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Skyhawk Teacher Education Students Learn the Way of the Ospreys

Za Barrett

Many of us have recently noticed the Fort Lewis College students wandering our halls and helping out in our classes. Rest assured, they aren't retaking high school! They are students in Dr. Beth Dorman's ED 450 class, an upper-level education course focused on secondary teaching methods and assessment strategies. They are completing practicum hours and designing guest lessons with the goal of becoming secondary and K-12 teachers themselves.

A veteran in the field of expeditionary learning, their professor Beth Dorman has had a strong connection to Animas for almost ten years. Several of her former students—including Madi Neukirch, Cameron Elder, Julian Springer, and Jessica McCallum—have since become well-loved Animas teachers. In fact, as part of her curriculum this semester, Beth shared that "we have adapted Jessica's peer observation template that she developed when she was in graduate school over at the college, [as] one of my students!"

Beth is thrilled to give her students the chance to personally experience project-based learning at AHS. "Animas helps my students see an outside-of-the-box, non-traditional view of education that I personally think all education should reflect," she commented. "Most of them have been in traditional schools for their entire schooling. I see it as part of my goal and role to expand their mental models of what education can look like and what teaching can look like."

Before he came to Animas, aspiring history teacher Jonah D'Antonio recounted, "I'd never really seen any project-based learning, anything. My high school was very much lecture based, it was all tests." But in project-based learning, he remarked, "You're learning for this one project, but you're learning so many different things." Jonah remembered that his own high school history class lacked that openness, and hopes to bring more colorful projects into his future classroom. "I want to make [the class] more interesting, more creative. I want there to be more variance in the work that the students are doing, so that I don't get burnt out and they don't get burnt out."

While stepping into a new environment can be nerve-racking, Ospreys have made these Skyhawk teacher candidates feel right at home. "The respect we get from students and faculty…is stunning," reflected aspiring art teacher August Cox. Although Beth's class just started their time here, August already feels that "I'm really looking forward to coming back, being here next semester."

Already, the teachers-to-be have been engaged with classes and individual students. As Beth puts it, the "goal is to get them as involved as possible, and not just be a fly on the wall." Aspiring math teacher Antonio Acuna recalled, "I've been able to make a lot of connections with students…helping them during lunch with their math problems, just being able to pinpoint where they're having struggles, and just get them better understanding the concepts."

Beth's students also marveled at the support they've received from Animas teachers. "[Teachers] want us there and they want us learning to teach, and that's not something you [usually] see in a [traditional] public high school [without a formal partnership like this]," August speculated.

Many of the student teachers have been inspired by Ospreys' independence and drive. "Students can do way more than we give them credit for," aspiring math teacher Rachel Farley observed. "If you give them a hard problem, like the Problem of the Week, they think about things really critically, and they come to the conclusion on their own without having to be told."

"The passion I've realized I've had for teaching…it's been fully realized while teaching here," August shared. "I'm getting to interact with students who are passionate about their learning, and that is heartwarming."

Beth has nothing but excitement about the future of this FLC-Animas partnership. "[This collaboration] has exceeded my expectations so much already in these four weeks. I get back to my office after being here and I am just buzzing, and I can't stop talking because I'm so excited!" Being at the school, she says, gives her a fresh perspective on teaching: "I feel like being here also keeps me accountable to keep my practice emerging and growing, because I'm so inspired by the teachers here."

This partnership gives everyone hope that, moving forward, our two learning communities will continue to edify and inspire each other, soaring together to reach new heights.


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