Student teachers must travel

Waking up Monday morning, junior Jackie Staszczak prepared for her first day of field experience at Jefferson High School.

As an education major, she, along with many others, were placed in schools outside of Whitewater to gain experience as a teacher.

The College of Education and Professional Studies requires their education students to teach for a full semester as an unpaid intern in surrounding schools, some of which may be further than the students had hoped.

“The students do get to inticate  an area of preference, but it doesn’t mean they always get it,” Marie Benson, interim director of Field Experience said.

Within their last year before graduation, education majors must do their field experience, which is like a “pre-student teaching,” Benson said.

The pre-student teaching is normally done at different schools than the student teaching.

For example, students might teach in an elementary schol for their field experience, but a middle school for their student teaching.

Student teaching takes place in the last semester before graduation. Students teach for 18 weeks, following the schedule of the school at which they teach.

“If graduation is two or three weeks before your student teaching job ends, you still go back and finish your teaching,” Benson said.

Benson said students are not paid unless they are enrolled in the teacher internship program.

Staszczak thinks something needs to be done to help students who might be struggling with funds to get to their student teaching every day.

“I’m in my field experience right now and I also have classes and a job,” Staszczak said. “But when I start my student teaching, it’s going to be an all day job that I am not getting paid for so I’m really going to have to cut back on my normal job. I’m currently driving to Jefferson and back already.”

Cheryl Wegner, who helps with the placement of student teachers, said she has students give her at least four choices.

“We try to do as best we can, but sometimes they can’t get placed where they want.”

Wegner said she always contacts the students to let them know if they didn’t get the placement they requested.

“This is an integral part of their education. It’s a required part of the experience,” Benson said. “I don’t know why the university doesn’t help them with gas money, but it’s not done anywhere in system. That’s why we try our hardest to get them close to where they want to be.”

Senior Ryan Stahlke is also currently in his field experience in Madison. He will start his student teaching in the spring.

“I got a placement in Madison because obviously nobody else wants to drive there and I’m a commuter student from Madison,” Stahlke said.

Stahlke said the university can’t expect students to have a car or to be able to provide for their own transportation because of the funds that might not be there.

“There really is no alternative for it other than the university could compensate us for gasoline, but all they’re going to do then is increase the tuition for these classes,” Stahlke said.

Stahlke said he doesn’t agree with students having to pay their own gas and provide their own transportation because it would be “terrible to be stuck in a situation where you were placed in a school or town that you couldn’t get to.”

Photo by Erica Noonan

Benson said the experience is necessary because it gives students a face to face approach. Students get to deal with classroom management and lesson plans.

“No two children are alike,” Benson said. “You can’t rubberstamp a classroom, so it’s best for our students to learn the everyday situations that happen in a classroom.”

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