Southeast’s EDhawk Scholars Program Pairs Education Students, Local School Districts

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Southeast student Nicole Petrillo, a senior early childhood education major from Wauconda, Illinois, conducts a reading exercise with first graders at Alma Schrader Elementary School in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as part of her teacher field experience.

Southeast Missouri State University’s College of Education, Health and Human Studies has launched a new program this fall that pairs student teacher candidates with local school districts in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Sikeston for a full year to polish their teaching skills while building future employment connections.

The EDhawk Scholars Program helps forge a beneficial partnership between Southeast’s Educator Preparation program, local school districts and teacher candidates who are beginning their advanced field experience placements.

“It allows local administrators to connect with teacher candidates earlier, and it enables teacher candidates to be more effective in the classroom,” said Dr. Daryl Fridley, associate dean for education preparation.

As EDhawk Scholars, teacher candidates can develop a unique relationship with school district administrators and teachers, fulfilling their field experience requirements while remaining with a school for the duration of the academic year.

“The program provides our students the opportunity to stay with the same teacher and students through the whole school year and gain valuable experiences on how to interact with them,” said Shelley Oldham, director of the Office of Field Experiences in Southeast’s Educator Preparation Program. “Students are placed in the school district as early as the first day of the local school district year and then supervised by the University at the start of our academic school year.”

The program enhances the Southeast students’ hands-on field experiences, gives them additional opportunities for paid substitute teaching positions and networking, and provides potential access to the hiring process.

“This gives students a significant advantage during student teaching because they already know the school culture and teachers,” Fridley said.

If the student teaching semester is successful, students are then guaranteed an interview if a position in their field arises. For local schools, the program gives them early access to teacher candidates and early opportunities to identify potential hires, while developing and mentoring the next generation of teachers.

The program also increases the number of high-quality substitute teachers available to schools, as one of the most frequent concerns mentioned by administrators is the scarcity of substitute teachers, Fridley said.

“If there aren’t enough substitute teachers available on a given day, students may have to share a classroom or a principal might have to fill in,” he said. “Helping to provide high-quality substitute teachers is one way we can support schools in the region.”

The program has already seen early successes and has been positively received by teacher candidates and school administrators in the Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Sikeston school districts, Oldham said. Southeast is exploring the possibility of expanding the program to additional districts next year.

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