Douglas High Uses Hands-on Learning to Prepare the Next Generation of Educators

Douglas, AZ | Submitted by Albert Young

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It all starts in a student’s freshman year. During the “Freshman Exploration” period, hundreds of students rotate between career and technical (CTE) programs that are offered at Douglas High School. Choosing between the 17 programs can be tough, but many students opt to continue training in the Early Childhood Education program, where they will learn how to work with young children, how to manage a preschool classroom and how to help young students learn.

This year alone, there are more than 100 students enrolled in the two-year Early Childhood Education program. These youth rotate between classwork, where an experienced instructor guides them in the principles of early childhood education, and lab work, where they work with the dozen-plus children who are enrolled in Douglas High’s preschool. They teach the kids, work with them one-on-one, create lesson plans, and gain skills they’ll need through hands-on experience. It’s a win-win, since the preschoolers are getting a high-quality early learning experience, and the high school students are developing their potential future career.

After two years of coursework and time in the preschool classroom, the students complete the program and they can continue to Douglas High’s sister course, Education Professions. Students who take on this course of study even gain experience in the district’s K-8 classrooms, where they’re able to practice developing and teaching lessons. It’s a great pathway to college and career for the dozens of students who complete the course every year. They have so many options available to them, including continuing on the Cochise College and then to a university, including University of Arizona South, which enables them to stay local and reduce the living expenses sometimes associated with college.

But beyond the skills they’re learning, students enrolled in this program also gain exposure to life experiences that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Participation in the career student technical organization, Educators Rising, gives students leadership practice and even allows them to travel outside of their rural community. A trip to Minnesota for a national competition was the first time on a plane for many participants and the 2016 national conference in Boston saw three Douglas High students rank in the top 10 of the competition.

Many of the programs graduates are already entering the teaching profession or are continuing their own education to become teachers. One student is pursuing publication of a self-authored bilingual kids book, some are substitute teaching in local schools and many have progressed on to Cochise College to earn associate degrees on their way to pursuing bachelor’s degrees in education. There are even two who are currently full-time teachers within the district. For a rural community, in a state where qualified teachers can be hard to come by, these youth are helping to fill in the gaps.

Not every student who completes the program will go on to teach – one wants to become a pediatrician – but they’ll all gain knowledge and experience that will be advantageous to their future. At a Title 1 school where poverty is the norm, this experience and training can make all the difference to a student’s future.

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