Preparing for the Classroom by Spending Time in the Classroom
As an elementary and special education major, Sam Cavazos ’21 can be hard to find on campus. That’s because he spends a lot of time at local schools building the practical skills he’ll need to excel in his career.
“Going into the education field, there are plenty of requirements at NVU. I have to go into schools,” he says. And that’s what he likes most about the program. By the time he graduates, he will have completed three practicums and spent his last semester student teaching full time.
In education programs at some other universities, “You’re not in a school until your last semester to student teach,” Sam says. “Getting experience in classrooms before graduating is really, really valuable.”
Gaining Hands-On Skills Through Observing, Planning Lessons, Teaching
He spent sixty hours in a practicum at Cambridge Elementary doing a range of duties: observing, designing and executing lesson plans, reading books to students, helping the teacher. He also spent twenty hours observing a classroom at the school. “It’s nice to see a typical classroom — how it operates, the class schedule, and how the teacher interacts with the students. It’s good to get that experience,” says Sam, who lives in Montgomery, Vermont.
In his observation work, he learned about building “an equitable classroom, one that offers a very welcoming environment for all students,” he says. That is a focus of NVU’s education program.
In a practicum coming up, Sam will teach math. His student teaching will include teaching units, planning lessons, and managing the classroom. “That’s absolutely going to be great experience,” he says.
Faculty Mentoring Keeps Students on Track
In addition to the real-world experience Sam is gaining to help him stand out in the field, NVU’s program will prepare him for teacher license endorsement in elementary education (grades K-6) and special education (grades K-8), a combination called inclusive elementary education that’s unique in Vermont.
Whether he’s working at local schools or going to classes on campus, Sam values the faculty mentoring at NVU.
“I’ve enjoyed having small classes, and knowing all my professors on a first-name basis has been great,” he says. “I like the ease of contact, being able to email or text my professors and get a response within 30 minutes.” His faculty adviser keeps him on track about the education classes he needs to take each semester and meeting other graduation requirements.
A Close, Supportive Community
NVU also accommodates needs and schedules of Sam and other education students who are older than traditional college age and may have jobs and their own families. “NVU is pretty good at making concessions for that,” he says, with, for example, online classes and allowing students to bring their child to class occasionally. “Things like that strengthen the community.”
The close-knit, caring community at NVU is a bonus for Sam. “I have a really good relationship with every student in each class,” he says.
That’s the kind of connection he wants to have with the students he teaches after he graduates. Before enrolling at NVU, “I didn’t have a career plan at all,” he says. “Now, I’m really looking forward to learning more, getting prepared, and entering the education field.”