Where will tomorrow’s K-12 teachers come from? For many school districts in Missouri, these people may come from their own classrooms.
At least that’s one of the hopes of educators who planned and organized the Future Teacher Academy (FTA) on October 6 at the University of Central Missouri.
Attended by approximately 450 middle and high school students and 50 faculty sponsors, the Future Teacher Academy is a cooperative effort designed to help students explore teaching as a possible career.
This initiative involves faculty and students from UCM’s College of Education (CoE), faculty and students from more than 30 Missouri school districts, representatives from the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) , Central Missouri DPRK and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The academy began in 2018 as part of UCM’s Faculty of Education’s Grow Your Own Future efforts and involved 10 students. But as the relationship between public schools and universities has grown, so has this event.
“I have had the privilege of working with school district partners to invite students and faculty sponsors to campus to inspire them to consider teaching as a career,” said Linda Glasgow, program coordinator paraprofessional at UCM and is part of the team. who helped plan this year’s FTA. “I believe the exponential growth the program has experienced is a result of the relationships formed between UCM faculty and students and school district faculty and students.”
She said events such as the academy valued the opportunity for attendees to see themselves as future students and future teachers.
While this was the first year middle school students attended, she said, “High school students who have attended our past events have enjoyed and learned from UCM’s greatest resource: our students and faculty. UCM students and faculty presented as a panel and demonstrated what it is and is like to attend UCM. Students talk about college life and how to balance college life, college studies and jobs. Professors share their journey to teaching and the journey to the teaching profession at UCM.”
To further enhance learning opportunities, Academy participants engage in activities that help them understand the teaching profession and the important role teachers play in their communities.
“We hope to inspire students to choose teaching as a career and to choose to return home to their communities as teachers,” said Glasgow. “The events are an invitation to the teaching profession and to making a difference in the lives of students.”
Also part of the planning team, Meredith Beggs, assistant teacher, primary education and math specialist, shared a long list of schools that were part of this year’s event. While there were attendees from large suburban schools such as the Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit school districts in the Kansas City metro area, students also came to campus from many rural communities, such as Calhoun, Lone Jack and Slater, to name a few. Beggs said UCM, DESE and DPRK have sent out invitations to the event to teachers and sponsoring teachers of prospective teachers’ clubs in middle and high schools across the region.
“Faculty teachers/sponsors then shared the information with students who might be interested in the teaching profession. Some of the districts have been to previous FTA events and are back,” Beggs noted.
The day-long event began in the Elliott Student Union Ballroom where UCM President Roger Best shared a recorded message that welcomed attendees and also reflected to the teachers who have inspired him throughout his teaching career. UCM Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Phil Bridgmon also spoke. Opportunities for participant interaction and networking followed.
“First, students spent time discussing their ‘why’ for considering a career in education. A few volunteers shared their thoughts with the rest of the group. We then created a word cloud using the Inspirational Teacher Qualities/Traits Meter,” said Brandy Lynch, assistant physical education teacher. “We highlighted some of the common themes and then watched a short video on the power of relationships (between teachers and students in a school setting).”
As the event continued, she said, “Students had the chance to share stories of inspiring teachers with each other (and a few more shared with the whole group). To conclude, we took a Kahoot quiz that covered scholarship information, UCM history, and UCM CoE (College of Education) graduate statistics. The goal was to create an interactive and dynamic environment where students could identify and make personal connections with the characteristics of inspiring teachers. »
After lunch in the residence halls, courtesy of UCM Admissions, the day ended in the Union Ballroom where Darrion Cockrell, Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, delivered the keynote address.
Affectionately referred to as “Mr. DC” by his physical education students at Crestwood Elementary School in the suburban St. Louis Lindbergh School District, Cockrell has been teaching for six years. It’s an opportunity he says is the result of many teachers who made a difference in his life.
He lost his father at the age of five, he spent time in foster care and at the age of 10 he joined a gang. He spoke of a bumpy road filled with many challenges he faced growing up in a tough neighborhood and what it meant to him to eventually earn a college degree. To get there, he had overcome obstacles in his youth, including learning disabilities and bouts of anxiety and depression.
“Over twenty years ago, I never would have imagined being in the position I am in today. It’s certainly been a journey to say the least. But that’s the great thing about life. It’s the journey we go through day in and day out as well as the connections we make with others along the way,” Cockrell told the rally. “If it hadn’t been for my educators, who would have helped keep me focused and on track throughout my crazy life journey, I can’t say with any confidence or certainty that I’ll be here today.”
He told the students that if they wanted to become educators, they had to be prepared to “wear many hats.” Among the many suggestions Cockrell offered to young audiences was the importance of being “authentic” in their future work with students. He stressed the importance for future teachers to make sure they learn the names of their students and to seek out and share information that will help build good teacher-student relationships. Cockrell also stressed the importance of being able – as a teacher – to connect, inspire, love and support students whose lives are touched by their education.
In addition to his recent state recognition, Cockrell received a 2020 National Box Tops for Education Twilight Award, presented by Grammy Award-winning rapper, singer-songwriter and activist Chance the Rapper.
The Future Teacher Academy is consistent with a 150-year tradition of teacher preparation at the University of Central Missouri and the university’s longstanding motto, “Education for Service.” While UCM today offers more than 150 different degree programs, the institution was founded in 1871 as the State Normal School, Second Normal District, with a mission to prepare teachers who could serve schools from Missouri.
Pictured: Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, Darrion Cockrell, a physical education teacher at Crestwood Elementary School of Lindbergh Schools in St. Louis, presents the commencement address to approximately 500 middle school students and high school and faculty sponsors of the University of Central Missouri Academy of Future Teachers.