Forty-five rising high school seniors enrolled in a course at the College this past summer, and in a mere two weeks, participants in the Urban Teacher Academy (UTA) learned how to be better teachers and leaders. Differing from other camps, this particular program was meant to encourage students to learn about teaching in an urban environment.
“There aren’t many teaching camps out there,” program participant Doug Umberger said. “This program, with all the community service looked like such a motivating experience for the future.”
UTA is one of the programs developed within the Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment grant. Sharon Sherman, professor of elementary/early childhood education, wrote the grant three years ago and received funds from the U.S. Department of Education.
The College’s Urban Recruitment Coordinator, Professor Larry Fieber, intends for the program to be a stepping stone for “capable students who feel a calling to be in education.”
“I never thought about (teaching in this) environment but I learned so much about it,” participant Sarah Sell said. “I would like to continue pursuing a career (geared toward) urban, elementary students.”
The application for the program required three essays, two recommendations, and, according to Fieber, “a demonstrated interest in education, especially in an urban environment or in a high-shortage subject, (such as) math, science or English as a second language.”
The assignments were varied and meant to demonstrate the many perspectives of teaching.
For one assignment, participant Emma Hansen wrote a book review for the primary textbook, Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol. Her review, along with her classmates’, were published on Barnes and Noble’s Web site.
Outside the classroom, students went on community service field trips to soup kitchens and also worked with disabled children in Mercer County elementary schools.
“We also worked side by side with Teens in the Isles program in Trenton,” Hansen said. “The teens grow vegetables in gardens right in the middle of the city and give them out. There was a great response from neighbors. It was really very rewarding.”
The culmination of UTA also involved a chance to teach local children from the Ewing Summer Day Camp lessons in math, science and physical education.
“This was probably the most moving part, to us,” Hansen said. “We were in a classroom setting. We prepared a lesson plan; we saw a lesson through from beginning to end. Not only did we learn about teaching, we (taught) successfully.”
Students enjoyed the program so much that there is already a reunion planned for October.
“I feel like I have a slight advantage going into a college, especially a school of education,” Umberger said. “This program was so rewarding, just absolutely everything: every last minute of every single day.”
“I chose a career out of this,” said Hansen. “There is nothing bigger than that. I was looking into other fields and now I know this is where I want to be.”