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High School Students Explore Teaching Through CTE Classes

Aubrey Meyer, a student in Teaching Academy 1, talks with a Beaver Lake Middle School student in the class of her mentor teacher, Tiffany Bahall.

Watching Aubrey Meyer move from student to student at Beaver Lake Middle School, chatting and working to establish relationships, it’s easy to envision her as a teacher someday in the not-too-distant future.  As a student herself in Skyline High School’s “Teaching Academy 1,” Meyer has had the chance to observe multiple teachers at Beaver Lake, work one on one with students, help record homework and, perhaps most critically, to begin to fully understand what it would be like to pursue a career in education. 

“I’ve always had an interest in teaching and knew that’s what I wanted to do as a job,” said Meyer, a junior. “When I heard about this class from a friend, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some experience in the field of education and see if I liked it.” 

Under the tutelage of mentor teacher Tiffany Bahall, she’s doing just that. 

“I look forward to my internship every day because I love my conversations with my mentor and the things that I experience during it,” Meyer said. “This class has forced me to think about what I would do in a teacher's situation and how I would teach a lesson, which is very helpful to what I want to do in the future.” 

Bahall says it’s great to have Meyer in her class. It’s a full-circle moment, since Meyer is now interning at the same building she attended in middle school and was once a student in Bahall’s class. “It’s so interesting to see her in 11th grade, compared to sixth grade,” Bahall said. “I enjoy having my previous students and seeing their growth.”  

Aubrey Meyer, a student in Teaching Academy 1, talks with a Beaver Lake Middle School student in the class of her mentor teacher, Tiffany Bahall.

At top, Aubrey Meyer talks with a student in Lisa Chamberlain's class at Beaver Lake Middle School. Immediately above, Meyer asks a student in Tiffany Bahall's class about a project.

 

Teaching Academy is a two-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) program that has most often been available at Skyline and Liberty high schools through the years. Its availability varies based on student demand, said Lisa Neighbours, Director of CTE and Secondary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As a pathway, the Teaching Academy classes typically fall after classes in Health and Child Development. In Teaching Academy 1, students spend the first semester in the classroom at the high school, learning about teaching. During second semester, they begin an internship and begin implementing some of what they have learned. Then, in Teaching Academy 2, students spend most of their time interning throughout the full year. They assist the mentor teacher with additional responsibilities, including developing unit plans, as well as planning and teaching at least one lesson of their own.

“Teaching Academy is valuable so that we can grow our own educators,” Neighbours said. “We have had multiple students who completed Teaching Academy come back and work for our district in elementary and secondary classrooms. This course also prepares students who would like to become paraprofessionals in the district.” 

Skyline’s Teaching Academy courses started 15 years ago, and are currently taught by Brianne Lutz, who Neighbours describes as “passionate about preparing future educators." 

“She ensures the students are prepared for their first day in the classroom with best practices for teaching, as well as strategies to help with classroom management,” Neighbours said. “She works very hard to match students with quality classroom teachers at the appropriate level (elementary/secondary) and in the subject matter that interests them.” 

In Meyer’s case, because she’s interested in one day teaching middle school, pairing her with Bahall as a mentor teacher was a great fit. 

“The students are going into the classroom and practicing the craft of teaching,” said Janel LeMieux, Curriculum Specialist for CTE and Secondary STEM. “Students learn to prepare and execute lesson plans, then reflect on what happened and how they might improve the next time. This is an iterative process in which students are slowly improving over time. Those who pursue a teaching program have internship-based experiences on which to draw knowledge. This gives these students a head start in their future career.” 

Every hiring season, the district’s Human Resources team is focused on recruiting excellent teachers who care about our students. The Teaching Academy classes help develop potential educators who already have a direct connection and deep investment in our community. 

“A collaborative spirit and a love of working with young people are two of the key qualities we seek in future teachers,” said Donna Hood, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. “We would love to see our current students explore teaching as a viable career pathway within our schools and under the guidance of our current CTE teachers.  It’s a great opportunity for any student to find out if they love it!” 

Since the launch of the district’s Strategic Plan, the hiring team has had an additional focus on recruiting teachers and certificated staff of color, with a goal of more closely aligning the demographics of our staff to the demographics of our student population.  

“Historically and nationally, the teaching profession has had an overrepresentation of white teachers that does not match the rich and diverse student demographics found naturally in public schools,” Hood said. “In our own local context, 58% of our students identify as people of color and even after our recent gains of 3.1%, 13.9% of our teachers identify as people of color.  We would love to invite and welcome more students of color to explore teaching and be a key player in diversifying our teacher workforce now and into the future.” 

The Teaching Academy was on pause before Lutz reintroduced it at Skyline in the fall of the 2020-21 school year. “We faced some challenges as that year we started online and then switched to hybrid,” Lutz recalled. “We had to get creative with the internship experience and had several teachers who were willing to open their Zoom classrooms to us. Since then, we’ve had students intern in kindergarten to high school classrooms.” 

About 60 students have taken the Teaching Academy in the past four years, many of whom have gone on to major in education in college. 

“I love that this program allows for students to learn the ins and outs of education, see practices and reasons why teachers do certain things, and have particular protocols,” Lutz said, noting that her students also work to create their own philosophies of education and continue to develop those throughout the school year. She added that the hands-on experiences, paired with the chance to see firsthand what education is like from the perspective of the teacher are extremely valuable. 

“I love hearing how excited my teaching academy students are to work in classrooms and how the students they work with get joy working with them,” Lutz said. 

Another of Lutz’s Teaching Academy students, Ananya Gupta, says she took the class because she has worked as a tutor. She wanted to determine whether she wanted to be a teacher, and get classroom experience. 

“I've learned that teachers do so much behind the scenes than I had ever imagined,” Gupta said. “They put so much effort into cultivating a classroom that promotes learning in all types of learners. I didn't realize just how many different types of learners there are, and how many factors affect student engagement. My respect and gratitude for teachers has been immensely elevated after taking this class.” 

Gupta is interning with kindergarten teacher Tara Peterson at Discovery Elementary. 

“While I plan to pursue medicine for now, I do want to tutor as a part time job. Additionally, after taking this class I learned how teachers can come from industry as opposed to just the traditional path (of a degree in education) this has led me to aspire to become a professor of some sort later in life,” she said. 

Working with students and learning from Peterson has helped her foster empathy for teachers and students alike, Gupta said. “The internship is not only great for better understanding teachers, but also develops interpersonal skills with age groups you may not normally encounter.” 

She says she'll fondly remember some specific moments with the kindergarten students after her time with the class ends. 

“I remember that on one student's birthday, he asked to hold my hand while walking through the hallway. Whenever we stopped, he tapped his classmates and showed off that our hands were linked,” Gupta recalled. “I thought this was absolutely adorable! I also remember when two students were crying because they couldn't decide who would go first in a game, and when I suggested they play rock-paper-scissors to decide, they immediately brightened up and started playing, all traces of tears gone. It reminded me just how pure and simple little kids can be!”