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Grow your own teachers? You bet. District offers high school students education internships

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Iowa school districts face a perennial shortage of teachers. Not so much in the Sioux City Community School District -- they are growing their own.

Four years ago, the district’s Career Academy debuted education classes for high school students, giving students a chance to learn about an education career long before they head to college.

The Sioux City Career Academy enables students to make a connection between their education and their future with meaningful, real-world experiences. The academy offers over 30 pathways for students to explore. Each pathway is career focused, and complements their in-class studies.

The career academy serves 17 school districts in total, including two in South Dakota and one in Nebraska.

“This grow-your-own concept was something the board put together,” said Superintendent Paul Gausman. “They said, ‘here’s the problem we are having -- so what are we going to do about it?’”

A key to the academy’s education program is its internship opportunities, where students get hands-on experience in elementary and middle school classrooms.

“Interning gives students a chance to sample a teaching career,” said the education teacher Wendy Bryce. “It enables them to find out if the career is for them.”

It appears that it is. Moreover, it’s popular. Today, a whopping 150 students are taking the education pathway classes, mostly 11th and 12th graders.

“I think education is really appealing for some kids,” Bryce said. “The big thing is that they are interested in building positive relationships with kids. They want to create lessons that are really engaging to kids, and they get to see the change and lifelong impact they have on the students.”

The education pathway currently offers four classes, in addition to the internships. Students receive dual credit for each of them through Western Iowa Tech Community College. Additional classes are available online through Western Iowa Tech.

In addition, students can receive their coaching certificates by the time they graduate from high school. There are currently 60 students working on their coaching certifications.

Area education colleges have taken note of the program, and regularly check in with the students.

“I think when you’re growing your own, it becomes clear there are lots of education opportunities in which you can get your teaching degree not far from home,” Bryce said.

Anthony Gaul, one of the academy’s multi-occupational coordinators, said the district is hoping this resolves teacher shortages.

“The students are building relationships with administrators and teachers,” he said. “They are doing great things. Right now, 24 students are doing internships.”

Most students intern an hour-and-a-half every other day, though some intern for as much as three hours.

“It’s been so neat seeing these students in action,” Gaul said.

The district is now just starting to track students as they go through college. This coming spring will be the four-year mark as the academy’s first education cohort begins graduating from college.

At least one former student is doing a practicum this fall at Sioux City’s East High School.

“The principal from East emailed me and said, ‘Hey, I have a former student of yours,’” Bryce said. “He will be an English teacher and will be graduating from Morningside College (in Sioux City). He also wants to coach wrestling.” 

Familiarity with the students gives them a leg up in getting a job in the Sioux City district.

“When we become aware that a student is getting ready to graduate from college, we pass their names onto human resources,” Gaul said. “When they leave high school, we tell them, ‘Hey don’t forget us.’ We’ve already established relationships with these students, and we know they are good.”

The academy also puts students in a great position to enter college and study education.

“Our students know that education isn’t just about curriculum,” Bryce said. “They understand that the most important thing is building relationships with the students. If you get them to understand that you care, the students will perform much better for you.”

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on August 15, 2022 at 7:05pm.