By Amy Batista, Special Writer
EWING – A group of Hightstown High School students attended a Future Educators Conference and got one step closer to pursuing their career path last week.
“Our group was invited to attend because this year, Hightstown High School has offered a new course called Tomorrow’s Teachers Academy for students who plan to study education at the college level,” said Hightstown High School English teacher Casandra Fox in an email on Tuesday. “I’ll never turn down an opportunity that will benefit my students, so I worked with my building principal, Dennis Vinson, to arrange funding for transportation, the cost of the conference is completely covered by NJEA for all attendees, and we made it happen, she added.
Ms. Fox said that this dual enrollment through Rider University course allows high school student to take the equivalent of Ed-101 right at HHS.
The Center for Future Educators at The College of New Jersey announced that for the 2015-16 academic year, students who enroll in their high school’s Tomorrow’s Teachers program are eligible to receive three college credits from Rider University upon successfully completing the course. The opportunity that not only allows students to explore the teaching profession, but begin their college careers with three credits already completed at Rider University, a nationally accredited institution, according to the Center for Future Educators website.
“The course covers child growth and development, learning theories, lesson planning and assessment, observations and reflections, and culminates in a field placement where the student cadet will shadow a master teacher for almost a month,” said Ms. Fox. “Along with the new course, we have also opened a chapter of the East Windsor Future Educators Association (EWFEA), which is open to any HHS student, not just students enrolled in the Tomorrow’s Teachers Academy Course.”
The students attended the Future Educators Conference at The College of New Jersey on Jan. 14. Ms. Fox said there are 17 students who are enrolled in the Tomorrow’s Teachers Academy class, but one fell ill that day, so 16 actually attended the conference.
“The New Jersey Future Educators Association is a professional organization, affiliated with NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) of high school students who plan to become teachers and educators in their future,” she said. “The NJFEA holds several conferences on featuring topics related to education throughout the year.”
A group from HHS had previously attended a conference at Rider University in October, and hope to attend another conference at Monmouth University in March, according to Ms. Fox.
The first regional NJFEA Conference held at The College of New Jersey on Jan. 15 drew more than 400 students and their advisers. Participating students enjoyed a selection of more than 20 breakout sessions on topics such as teaching in a special education classroom, learning how to teach science, creating positive classroom environments, and a special workshop for NJFEA advisers, according to the Center for Educators website.
Ms. Fox said that some examples of sessions held included – An Overview of Child Development, Creating a Positive Classroom Environment, The Impact of Gangs on Schools, Why Teach Math? Because it’s Awesome!. The student cadets signed up according to their preferences in class before attendeding the conference.
“At this most recent conference, we were lucky to hear from Jeanne Muzi on the importance of this career path. Then, students attended their breakout sessions, and we met back up for lunch, and a closing session where a panel of college students discussed their choices and provided advice for the high school teacher cadets,” said Ms. Fox.
She said that her student cadets are required to turn the information from their breakout session as a presentation back to their classmates, so that all of her students get the information and get to practice public speaking skills so needed in this field.
“The conference is vitally important because it allows the high school students to begin to navigate their chosen field in a professional, adult manner,” she said. “These conferences provide a great example of the importance of seeking strong, relevant, and effective professional development opportunities, which is an essential part of this field of education. One of the goals of this course is to create future Master Teachers, teachers who lead the field, so modeling attendance at professional conference is an example of the kind of educators these students plan to someday be.”
Ms. Fox said it was a profound moment for her, realizing that the dreams of the students are becoming that much more real.
By Amy Batista, Special Writer