Students Learn to Teach and Teach to Learn

by Allison Oster '01 and Candice McElroy '04

A little-known program at a small elementary school in Azusa is making big strides in teacher education. In a new approach to linking theory and practice, APU’s Multiple-Subject Teacher Credential Program launched the Professional Development School (PDS) which takes place where teaching matters most – on site in Azusa at Hodge Elementary School.

“Considering I had no previous classroom experience, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to see what an entire school year was like — from setting up a classroom to saying goodbye to kids at the end of the year,” said Tracy Townsend, an APU fieldwork credential student in the Professional Development School.

Different from most traditional teacher training programs, APU's School of Education and Behavioral Studies began the Professional Development School to allow its 11 participants to complete their education and training in one location. Approximately 650 professional development schools exist throughout the United States. According to Greg Kaiser, Ph.D., program director, this innovative approach to teacher training developed with three goals in mind: to enhance children’s educational experience, to provide new teachers with a high-quality introduction to the teaching profession, and to further professional development for veteran teachers and educators.

"By completing the Multiple-Subject Credential Program requirements at one site, PDS Program participants reap a number of unique benefits, including fieldwork and student teaching experience directly related to the credential course work," said Kaiser. "Additionally, students complete the program within a cohort support system, fostering camaraderie and developing lasting, professional relationships."

The APU students involved in the program spent staff development day, teacher preparation day, and the first three days of elementary school immersed in the learning and classroom activities, right alongside the veteran teachers and the elementary students. Throughout the rest of the fall term, these future teachers spend four hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays obtaining hands-on experience in the classroom. On Fridays, the students take their methodology courses on site at Hodge. During the spring semester, they receive clearance as student teachers and spend more time in the classroom each week. The program also enables student teachers to substitute at Hodge throughout the year.

“Being with students on a daily basis has given me a lot of confidence,” said Townsend. “I have only been at Hodge for three months and have already had the opportunity to teach the class lessons, give spelling tests, and assist students who need more help with reading and math.”

The program benefits the Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) by decreasing the adult-to-child ratio in the classroom and providing quality teachers trained in AUSD curriculum. “The kids know and respect me as a prospective teacher,” said Townsend.