Dundalk High program trains tomorrow’s teachers
Monday, 23 December 2013 13:50

Students gain experience in area classrooms

by Nicole Rodman

    According to the Maryland Teacher Staffing Report, issued by the Maryland State Department of Education in September 2012, half of all new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.
    With new teachers leaving in droves — combined with the impending retirement of many longtime instructors — Maryland is facing a teacher shortage.   
    In an effort to recruit new teaching candidates and provide them with the support and training they need, the state has instituted the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program.
    The TAM program is open to students in grades 6 to 12 who are interested in careers in education.
    At Dundalk High School, 65 students participate in the TAM program led by Christina DeSimone.
    As DeSimone explained to The Eagle last week, TAM students at Dundalk usually begin the program in the 10th grade.
    TAM students take four courses, including Child Growth and Development through Adolescence, Teaching as a Profession, Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction and the Education Academy Internship.
    Students in the TAM program can also earn up to three college credits to be used at a participating institution such as Towson University or the Community College of Baltimore County.

While DeSimone’s students spend hours in the classroom learning the theory behind teaching, one of the key elements of the program is practical experience.
    To this end, for the past 12 weeks Dundalk TAM students have been volunteering as student interns at both Norwood and Holabird STEM Programs on Delvale Avenue.
    According to DeSimone, the partnership between Dundalk’s TAM program and Norwood and Holabird began when she contacted the schools.
    “I really was looking for something to get the students more involved in the community,” she explained. “You can learn a lot from books, but until you see the concepts first-hand, it is hard to truly understand child development.
    “When I contacted Ms. Cheryl Brooks [elementary principal at Holabird]   and Ms. Mari Morris [assistant principal at Norwood], they were both extremely hospitable to our students.”   
    Each week, students from Dundalk High walk a mile-and-a-half round trip to the schools, where they work with students over three class periods.
    Each TAM participant is assigned to work with a teacher, learning about lesson planning and implementation firsthand in a classroom setting.
    “They can apply the skills and theories we learn in class as they develop and experience actual classroom activities,” DeSimone explained.
    While students started out assisting the teachers to whom they were assigned, they eventually even designed and taught a few lessons themselves.
    “Originally, it was not my intent to have the student plan lessons ... but as they got to know the students and the teachers they were working with, I found that they really wanted to teach lessons.” DeSimone explained.
    DeSimone noted that while she made every effort to pair students with the subject or grade they were interested in teaching, this was not always possible.
    Nevertheless, for the Dundalk TAM students, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
    “The high school students absolutely loved working with the younger kids,” DeSimone noted.
    While DeSimone tries to impart to her students the practical skills involved in teaching, she also tries to instill in them the excitement of being in a classroom as students master new skills.
    Many of the Dundalk TAM students have already experienced this level of satisfaction first-hand.
    DeSimone recalled the excitement of one TAM student as she recounted her experience teaching a small child how to write the letter “G.”
    “She was so proud and full of excitement it’s all she talked about the whole way home,” she recalled. “That impact, that excitement from not only my students, but the teachers and elementary students as well, really touched me.”
    DeSimone is not the only one that the program has impacted.
    ”I have gotten such a great response from the TAM students, their parents, the elementary school teachers and the elementary school students,” she noted. “It truly is a win-win program!”