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School of Education Receives $40K Grant to Continue Partnership with Berkeley County

Kristin Williams, Charles Town; Susan Stambaugh, Martinsburg; Kayla Shultz, Falling Waters; and Alexis Shearer, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania  Shepherd University’s School of Education received a $40,635 grant from the West Virginia Department of Education to continue working with five Berkeley County Schools providing professional development and to start a pilot program in which a select group of Shepherd student teachers spend the entire school year in a Berkeley County elementary school.

“The teacher candidate goes in from day one and works with the mentor teacher in co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing,” said Dori Hargrove, Shepherd’s elementary specialization coordinator. “By being involved from the first day, the teacher candidate gets a better understanding of all the decisions that go into planning. It helps the teacher candidate feel more prepared and helps the mentor teacher learn new strategies.”

Four Shepherd elementary education majors are participating in the pilot program—Kristin Williams, Charles Town; Susan Stambaugh, Martinsburg; Kayla Shultz, Falling Waters; and Alexis Shearer, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The typical length of time for student teaching is 14 weeks; however, the four are co-teaching in a school the entire year.

“Being part of the pilot program means I will gain a lot more knowledge in how to communicate with parents about their kids,” Williams said. “I will gain a better understanding of how to manage a classroom, how to progress students’ learning, and keep records of their test scores so I can help them improve. It’s pretty much gaining the whole experience of being a teacher instead of just a little blurb of being a teacher.”

“I am super excited to be in this program and to get all the experience and knowledge from all the wonderful teachers we’re working with,” Stambaugh said. “I think it will make a huge difference in the way I manage the classroom and plan lessons, and in learning how flexible a teacher has to be.”

“We will not just be in the classroom teaching, but we are there for everything outside of class, such as parent-teacher conferences, meetings, and orientation,” Shearer said.

“We will get to see the whole year instead of just a few weeks,” Shultz added. “The first day of school is completely different compared to the middle of the school year. It will give me confidence.”

The School of Education is starting small with the yearlong co-teaching pilot program, with the goal of expanding it next year.

“We felt like using a small number to pilot would be easier and more manageable for the elementary coordinator, the school districts, and the selected schools,” said Jennifer Penland, director of Shepherd’s School of Education. “The teacher candidates will eventually be eligible to substitute teach in the schools when they pass certain benchmarks, so that’s an option to get a really meaningful experience and it helps the school district find qualified substitutes in the field.”

Shepherd will continue the professional development school (PDS) program it started last year with Spring Mills Primary, Hedgesville Elementary, Potomack Intermediate, and Tomahawk Intermediate, and this year added Mill Creek Intermediate. The PDS is a partnership between Shepherd and the local schools that helps prepare new teachers, offers faculty training, helps improve classroom practices, and enhances P-12 student achievement.

“This pilot program merges the idea that the cooperating teacher and teacher resident are going to be working collaboratively together to meet the needs of the students,” said Paula Hoffman, academic coach and placement coordinator, Berkeley County Schools. “That is the part Berkeley County Schools finds most fulfilling.”

Shepherd teacher candidates participating in the PDS work alongside a mentor, or cooperating teacher, and receive an orientation and a toolbox that will provide them with in-depth information about how Berkeley County Schools operate. The toolbox will include technology policies, emergency procedures, and instructional models for literacy, reading, math, and special education. One goal of applying this toolbox of knowledge, resources and opportunity is to increase the likelihood that the teacher candidates choose to work for Berkeley County Schools upon the completion of their teacher preparation education.

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