School of Education students get a head start in real-life teaching

As they approach their graduation, a group of senior students at the University of Miami is simultaneously finishing their last semesters as education majors and gaining experience outside the classroom as well prepared full time teachers.

These students are participating in a 15-week field experience and are required to take a seminar class once a week.

Professor Gloria Pelaez teaches this seminar and asks that each student prepare to meet each week to discuss what they have learned and what problems they have encountered. She also requires her students to create portfolios which they could use while applying for jobs after graduation.

“What we get back from our students is that they feel really well prepared,” Pelaez said. “When they share their portfolios with principals who are hiring, they are very impressed with the experience our students have had because they go out into the field very early, [typically] from the second semester after declaring their major.”

One of these students, senior Jaclyn Emanuel, starts her weekday at 8 a.m. when she arrives at Henry S. West Laboratory School to teach her 17 first graders. She then remains at the elementary school until about 6 p.m.

“You have to love it,” said Emanuel, or “Miss E” as her first graders call her. “I’m constantly doing something; it comes naturally.”

Though it is obvious she has a passion for her students and for teaching, it is not her priority in the future.

“Psychology is my passion,” Emanuel said. “I also want that financial security. This isn’t the real world. We have everything here: books for every student, parents who want to help. That’s not how it is everywhere. If I could be guaranteed a first grade job in a school like this, I would be a teacher tomorrow and forget about the money.”

Students taking the 12-credit seminar at the School of Education are neither allowed to take other classes nor have an outside job, despite their lack of salary as teachers at West Lab. Emanuel, for instance, said she definitely feels the financial restraints.

“It’s a full-time job,” she said. “This is like our internship.”

Senior Amanda Bossert reports to her Miami Palmetto Senior High School classroom by 6:45 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day. She teaches 11th graders English four times a day: two classes at the regular level and another two at the honors level. Bossert said, however, that she would love to teach middle school.

“They’re going through that in-between phase where they are more mature and independent yet still have those little kid faces,” she said. “It’s the best of both. In high school, they aren’t innocent; they aren’t little kids anymore.”

Both Emanuel and Bossert described the restrictions on their social life brought on by being full-time teachers.

Bossert said that the moment she enrolled in the course she accepted that she would not be able to spend time with friends as often as before.

“After I graduate in December, I’ll be able to do what I want,” she said.