Nurturing the Next Generation of Educators
The world needs more progressive teachers! As a small school with limited turnover and a very specialized approach, we realized we needed to create opportunities to work with the wider community of educators. While we have also hosted student teachers in the past, we hoped to specifically tap into the talents and energy of young teachers of color and teachers from underrepresented groups for a semester-long paid internship program. Once word got out we were looking to create new partnerships, we expanded to include interns receiving class credit and even more student teachers. This semester, we’re proud to welcome four student teachers/interns into our classrooms.
(l-r - Ms. Toni Nunn, Student Teacher; Ms. Lizbeth Marquez, Student Teacher; Ms. Vanessa Campos, Intern, and Ms. Lia Cucinella, Intern)
Collaborating with Internship Programs
Ms. Angela Whitacre de Resendiz, a veteran teacher at TCS, worked alongside Ms. Christina Martin in establishing the new intern program, including: reaching out to partnering institutions like Chicago State, Elmhurst, and Dominican Universities; formulating goals and guidelines for the programs; and working with the interns and student teachers both in the classroom and in separate check-in meetings to answer questions, provide feedback, and plan together.
Ms. Toni Nunn was selected and hired as the first intern in the pilot program and, thanks to a partnership with Chicago State University's College of Education, is able to complete both the paid internship (15 hours/week) and her student teaching credits simultaneously.
“My journey over the last two months has been life-changing. I have been stretched and challenged so much. This experience has taught me what happens when you fully create a student-centered, democratic culture in the classroom. The places where a lesson could go are limitless. The students astound me daily with what they can produce when the expectations are set high. Ms. Angela has been a superior cooperative teacher and every day I am amazed at the wealth of knowledge she has concerning educating students. She truly models the TCS way as the teacher 'being the curriculum.' I look forward to taking what I have learned here at TCS into the classroom in the near future.”
Additionally, TCS has another student teacher: Ms. Lizbeth Marquez, who is a student at Dominican University. “Walking into The Children’s School, I experienced a new curriculum that I had never heard of before. Yet when it was time to start teaching with Ms. Coria, I found support, and felt a welcoming commitment from her and my knowledge is enhanced each day. It has been delightful to observe how Ms. Coria designs activities that the students are interested in but also challenges their thinking. I have observed the openness with which students share their ideas with others and how they approach voting for a class name among other things. Through this full-time observation and teaching, I can say I have gained an understanding of what The Children’s School is about. Through this class, I have been able to build relationships with the students and also the teachers. Although at first I was confused on how things worked, I now have the confidence to plan and incorporate lessons with the curriculum, which makes me happy.”
While developing the program, TCS also entered a partnership with Dr. Ayanna Brown and Elmhurst University’s Middle Level English Language Arts (MELA) to welcome student interns completing an independent study course with this former TCS parent. This innovative new program offers not only middle level English Language Arts licensure but also K-12 reading specialist licensure.
Dr. Brown explains, “The model we use is co-teaching, where they watch, learn, and support. Then, a gradual shifting where they co-plan with the teacher and then assume some lead-teaching responsibilities. This includes instruction, feedback, conferencing, etc. We are flexible and want our teacher candidates to learn about teaching writing while experiencing a process model, rubric development, and developmental feedback.”
TCS currently hosts two interns from the program, Ms. Rosalia Cuccinella and Ms. Vanessa Campos. Ms. Lia is spending about 4 hours each week with Ms. Angela in 3rd grade and Ms. Campos is doing the same with Mrs. Nitzsche in 4th/5th grade.
Inspiration and Experience
“Student teachers seek out TCS for a unique student teaching experience in a progressive and highly collaborative setting,” says Christina Martin, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at TCS. “This is part of TCS' mission and vision--to train the next generation of teachers and spread child-centered, progressive practices through those who choose to go on to jobs in mainstream education venues.”
“What drew me to teaching was the idea of being a role model for students especially for those who don’t receive enough support and opportunities,” says intern Ms. Lia. ”I want to push students to achieve their fullest potential by providing equitable resources and opportunities. As a future educator it is my duty to embrace my students’ individual identities and encourage them to voice their opinions especially when it comes to real world issues. Writing is a great way for students to express themselves and make strong points in what they believe in.
She continues, “Participating at TCS is such a unique and great experience for someone that has never come across progressive education. It is interesting to observe Ms. Angela’s approach to writing with her 3rd grade students. She encourages each student to pull from their own imagination by guiding them through the writing process without having preconceived notions of their writing abilities. Students are pushed to limits that they all ultimately deem successful, especially in their great story writing.”
Ms. Nunn sought out an experience with democratic learning. “While taking a social studies methods course at Chicago State University, I learned about a school on the east coast that modeled what it meant to be a democratic classroom. I was able to see how inquiry is an essential aspect of learning. This constructivist approach demonstrated teaching the way the student learns and encouraged decision making. Not to mention, it develops strong critical thinking skills and open-mindedness. This piqued my interest to learn more about how this model can be implemented in inner city schools. I was asked by my professor to apply for an internship at TCS and here I am now.”
Vanessa Campos explains what inspires her about the internship: “I believe that my own experiences as a Bilingual student inspired my dream to teach English/writing. I attended schools both in Mexico and the United States. I had great ESL and Bilingual teachers who helped me gain fluency skills through small-group intervention.
What drew me to teaching English and writing is to give back to my community and play a key role in the lives of other students of color who are faced with receiving instruction in a language they are not familiar with. It is also very rewarding that I can now teach a language that I was once not fluent in.”
More Teachers = More Voices Now and for the Future
Our educational mission is one of social justice, but our responsibility is social action through education. Creating space for more teachers means creating space for more experiences, more cultural backgrounds, more voices at the table. We recognize that our students’ lives and learning are always enhanced when our faculty and staff reflect the beauty, experience, knowledge, and perspectives of the full range of humanity and our experienced educators benefit from fresh perspectives and constant reflection. For our part, we offer new teachers exposure to and experience with our unique, child-centered, joyful, and democratically-based pedagogy. Learning through collaboration and mutual respect is always at the core of a TCS education for young and old alike.
“This has also been on our ‘equity wishlist’ for a long time--starting an internship program as a way to help diversify our faculty (along with other hiring goals) and have more teachers of color in the building, more representation, more role models for students of color, more voice from BIPOC teachers and prospective teachers,” says Ms. Christina Martin, Director of Curriculum and Instruction.
The Children's School is not only a place where children learn, but also provides faculty, staff, board members, and families a chance to grow and learn as well. Adding student teachers and interns to our community of learners keeps that community more sustainable, vibrant, and ready for the future.