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An early path to the classroom at Bloomsburg University

​Gabrielle Meister couldn’t wait to be in front of a classroom.

It was part of her driving passion to become a teacher. After three years of lectures and observing classrooms, this Bloomsburg University early childhood and special education major decided enough was enough. This summer, it was time for her to teach.

Meister was among 22 education majors to participate in the three-week Milton Teaching Practicum in the Milton Area School District. It’s one of five practicum options College of Education students can choose from to get classroom experience prior to student teaching.

“When you’re first getting up in front of the classroom — even as young as kindergarten — you get very nervous,” Meister says. “The first time it was nerve-racking. By the third time, I got better at it. I’m now 100 percent more comfortable heading (forward). Student teaching is going to be amazing.”

Prepared and confident is exactly what she will be for her next classroom, according to Meister’s co-op teacher Kristin Barr, who teaches kindergarten at James F. Baugher Elementary.

“She’s seeing the full day what kindergarten looks like,” Barr says. “(That includes) my lesson plans, learning objectives, and seeing student progress, including student group rotations that involve reading and math.”

Through the practicum, she adds, Meister and her fellow education majors are getting beneficial real-time access of a true classroom environment, as well as an opportunity to get all the jitters out before their student teaching placement.

That’s exactly what Raven Jones, an early childhood major, was hoping for when she signed up for the practicum.

“It’s prepared me a lot,” says Jones, who student teaches this fall. “I had not gotten up in front of a class and taught before. I was able to see many things up-close I’ll see as a student teacher, such as noticing when students lose their focus and how to get them back on track.”

Student teaching preparation isn’t the only benefit the practicum students receive, according to Jones’s co-op teacher Jenni Waltman, who teaches second grade at James F. Baugher Elementary. Thesummer experience also builds their portfolio for future job opportunities.

“We’re piloting hybrid learning, and our grade level is the first to do this in the district,” Waltman says. “She’s also learning how to integrate technology in the lesson and have different station rotations for students to go through, as well as getting to different grade levels she may not see in student teaching.”