It felt a little like a college recruitment day for athletes— complete with T-shirts and other SUNY Plattsburgh swag.
But for more than 50 high school students from around the North Country, this was a campus tour to woo a different kind of prospect: future educators.
The mid-May event, coordinated by SUNY Plattsburgh teacher educators Alison Puliatte, Emily Hoeh and Michelle Bonati, was funded through a NYSUT/National Education Association Grow Your Own grant. NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said the grant program is an outgrowth of NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching initiative, which began four years ago to address the teacher shortage and improve diversity in the educator workforce.
For many of the North Country sophomores and juniors, this was their first visit to the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. They visited dorm rooms, sampled an impressive cafeteria buffet and heard about teacher ed class requirements and field experiences.
With hands-on demo lessons modeling good teaching techniques, high schoolers learned how to conduct a “morning meeting” with younger students and inject a little fun into activities with Instagram-style poster projects and exit tickets written in the form of tweets.
One of the day’s most popular sessions was “The Life of a Teacher Education Student,” with current teacher prep students offering an insider’s view on their experience and why they’ve chosen the profession.
The teacher ed students kept it real, with two explaining how they were motivated by their own school experiences.
“I want to be the change I want to see,” said Catalina Espinosa, who recalled how an Advanced Placement teacher at her high school “was judgmental and made me feel stupid.”
Makenna Provost, who said she struggled in middle school and high school, emphasized how important it is for teachers to be positive and uplifting.
There was lots of information on the application process: High schoolers were happy to hear SATs and ACTs would not be required — and they listened carefully as faculty members explained how they could get their master’s degree and multiple certifications in five years. They heard how the current substitute teacher shortage in K-12 schools could enable them to earn money with part-time work.
“We want you to know it’s a rewarding profession where job placement rates are high and you can really make a difference,” said Denise Simard, dean of education. Teachers from area schools said the field trip offered an excellent window into what it’s like to be a teacher education student
“What an opportunity to meet the faculty and hear first-hand from the college students,” said Beth LePage, a Saranac TA member and one of the school’s TALAT Club advisers. She said it was especially inspiring for Saranac students to meet and walk around the campus with Makenna, who went to their own high school. “I think it makes them think, ‘Maybe I can do this, too’,” she said.
Want to start a Take a Look at Teaching Club in your school? Go to takealookatteaching.org and find activities, tips and other resources.