Credential student Laurie Bailon already had some experience student-teaching, but when she heard about an opportunity with the Savanna School District’s summer enrichment academy, she knew that she had to apply.
“I found out that I would have my own classroom, which was really exciting,” she says. “In my first clinical practice, I came into a classroom that was already established. But when we came into the Savanna Project, I was starting from scratch.”
For six weeks this summer, Bailon and 23 other College of Education and Integrative Studies students taught in the district’s elementary schools. This summer’s group of student-teachers was the largest it’s ever been.
Started in 2009, the Savanna Project gives CEIS students a clinical practice opportunity and a crash-course in classroom management. In a traditional program, students shadow a teacher and gradually take on more responsibility. In the Savanna Project, CEIS students are the teachers: they set up the classroom, plan the daily schedule and teach the lessons.
“The teaching candidates from Cal Poly Pomona are very current on the latest research and strategies, and are able to apply these in their clinical practice,” says district superintendent Sue Johnson, who is also the chair of the university’s Partners in Education program and an alumna. “In fact, we’ve hired several students who participated in the 2014 summer academy.”
From using iPads for creative writing exercises to learning about the human body in science class, Savanna students strengthened their literacy and critical thinking skills. “It has helped to reach many of our second language learners, who learn much more in this type of an environment,” Johnson says. “This program is truly a win-win for everyone.”
Bailon, who completed her social sciences credential and is now teaching history at a San Diego high school, said that the experience was challenging – in a good way. One of her 25 students had behavioral issues and needed a lot of attention.
“It really tested me,” she says. “But by the end of the summer, I felt that she at least trusted me and knew that I cared about her. That was definitely a moment in understanding that even though students may be challenging, they still have the potential to grow and learn. That was an affirmation for me that teaching is the right profession for me.”