Teachers for Tomorrow take a step toward the future

Pulaski County High School students who are considering the teaching profession visited Radford University for a day-long introduction to the opportunities awaiting them in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership.

Emily O’Dell wants to have a positive impact on the lives of young children.

So much so, she’s considering a career as a kindergarten teacher. “I just love being with and working with the small kids,” she said.

O’Dell has seen first-hand the positives a teacher can have on young lives. Her mother teaches at Christiansburg Middle School, and “she’s really good at what she does,” O’Dell said. “She is someone I look up to.”

O’Dell is junior at Pulaski County High School and still has a little time before she begins career preparation. But, like many students her age, she’s already looking at colleges.

That’s the impetus behind her enrollment in the Teachers for Tomorrow class at Pulaski County High. It’s a dual-enrollment course with New River Community College, said Steve Lavery, who teaches the class at the high school. It’s offered to many high school juniors and seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in education.

The program is designed to attract teacher candidates from high school students to the education field through exposure to a world-class curriculum and hands-on experience that focuses on teaching,” Lavery said. “And ultimately, we want them to come back and be teachers here in Southwest Virginia.”

Through the program, the students get a chance to visit college campuses and learn about the education programs there and get a taste of the college experience. O’Dell and 11 of her classmates who are considering the teaching profession visited Radford University on Oct. 4 for a day-long introduction to the opportunities awaiting them in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership.

Trent Blankenship is “almost 100 percent sure” he wants to be a teacher. “I’ve had some positive teachers in my life and they’ve made me want to be that positive influence on other kids,” the Pulaski County High junior said.

The same goes for Caleb Dunford, a senior who wants to teach kindergarten. “Just knowing that the positive influence I will have on kids in the younger grades will be pleasing to me,” he said.

The campus visit was coordinated by Carol Bland and Melissa Lisanti, assistant professors of elementary education in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership.

“It’s important to build strong partnerships with Teachers for Tomorrow programs in our regional school divisions,” Bland said. “We want to make sure interested high school students know about the outstanding teacher education program here at Radford and see our passion for teaching and commitment to student success. We hope these partnerships will address critical shortages in elementary, foreign language, mathematics, science and special education and that our graduates will enter the profession ready to serve the schools in their local communities.”  

While on the Radford University campus, the high school students took a tour of campus and learned about the teacher education program while visiting the Teacher Resource Center in Peters Hall.

They also heard from the dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Kenna Colley, and associate dean, Tamara Wallace. The group got a chance to participate in a sample college class taught by Matt Grimes, a faculty member in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership.

To get even more of a college experience, the students ate lunch in Dalton Dining Hall and shopped in the Radford University Bookstore.

“I love it. The energy and the excitement the kids have for going to college is showing very quickly,” Lavery said. “It gives me a lot of joy to see them so excited about the next phase. Usually there’s trepidation, but when they get here they see it and they’re ready to move forward and start tomorrow.”

Dunford may be one of those who is eager to get started on college. “Radford is probably No. 1 on my list now. It’s such a positive environment.”

O’Dell agreed.

“I’m really happy that I got to go on this trip,” she said. “I love it. It’s showed me for sure that Radford is a school that I want to go to. It has so many neat amenities and opportunities that fit in my plans. I really like it.”

Oct 7, 2016
Chad Osborne