Aminata Kalokoh-Odeh learned a lot about teaching in elementary school during her year in the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), from best practices for teaching different subjects to how to work with forces and the needs of a diverse group of students.
Go to the website to watch the video.
Still, her time in the program didn’t quite go as planned. Students in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) master’s program typically spend several days a week alongside a seasoned teacher at a local school, sharing the day-to-day experience of running a classroom. And last year was no ordinary year.
“It was a great program, but all year we were online,” said Kalokoh-Odeh, MA ’21, who graduated in June without setting foot in a physical classroom. (Some STEP students were able to work in person on their school placement for a period of time, depending on school circumstances, while others were exclusively remote throughout the year.)
When Kalokoh-Odeh learned that STEP was teaming up with Sunnyvale School District (SSD) for a summer school program this year for K-8 students, she jumped at the chance to participate.
She then spent much of her summer vacation at Lakewood Elementary School in Sunnyvale, getting the class time she missed as school doors were closed during the pandemic.
“It was really important to me because I wanted to have this experience in person [time], creating a community with the students, working on my classroom management style, ”said Kalokoh-Odeh, who will be teaching in eighth grade at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter this fall. “I didn’t want to be in a full-time teaching job without this experience. “
The summer program was one of eight Stanford faculty-led projects that received funding this year from the university’s Office of Community Engagement, in conjunction with the Bill Lane Center for the American West in the School of Humanities and Sciences, to work with local government organizations and agencies to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stanford-SSD collaboration not only provided additional support to students in the district after a year of mostly distance learning, it also gave 13 new STEP graduates a glimpse of what they will face in the classroom when schools return. more completely inside. person learning. The grant supported the summer salaries of graduates, allowing them to participate.
“The last year and a half has been very difficult for us and our school partners,” said Ira Lit, MA ’90, PhD ’04, professor at GSE and head of faculty at STEP. “We are truly thrilled to have had the opportunity to help support the school district and give our graduates – who are now California Certified Teachers – some of that in-person experience to build their confidence for them. teaching jobs they’re starting. this fall. “
A focus on well-being
The Sunnyvale School District is one of many San Francisco Bay Area facilities that STEP has worked with over the years on field placements to help prepare teacher candidates for their first year on the job. But this summer’s collaboration was different, bringing new graduates to the scene after a tumultuous year.
The collaboration was especially welcome as the district expanded its summer school program, responding to a mandate (and additional government funding) to accommodate more students. Some 700 elementary and secondary school students were enrolled in Sunnyvale’s summer program this year, roughly double the number in previous years.
“This summer, the focus has been on socio-emotional well-being, positive bonding and re-establishing the school as a school,” said Chin Chin Chiu, principal of the school. SSD Summer School, which works for the district as a behavioral intervention. coordinator of services during the year.
Students relearn the standards of classroom life: “How do I get into school?” What’s my routine in terms of transitioning to the classroom or transitioning out, or doing my freelance work or doing group work, even things like playing recess – all of those things that we have? had to re-teach, ”Chiu said.
New to the summer session designed to facilitate the reintegration of children into school life were what SSD administrators called “passion projects,” chosen by each teacher based on their individual interests.
At Lakewood Elementary, where Kalokoh-Odeh was paired this summer with seasoned teacher Karen Garcia, their thriving class of fifth graders spent time every day tending a lush vegetable patch in the schoolyard and participate in classroom activities focusing on nutrition and agriculture.
Drawing on his own experience in the theater, Kalokoh-Odeh undertook with the class a writing project for a play about Delano’s grape strike from 1965 to 1970, a strike of workers to protest against the treatment of predominantly Filipino farm workers.
“When she told me she was interested, I assumed she would write it down and the kids would play it,” Garcia said. “But they wrote it together. She completely blew me away. I have no theater arts background so watching her help the kids find their writer’s voice has been truly inspiring.
For Garcia, who has taught at SSD for over 20 years, the experience reinforced one of his favorite aspects of partnering with new and future teachers: the chance to learn from the skills and perspective they bring to his class. “It’s wonderful to be able to welcome new teachers who have different experiences or new ideas at the cutting edge of their practices,” she says. “It invigorates you as a seasoned teacher, to continue your own professional journey as well. “