The Professional Development School (PDS) at Briar Cliff University is a collaborative relationship between the Briar Cliff University Teacher Preparation Program and Leeds Elementary School, an elementary school in the Sioux City Community School District. During their junior year as a teaching candidate at Briar Cliff, students are placed with a professional teacher inside a real classroom at Leeds Elementary School, where they receive credit for the methods of teaching courses while working with students in real learning situations.
We spoke to cooperating teachers working with our Department of Education for the PDS and student teachers about the importance of these hands-on learning experiences for future teachers.
Erin Michael - Leeds Elementary School
Erin has been a cooperating teacher for the PDS since its first year. A kindergarten teacher at Leeds Elementary School, she mentors Briar Cliff students as they learn to communicate with students and manage a classroom. "I feel like I can empower them to be positive role models for our students as well as help them build self-confidence so that when they do go on to student teaching, they feel ready," she says.
PDS allows BCU teacher candidates to spend about four hours a day twice a week in a classroom before student teaching, meaning that they see many of the behind the scenes elements of teaching like planning, setting rules and routines, transitions and management. They can also serve as an extra set of hands for the cooperative teacher, making it easier to complete group projects or work one-on-one with students in need of extra help.
Erin offered this advice for prospective teachers: Emulate your favorite teacher. "What did they do to make them you favorite? Do you want to be that person for a student someday?" asks Erin. "It's amazing how many lives you can change by being a teacher. It's not easy, but it's worth it to see students learning, smiling and growing."
Lisa Froehlich - Holy Cross School
First grade teacher Lisa Froehlich has worked with Briar Cliff's education department for several years as a host for practicum and student teachers. Holy Cross often hosts first-time teachers like the candidates at BCU, meaning that students are able to teach their first lessons in a small class. "Being in a classroom teaches you how to be flexible, practice management and schedule changes," says Lisa. "A lot of what teachers do can't be taught in a classroom, so it's nice to show them what a real classroom is like during the school day."
Lisa gives her practicum and student teachers opportunities to practice their classroom management skills to help them succeed in their lesson presentation and grow as instructors in a safe environment. "I had a student who was really willing to apply her management skills as I taught them to her," recalled Lisa. "When she was observed by her BCU professor, she passed with flying colors."
Lisa advises teacher candidates to ask their cooperating teachers about classroom management skills and tips. "If you have good classroom management, your lessons are more likely to flow with ease."
Jenny Stephens - Nodland Elementary School
"My goal is to instill confidence in the student teacher, provide them with tools to be successful and help them to be passionate about teaching and creating lifelong learners," says kindergarten teacher Jenny Stephens. As a cooperating teacher for BCU teacher candidates completing their student teaching, Jenny models and supports her student teachers while encouraging them to share and try their ideas.
Jenny has worked with the education department at Briar Cliff for five years, and her favorite part of their collaboration is seeing the BCU students grow as teachers. Student teaching gives prospective teachers an opportunity to gain experience, collect data and implement strategies with the guidance of an experienced teacher. For Jenny, that opportunity is key to helping soon-to-be teachers understand meaningful lessons.
"Do what it takes to provide engaging instruction," she says. "Take the time to get to know the 'whole' child."