Tag-team teaching: JSU students aid Anniston educators
by Patrick McCreless
Nov 09, 2013 | 5584 views |  0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JSU student teacher, Jennifer Brasher, and teacher, Tammy Owen work with kindergartners at Constantine Elementary School. Photo by Stephen Gross.
JSU student teacher, Jennifer Brasher, and teacher, Tammy Owen work with kindergartners at Constantine Elementary School. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Jessica Glass started teaching at Constantine Elementary School this year, expecting to change the lives of the students.

Instead, the experience changed her as well.

Glass, a third-year education student at Jacksonville State University, is participating in the college's first, full-scale co-teaching program. Through the project, JSU education students are partnered with teachers at Constantine and Cobb elementary schools, helping them teach while gaining experience and knowledge they can't learn in a classroom.

"It has been amazing," said Glass, who has co-taught a third-grade class all semester. "I came in thinking I was going to change things ... but I've learned so many things, like classroom management."

Janet Bavonese, instructor of elementary and reading education and head of the co-teaching program at JSU, said she has 18 student teachers in the program – one for every classroom at Constantine and Cobb. The college students spend three days per week helping teach in their assigned classrooms. The co-teaching is an offshoot of a pilot program JSU held in a few classrooms in different schools around Calhoun County last year, Bavonese said.

"But this is the first time we've completely flooded entire schools," Bavonese said.

Bavonese said she and others in the JSU education department first learned about the co-teaching model two years ago during an education conference.

"We were looking for a fresh model to teach and looking for something that could have full implementation in two years," Bavonese said. "And we wanted to serve as a partner in the community to help the schools and we wanted our students to have a diverse experience."

Bavonese said the increased experience her students receive will better prepare them for when they have classrooms of their own. The state recommends education students receive 150 hours of clinical training before they can undertake their final internship, Bavonese said. The co-teaching program triples that amount, she said.

Debbie Clonts, who helps oversee the co-teaching program, said it’s different from how student teachers are traditionally taught.

"Traditionally they are in the classroom, but they mainly just observe and don't assist," Clonts said. "Now the two teachers team up and bounce ideas off each other."

At Constantine on Friday, JSU students and their host teachers were working in tandem in several classrooms. In several of the classrooms, teachers had their own small groups of students to provide more individual instruction.

"This benefits the elementary students because there is twice the instruction," Bavonese said.

Bavonese said the JSU students and the teachers develop lesson plans together. On some days, the JSU students take more of an assistant’s role. On others, they lead the classrooms, she said.

"You shouldn't be able to walk into one of these classrooms and tell which teacher is the veteran and which is the student," Bavonese said.

Kimberly Garrick, principal at Constantine, said the program has provided valuable experience to JSU students, but also helped her teachers.

"It gives them another set of hands, another set of eyes," Garrick said. "And these students come in with the latest and greatest ideas in education, so these students and the teachers can help bounce ideas off each other."

Danielle Murry, third-grade teacher at Constantine, said having a JSU student help with daily teaching duties has benefitted her classroom.

"If a student needs additional help, she can get really in-depth with the students," Murry said of her JSU student.

Amber Brown, Murry's JSU student teacher, said she has enjoyed her hands-on experience.

"I feel so much more confidence than when I first came in," Brown said. "I think the school and this environment has let me realize that all students can be taught."

Constantine third-grade teacher Mashonda Turner, who had Glass all semester, said the partnership helped her classroom too.

"If I'm up teaching, she's up making sure they're learning," Turner said. "I'm going to miss her."

Bavonese said based on the success this year, JSU's co-teaching program is here to stay.

"And we're going to try to expand in Anniston with at least one other school," Bavonese said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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