Elementary school teachers often times are not given ample credit for the hard work and dedication they have put into their careers, and Auburn’s elementary education program is testament to that.
Elementary education majors start out taking a variety of general studies courses at Auburn their freshman and sophomore years. After they are officially accepted into the program, they take more education-focused classes, including methods classes and classroom management classes.
“In methods classes, you basically learn how to develop effective lesson plans for each subject area in the curriculum,” said Katie Jordan, senior in elementary education. “We take classes for each subject and learn the best way to teach that particular subject matter. With classroom management, you learn different strategies on how to effectively manage a classroom.”
According to Auburn’s elementary education program Web page, the purpose of the course work within the degree is to update students’ knowledge and skills in research-based language arts, mathematics, science and social studies content, educational psychology, curriculum and teaching, evaluation of teaching and learning and foundations of education.
Students in the elementary education program are organized into cohort groups, each of which has a required set of blocked courses. Each block of courses has a particular focus and is designed to build on previous coursework.
Students will also complete a variety of field-based experiences each semester. Emphasis is placed on providing each teacher candidate with a variety of grade level experiences with diverse groups of children.
“Once you start in the elementary education program, you will gradually start to go to schools and be a lab teacher there and just help out in the classroom for a couple of hours each day, Jordan said. “Each semester, you slowly start to gain more hours until you go the whole school day. Finally, the last semester before you graduate, you do your internship. While you’re student teaching, you’re at the schools Monday through Friday and gradually start to gain control of the class.”
Jordan is currently completing her internship at Yarbrough Elementary School in Auburn. During an internship, the student completes a full semester assigned to one teacher in an elementary classroom. Most elementary education majors complete their internship at a school in Auburn, but some go to other schools in surrounding counties and even overseas.
“For my student teaching this semester, I’m teaching a variety of subjects to third grade students,” Jordan said. “Third grade is one of the hardest grades to teach because it’s when the students actually begin testing and are not just reviewing skills. It’s a big transformation year because they’re starting to mature more. I’ve loved every minute of it, though, and I hope to be able to continue teaching students that age.”
Jordan hopes to teach for two years in the Auburn area after she graduates. She plans on going back for graduate school to become a reading specialist and then ultimately getting a teaching job in the Birmingham or Mobile area.
As for current or future Auburn students considering majoring in elementary education, Jordan says it is a time-consuming but very rewarding program.
“You have to really have a passion for teaching and a passion for working with kids to really enjoy and be successful in the program,” Jordan said. “I love working with kids because you get to form special relationships with each and every child. A lot of the kids don’t have great home lives, and you can really form a connection with them and change their lives so much just by being with them for a couple hours every day and giving them the attention that they don’t get at home. I also love seeing the light bulb go off in their heads when they finally understand how to do something. It’s just great being able to make such an impact on their lives.”