A teacher and a group of students sit around a table

The STEP (Student Teacher Education Partnership) initiative has been implemented between Powell County High School (PCHS) and Clay City Elementary (CCE) this year as part of the GoTeach KY program.
Photo submitted by Melinda Richardson.

Due to the critical teacher shortage in Kentucky, the GoTeachKY initiative was started in 2019 with the goal of “inspiring the next generation of Kentucky’s teachers.” As a GoTeachKY ambassador for the 2022-2023 school year, my focus this year has been to inspire individuals to become teachers who will return to Kentucky schools to teach the next generation of learners.

What better place to encourage individuals to become teachers than our own local high schools? Encouraging current students to become future teachers is such a practical and phenomenal idea. In order to inspire students in my county, I have implemented the STEP (Student Teacher Education Partnership) initiative between Powell County High School (PCHS) and Clay City Elementary (CCE) this year. Students who are in Melissa Meade’s Teaching and Learning Pathways class at PCHS have had the opportunity to visit CCE once a month for the 2022-2023 school year.

During these visits, high school students:

  • Are paired with an elementary school teacher mentor;
  • Become more familiar with Kentucky Academic Standards and what implementation of these standards can look like in the classroom;
  • Have the opportunity to assist with small groups and one-on-one tutoring;
  • Have the opportunity to mentor an elementary student;
  • Are able to implement and reflect on a lesson plan that they teach independently; and
  • Complete special projects for teachers (ex. decorate doors, prepare centers, grade, file, etc.)
A woman smiles

Melinda Richardson

Rather than entering college unsure if they wish to enter the field of education, these students are receiving hands-on experience that can help them determine that this is the career they wish to pursue. Both teachers and students have benefited from the implementation of this program.

“Working with Melinda Richardson and GoTeachKY has given an opportunity for the high school students who have chosen the Teaching and Learning Pathway to get real-life experience,” said Meade. “Students have been exposed to daily routines, lesson planning, room and door designs, and different discipline plans and situations.

“Many have also witnessed RTI (Response to Intervention) and ECE (Exceptional Child Education) students during small group and collaboration settings. This program has been extremely beneficial to the students and I hope to mimic this at all elementary schools in our district in the future.”

Julia Richardson, a reading interventionist at Clay City Elementary school, said she loved having the opportunity to work with future teachers.

“It is wonderful to be able to help them understand what teaching is like in today’s classroom and to give them experiences before they enter their first college class,” she said.

Students also see the benefits of the STEP initiative. Amelia Cook, a junior at PCHS, said working alongside her mentor has solidified her dream of becoming a teacher and she may even teach in her local community.

“Working with this group of 1st-grade students has opened my mind to working with elementary students. The impact I’ve already made on these students’ lives has been beneficial to me as they have given me confidence in my teaching skills,” said Cook. “I have worked individually with students around the classroom and helped them with their math and writing skills. Math is the subject I want to teach, so being able to work with these students has given me the final reason for me to make my decision. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity.”

Another student, Dessa Foster, a junior at PCHS, said working at CCE helped prepare her for her future.

“Ever since I started middle school, I’ve wanted to become a teacher and my desire to become one has grown since I’ve been working with CCE. I have had many opportunities that will help me become ready for a classroom of my own,” she said. “Teaching elementary school seems tough in a way, but this program is helping me believe that it’s actually not that hard at all when you get used to it.”

Their statements are powerful. This program is truly making a difference. It is truly inspiring current students to become future teachers.

From our experiences from this first year with the STEP initiative in Powell County, it is evident that this is going to be a program that will inspire students to enter college to earn a degree in education. Twenty-three high school students and many elementary school students have benefited from this initiative this year, and Meade is currently making plans to expand the program to include the other two elementary schools in Powell County.

The cost is minimal each month. The only cost is transportation, and this is only $45 per month. Districts across Kentucky should consider implementing a STEP initiative in order to increase student interest in becoming an educator in the future.

We must look to recruit educators from within our high schools. Programs like this will definitely help address the teacher shortage in the state of Kentucky.

Melinda Richardson is an educator at Clay City Elementary (Powell County Schools). She is also a GoTeachKY ambassador for the 2022-23 school year.