is to prepare Christian educators who can be sent into classrooms across the world and transform lives for Christ,” said Dean Jason Flick. This goal echoes the vision of the university overall – developing students who are sent out into a world that needs their skills and compassion.

Ready to Get Started

Kate Swan, an elementary education major from Tulsa, Oklahoma, will spend the semester in a 4th-grade classroom at an elementary school in Bartlesville. For her, the campus training was a time of encouragement.

“Our professors presented us with a lot of information,” she said. “They also made it clear that they believe in us, which allows us to have confidence in ourselves.”

In addition to Dean Flick, several other members of OKWU’s School of Education & Exercise Science presented on various topics from technology to lesson planning. The student-teachers also spent time with their mentor teachers, with whom they will be partnered during their semester in the classroom.

“We’re trying to prepare them for all the realities of what they can expect during their first opportunity in charge of a classroom full of students,” said Greg Tackett, a former principal and current professor at OKWU. “This is an excellent opportunity for them to try out all the ideas they have and the things they’ve learned during their time at OKWU.”

Seven of the nine will spend the fall semester in elementary classrooms, while the other two are set to teach in secondary schools in the spring.

Krista Albertson, from Hurst, Texas, is a secondary education major set for student-teaching in the spring.

“One thing I took away from the training is to always be intentional with any students we have,” she said. “We never know what type of background a student has or what makes them so unique until talking to them personally.”

In discussing potential pitfalls for first-year teachers, one point of emphasis struck Kate Swan at a personal level.

“First is the importance of recognizing that we will be experiencing failures as well as successes, and that’s okay,” she said. “While this is something we often discussed in our education classes, it is always beneficial to hear it again, since I am a bit of a perfectionist.”

Albertson and Swan felt encouraged by the training and the hands-on approach of their professors.

“We are not left alone. We have such a strong support system between our mentors and our education professors,” Albertson noted.

Just the First Step

Professor Dorothy Colaw, the Secondary Director of Clinical Experiences, will observe the student-teachers periodically during the semester. She and Dr. Kelley Sells, the Director of Elementary Instruction, oversee the student-teaching program and meet weekly with the student-teachers.

Colaw says the goal is to send them out with confidence and a growth mindset.

“I hope that they are able to observe and participate in the real-time functions and responsibilities of classroom teachers and a working school, apply the knowledge they have gained in their courses, and learn to teach with enthusiasm and compassion for each of their students,” she said. “They are stepping into their calling!”

Tackett agrees. The training is designed to prepare each student-teacher for success in the classroom, both this semester and beyond.

“This is also an extended job interview for them,” he said, “so we try to stress the importance of professionalism and of being prepared each day to do the best they can with the students entrusted to them.”

While nothing can completely prepare them for that first classroom experience, this year’s crop of student-teachers is eager for the semester to begin. Thanks to the hard work of their OKWU professors, they are prepared for the road ahead.

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