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Today@Sam Article

Student Teachers Find Competitive Edge In Tough Job Market

Jan. 31, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Meredith Mohr

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Maegan Admire is one of two SHSU alumae who were recognized for her work as a "Student Teacher of the Year." The designation was presented for "creative and innovative teaching methods that engage the students in an active way." It is the first time two SHSU students have won in the same year. —Submitted photo

As she sits at her desk in front of a classroom filled with eager faces, Sam Houston State University graduate Maegan Admire is reminded that the job search isn’t over yet.

Today, she is a substitute teacher in the Fort Worth school district, putting to good use the skills she learned as an undergraduate student at SHSU.

But tomorrow, everything could change.

Admire is one of many education graduates who is being faced with the reality of the teaching job market in Texas right now. Since the recent Texas legislation dramatically cut school funding, more and more teachers have been let go and replacements have not been hired.

Karen Smith, associate dean of undergraduate programs and assessment for the College of Education, noted there is a surplus of elementary school teachers right now. Smith also said that some schools in the area, such as Conroe ISD, froze positions in the district, shifting teachers and taking care of their current teachers before hiring any new ones.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what the laws mean for teachers,” Smith said. “The laws have changed with regard to teacher quality. The state wants a good solid performance, and our requirements were already above what the state requires. The problem for school districts is that they didn’t give them enough money; they are decreasing the money and increasing the class size.”

Smith said the new legislation has not affected the teaching market significantly in Texas yet, especially in the districts that SHSU students are going into.

“In this part of the state as compared to the rest of the state and in this part of the country as compared to the rest of the United States, the teaching market in Houston and the surrounding areas has stayed steady,” Smith said. “We are seeing more concern, though.”

A Fort Worth resident, Admire realizes her battle isn’t over yet. But she does have a significant advantage on her side.

Admire, along with SHSU graduate Martina Dozier, were two of three education majors awarded the Texas Student Teachers of the Year recognition in October, the first time one college has had two students receive the award, according to Smith.

Presented by the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education, the award recognizes a student teacher who has demonstrated during his or her student-teaching experience an outstanding ability to plan and develop a repertoire of classroom management skills and instructional strategies that support the needs and curriculum of all students. It also requires recipients to be able to establish effective interpersonal relationships with students, parents, faculty and staff, and to reflect about the teaching and learning process.

The award is given for creative and innovative teaching methods that engage the students in an active way, something that Admire exemplified during her time student teaching, according to Smith.

Admire’s winning lesson plan was on birds’ beaks’ adaptations. Each student was a “bird” and attempted to “eat” different types of foods with different beaks.

“I am so honored to have won Student Teacher of the Year,” Admire said. “This award reaffirms my beliefs that a teacher’s job is to motivate students to want to learn, and I believe I won because my lesson did just that.”

It is her performance, and the performance of other education majors, that gives Smith confidence that teachers graduating from Sam Houston will be successful once they are in the field, she said.

“We have a really good job placement percentage and also retention in the field,” Smith said. “Our teachers stay in the field longer than other prep programs. Our records show that after five years in the field, 85 percent are still there. Those are really high numbers. And so far, enrollment has not decreased, although we are seeing a lot more concern from students coming into the program.”

Smith said that one of the real strengths of SHSU’s teaching program is that although Texas state law requires 30 hours of field experience before student-teaching, students from SHSU have well beyond 500 hours by the time they graduate.

“We like to say that you can get certified anywhere, but if you want to learn how to really teach, you need to come to Sam Houston,” Smith said. “The thought used to be that teaching is a safe profession, but it isn’t so much anymore. Really good teachers who are outstanding when they do their student teaching, they are very often hired first. They’re being watched while they’re doing their student-teaching and often they’ll be first on the list when a position opens.”

Admire is now a graduate student at Texas Christian University working toward her master’s degree in science education. She also works 10 hours a week as a teaching assistant, helping teach an “Elementary Science Course” for undergraduate early childhood education majors. She also volunteers two days a week tutoring a first grade English as a second language student, reads to a fourth grade class for once a week, and substitute teaches in Fort Worth ISD once a week.

She plans to finish her course work in May and to complete her master’s degree by May 2013 after completing action research within her own classroom.

Admire, who is from Magnolia, said she decided to transfer to Sam Houston when she changed her major from chemistry at Texas Christian University. During the time that she was chemistry major, she was also working part time at a daycare when she realized that the best part of her day was walking into the classroom and working with the students. She decided to transfer colleges and switch her major to education.

“I knew SHSU had a wonderful education program and was excited that I could do a lot of my observations in Magnolia ISD where I attended school,” Admire said. “I love it here and am so thankful that I transferred. Two of my most memorable teachers were my literature block teacher, Donna Cox, and my classroom management teacher, Joan Williams. They both brought a love for education to their own teaching that was contagious and were there to support me even after I had completed their courses. I am so grateful that I had such amazing teachers and experiences at SHSU that have helped mold me into the teacher I am today.”

Her student-teaching semesters, which she calls “wonderful experiences in two very different socioeconomic schools that with unique obstacles and challenges that I was able to adapt to and overcome,” were with two classes at William Elementary School in Magnolia ISD.

Admire said that the state of the job market for teachers, especially in light of the recent legislative measures imposed in Texas, is a worry for her, but she is determined not to give up, especially with the knowledge that she has a solid educational background in teaching thanks to the SHSU College of Education.

“I know the current education market is tough, but I hope to find a job this summer,” Admire said. “While I am waiting, I refuse to give up hope. I know that there is a principal who can see my love for educating young minds and will give me the opportunity to do just that.”




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