- Students learn about understanding bias, equity and the different jobs and roles of educators throughout the profession.
- More than 60 percent of educators teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school.
By Jacob Perkins
Kentucky’s future educators have been given an opportunity to grow professionally and personally through Educators Rising Kentucky.
Two hundred and forty students from 27 schools met at the Educators Rising Kentucky annual state conference and competition March 5-6 at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green to learn about the field and participate in 17 competitions, ranging from Lesson Planning and Delivery to Job Interview. These competitions are designed to showcase their skills in various aspects of teaching.
The Educators Rising curriculum, which can be offered through the Teaching and Learning pathway, gives students that are interested in education a hands-on teaching experience, sustains their interest in the profession and helps them develop the skills they need to be successful educators.
According to the Educators Rising website, more than 60 percent of educators teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school. With a shortage of teachers in Kentucky, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said, groups like Educators Rising Kentucky are key to getting students interested in the education profession.
“How incredible is it that in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, this many young people are gathered together at this state conference preparing to go into a career in education?” Lewis said at the closing session. “We need to increase the number of folks who decide to become teachers. We don’t have enough. We need your talent. We need your passion.
“We need people that are going into the education profession that love other people and that have a genuine desire to want to connect with them and support them. I tell you that not as the commissioner of education, I’ll tell you that as a parent. I’m excited that you want to become teachers and we are committed at the Kentucky Department of Education to continue to support you as you move in that direction.”
Shelby Halstead, a senior from Lincoln County High School, said the group has given her the chance for personal growth.
“Through Educators Rising, I’ve been given the ability to see myself for what potential I have and not based off of what I’ve gone through outside of school,” she said. “It’s really opened up many doors for me to step out and be who I need to be.”
“It’s like a family,” said Halstead’s classmate, Kaitlyn Witt. “Other clubs are so big at our school that there’s not much of a personal connection.”
Kristen Story, an English teacher and Educators Rising adviser at Lincoln County, said her high school currently offers two classes in the Teaching and Learning pathway – Learning Communities and Learner Centered Classroom. A third, Professional Educator, will be offered next year.
The Learning Communities class gives students the opportunity to begin to understand their own teaching persona and the value of having and enhancing a growth mindset. They learn about understanding bias, equity and the different jobs and roles throughout the education profession
“Students are exposed to the basics of instruction such as mapping and backward planning, collaborative planning, formative assessments, grading and classroom management,” Story said.
In the Learner Centered Classroom class, students delve deeper into culturally responsive teaching, differentiated instruction, special education and creating an inclusive classroom environment. In this class, students have the opportunity to teach their fellow classmates, which allows them to develop a better understanding of professional ethics.
Story says the classes help students dissect what teachers normally do in the classroom.
“They get a true inside look of all the behind the scenes of being a teacher.” Story said. “We do a lesson and then I stop and say, ‘Why did I have you all do that?’”
“It’s definitely helped me realize what it takes to be a teacher.” Witt said. “We’ve made lesson plans, we’ve presented and taught classes. It helps you realize before you get too far into it whether or not it’s for you. And I think that it is very much for me.”
Students can take classes in the Teaching and Learning pathway without joining Educators Rising. The students learn through the classes and then decide whether or not to join. This ensures that Kentucky is producing the most passionate future educators.
Lincoln County’s Educators Rising Club has about 45-50 students participating.
“This year we opened it up to the entire school with one objective …, creating an awareness in the school of Educators Rising’s existence,” Story said.
Story said her Educators Rising Kentucky students have encouraged a growth mindset in their classmates by posting positive notes and encouraging posters throughout the school.
“They organized a gently used book drive and collected over 350 books that we will deliver to one of our county’s elementary schools so that every child will have a book to take home and keep for themselves,” she said.
Story said she also has been impacted by Kentucky’s future teachers through her Educators Rising classes.
“I’ve learned more compassion.” Story said “I’ve learned the importance of taking that breath and making sure that I really see kids individually and not just as a whole. I’ve always loved my students, but this class has allowed me to really get a better grip of the profession and the relationships that I’ve built with these students. It’s really blended into my other curriculum classes.
”I’m toward the end of my profession and my passion is to continue for it to grow. It (teaching) gets beat up on in the media. It’s something that I believe whole-heartedly in and support and I can see the fruits of the labor already.”
As for schools that may be interested in setting up an Educators Rising Program,
“Definitely go for it.” Story said. “It’s so exciting and so rewarding. We’ve really built a community within our own classrooms and it’s been an opportunity for me not just to teach, but to grow.”