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School of Education Develops Partnerships With Schools to Promote Hands-On Experience


Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Highlands University School of Education student Nancy Anel helps Los Niños Elementary School second grader Cameron Sandoval with a reading comprehension lesson. 

School of Education Develops Partnerships With Schools to Promote Hands-On Experience

 
New Mexico Highlands’ School of Education developed partnerships with three schools this semester to promote early hands-on experience for university students in the classroom.
 
The professional development schools include two Rio Rancho Public Schools, Rio Rancho Middle School and Sandia Vista Elementary, and the Head Start Program at Armijo Elementary School in the West Las Vegas School District.
 
“What professional development schools do is bring together theory and practice much sooner in the teacher education process,” said Michael Anderson, dean of the university’s School of Education. “The future teachers are placed in authentic classroom settings with supervision and mentoring. This model helps future teachers be much better prepared for student teaching.”
 
The School of Education established its first professional development school last fall semester at Los Niños Elementary School, a dual-language school in Las Vegas City Schools.
 
This partnership between schools and the university also helps new teachers succeed in their early years and stay in the profession,” Anderson said. 
 
Special education professor Alice Menzor and bilingual education professor Loretta Salazar developed the professional development school at Los Niños in collaboration with the principal, Floyd Chavez, and his staff. Menz0r and Salazar supervised the university’s upper-division education students who participated in the pilot program.
 
“Because our students were in a professional setting, they were highly motivated,” Menzor said. “They also saw the connection between what they’re learning in the university classroom and the application in the school classroom. With this model, they already have some classroom management skills and confidence before they begin student teaching.”
 
Salazar said: “We need to help our students gain greater proficiency in Spanish. Immersing them in a bilingual setting at Los Niños helped them expand and refine their Spanish fluency in an academic sense. It gave our future teachers superb preparation in the bilingual immersion model.”
 
Chavez said he is grateful that Highlands University selected Los Niños for its first professional development school and is looking forward to continuing the partnership with the university.
 
“I observed the Highlands’ students develop leadership qualities at our school over the course of the semester, and it was like seeing a flower blossom,” Chavez said. “They got in there, rolled up their sleeves, and helped teach our students. They learned critical dynamics about student-teacher interaction.
 
“Professional development schools are a very practical approach to teacher education,” Chavez said. “We also want people to have their heart in teaching, and this model helps students decide early in their training if the teaching field is right for them.”
 
Nancy Anel, 22, was one of the education students placed at Los Niños last fall as part of the professional development school. She was born in Mexico City and is majoring in special education with a minor in bilingual education. She transferred from a college in North Dakota to Highlands University for its special education program, and because she had a scholarship to run cross country and track for the Highlands.
 
“You can read the theory in textbooks, but it’s so different when you go in the classroom and have an opportunity to teach the kids,” Anel said. “I was there every day and rotated through each grade level, getting to know the different ages. One of my professors said teaching is not ‘one size fits all’ and it’s true. I learned so much at Los Niños and feel ready to student teach.”
 
Anel said that she had such a good experience at Los Niños in the fall that she enrolled in a practicum at the school this semester. She works in Carla Pacheco’s second grade classroom.
 
“Nancy adapts easily to the climate of the classroom,” Pacheco said. “All the teachers at Los Niños speak highly of her ability to work with the children in our Spanish immersion program. She’s definitely an asset to have in the classroom.”
 
Anderson said the School of Education plans to form partnerships with more school districts for Professional Development Schools.
 
“This model is a mutually beneficial exchange between the university and the schools that ultimately benefits the children,” said Anderson, who served on the first editorial board for the Journal of the National Association of Professional Development Schools. “It initiates our education students in a real-world way to the teaching profession. There’s no doubt that professional development schools improve teacher preparation.”