Student teachers advise at discussion panel

Michelle Farabaugh

The Student Pennsylvania State Education Association sponsored a panel discussion about student teaching in the St. Augustine Center on Feb. 5.

Two current seniors and two Villanova alumni talked about their teaching experiences.

A secondary education major’s final year of college consists of observing a high school classroom for a few hours each week in the fall semester.

When the spring semester arrives, the student completes his or her student teaching requirement.

Seniors Adriane Bernabei and Brendan Johnson agree that while observing a classroom may not be as exciting as student teaching, it is a necessary step in the process of learning how to control a classroom.

“Observing the same class for a few hours each week is not as interesting, but it helps you see how you would do things differently,” Bernabei said.

Johnson expressed similar thoughts.

“Don’t be afraid if the teacher is completely different from you – it’s important to be exposed to other styles of teaching,” he said.

This semester, Bernabei and Johnson both student teach at local high schools.

Bernabei takes charge of a ninth-grade Introduction to Spanish class, while Johnson teaches a social studies elective course as well as United States history to high school juniors and seniors.

Johnson was initially frustrated when his student teaching experience began with another two weeks of observation time.

However, he said the extra preparation time was valuable, as it allowed him a chance to work on lesson plans and run them by his co-op teacher.

“It’s a huge plus to get ahead on work and not fall behind,” he said.

In the district where Bernabei student teaches, all students take Spanish I in eighth grade. Her freshman class consists of many students who missed or failed the course the previous year.

She said her main difficulty lies in trying to motivate students who simply do not want to be in the class, but Bernabei said she takes a positive approach.

“Instead of complaining, I want to look at it as a challenge,” she said.

Panelists Lisa D’Annunzio and Michelle Iatesta are recent Villanova graduates who now teach at Marple Newtown and Interboro High Schools, respectively. Their perspectives on transitioning from student teaching to having an actual job highlighted the importance of the student teaching experience.

Iatesta said that the hardest part of a first teaching job is coming up with individual policies, regarding late homework and the restroom pass, for instance, rather than following the rules set by a co-op teacher.

D’Annunzio, on the other hand, thought it was more difficult to adopt set policies than to build new rules from scratch.

“When I got my first teaching job, those were my kids, and we built the rules together,” she said.

Both teachers also acquired their jobs as a result of connections made during student teaching or temporary jobs.

The teacher that Iatesta worked with at Interboro was pregnant, and the alumna was able to fill her spot immediately after graduation.

D’Annunzio worked as a substitute teacher at Marple Newtown for a year before filling the position of a resigned teacher.

An education job fair at the end of the month will also give students the opportunity to interview with potential employers from across the country.

Other topics discussed included the importance of staying organized, how to be proactive in job acquisition and how to command the respect of students.

All four panelists praised the department of education and human services for its work in preparing students for a teaching career.

Carol Thon is the program coordinator of the department of education and human services. She is in charge of sending out student teacher applications to area schools.

“Villanova students have a well-deserved reputation in the school districts for being knowledgeable, mature, creative teachers who dress well and are polite,” she said. “Villanova is also favored with a network of alumni throughout the country who serve as great contacts.”

In times of economic crisis, teaching is seen as one of the most stable careers available. As a result, Thon said she has seen a rise in enrollment in the department of education in the past year.

She has also seen a significant rise in people from other professions who apply to Villanova’s Master’s Plus Certification program, which allows students to earn their master’s degree in education in one year.

“Adults who have been working in engineering, law or corporate jobs … want to move up to a meaningful career,” she said.

As a response to increased interest in the education program, the department has restructured the secondary education major requirements to encourage students to double-major in their teaching subject.

A new minor, entitled Education Policy and Leadership, will also be introduced in the fall.