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Dordt College education receives grant to pilot yearlong student teaching program

January 7, 2014

The Iowa Department of Education has awarded Dordt College a $310,000 grant and selected Dordt to be one of two Iowa institutions of higher learning to launch a yearlong student teaching pilot program. Dordt, and the grant’s second recipient, the University of Northern Iowa, will implement the program, evaluate its effectiveness, and offer insight to the Iowa Department of Education at the completion of the yearlong initiative.

Using an application process, Dordt College will select 15 teacher education program seniors to partner with pre-K through 12th grade schools in the Sioux Center Community School, Sioux Center Christian School, and Stepping Stones Preschool in the Fall of 2014. Those students will spend the entire 2014-15 academic year co-teaching with the classroom teacher.

Mornings will be spent co-teaching in the classroom, and the intern (student teacher) will take classes in the afternoon that correlate with their teaching experience. Every part of their academic year will be linked to their practicum.

The traditional student-teaching model places students in two classrooms during their final semester and only allows them to be a full-time teacher for a few weeks at each school. “We’re tipping the traditional model of student teaching upside down,” said Timothy Van Soelen, director of Dordt College’s Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) and professor of education. “This new model will better prepare them for their first year of teaching because the intern really becomes invested in the school, and they’re viewed as a full-time teacher all year long.”

The grant will help fund the creation of a yearlong student teacher director position to be filled by Dordt College Professor of Education Pat Kornelis, additional education student scholarships, stipends to mentor teachers, additional training opportunities, and admission to the National Association of Professional Development Schools Conference.

“We’re excited and proud to be chosen for this pilot program,” said Kornelis. “This is a huge responsibility—our results and findings will be critical in helping the state of Iowa determine if this is the model that the state should follow.”

Though this is a pilot program for the state, Dordt College has already been working toward making this Professional Development School model a standard part of its program. The grant will help accelerate that process.

Van Soelen sees this model as “the capstone of Dordt’s teacher education program. It is the most authentic teaching experience that can be offered to students before they begin working in their own classrooms after graduation.”

This experience is as valuable to the mentor teachers and the pre-K through 12th grade students as it is for education majors. “In this co-teaching experience, student teachers and mentor teachers share the workload and partner in the education experience,” said Van Soelen. “The atmosphere contributes to higher student achievement from the children they teach.”

Dordt’s fully accredited and highly regarded education program offers a four-year bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree with tracks in School Leadership and Teacher Leadership. Learn more at www.dordt.edu/academics/programs/education or www.dordt.edu/master.

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