Expert opinion

Career classes helped student nurture teaching passion with experience

by Lennon Audrain

College student well on his way to becoming a full-fledged teacher backs poll's findings of the importance of career and technical education.

The students of tomorrow deserve teachers who are well-trained and experts in their practice. The best way to ensure that the future is filled with competent educators is by starting teacher training in high school. Career and technical education (CTE) programs like Educators Rising enrich students’ preparation by allowing them to explore teaching in a controlled environment, giving them authentic opportunities to try it out and receive feedback from seasoned educators.

CTE solidified my passion for teaching. Without courses that gave me the chance to explore teaching, as well as the tools to be successful in my own classroom, I would not be studying education at Arizona State University today. After taking that first child development class in high school, I decided to continue down the education pathway by taking classes offered to high school students at Rio Salado College. The CTE classes I took provided me with both strong knowledge of educational theory and time in the classroom to practice the skills needed to be a successful teacher.

The recent PDK poll results show that 86% of Americans believe schools in their community should offer certificate or licensing programs that qualify students for employment in a given field. In fact, some schools already offer CTE classes to high school students for dual enrollment credit, so they’re earning college credit as well. In my case, earning dual enrollment credit allowed me to complete an associate in arts degree in elementary education — before I even graduated high school.

With my associate’s degree, I was paid to teach Latin at a local middle school during my senior year. It wasn’t my first time in the classroom, though; through my participation in Educators Rising, I received in-classroom experience and invaluable training that I immediately put into action, especially regarding classroom management and learner engagement. These skills improved my teaching and helped me to elevate my students to success on the National Latin Exam. Of my 21 students, seven of them placed with honors on the examination on a national scale. This experience solidified my passion for education and made me realize that I was on the path to skilled teaching. When I discovered my students had placed, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and pride in knowing that I had made a difference in their lives. After announcing the amazing news to my class, my students’ excitement for each other made me realize that I had impacted them in more than just academics; I had made a true difference in the culture of their class.

As a first-year teacher, it was imperative that I constantly reflected after each day on what I could do better. Teachers who make an intentional effort to look back on the good and bad that happened throughout the day become more successful as time goes on. While I have already finished my first year of teaching, I know this will be a lifelong journey of learning and growth no matter how many certifications or degrees I earn. Becoming an accomplished teacher is a continuous process; teaching requires me to engage and reflect with my thoughts and with my students to facilitate even more successful learning experiences. (This year, I am teaching Spanish at an elementary school and have been learning new teaching skills, especially since Spanish is a spoken language!)

According to the 2017 PDK poll, 82% of Americans support job or career skills classes even if that means students might spend less time in academic classes. For me, taking CTE classes and pursuing teaching in high school resulted in the discovery of a true passion. With the credit I received, I’m three semesters away from student teaching — and one more after that, I’ll be a full-time teacher. By the time I enter a classroom full time, I will have taught for two years, as well as interned for an additional two through my participation in Educators Rising, ensuring that I will be a skilled educator right out of college. The certificate in secondary education I’ll earn from Arizona State University will further allow me to explore teaching in a deep and meaningful way. It will encourage me to step back from my practice and ask myself, “What can I do better?” — and then actually implement changes so I can become the best teacher possible for my students.

Lennon Audrain

Lennon Audrain is the Educators Rising National Student President. 

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