Nathaniel Schumacher, left, and Charles Schnell, center, perform a learning activity with Cedrick Newman as part of their EDTE 1500 course requirement

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education


Rachel Ellis, left, and Hadley Rosen, right, lead one of the learning stations at the Welcome Wagon fall family event

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education


Charles Schnell, center, instructs Xudong Yuan, right, and Aryah Newman, left

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education

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Professor incorporates service-learning projects in EDTE 1500 course

The Patton College 'gateway class' provides early engagement for teacher candidates

William Elasky has spent his life in education, and thus, knows the importance of early engagement among teacher candidates. Saying you want to be a teacher is one thing; actually teaching is another thing altogether.

That is why The Patton College of Education requires teacher candidates to complete EDTE 1500 – Introduction to Teacher Education – before taking other teacher-education classes. Elasky calls EDTE 1500 a “gateway class.” Others might call it “sink or swim” – or, at the very least, “getting your feet wet.”

“I feel early engagement is essential,” said Elasky, a retired teacher from the Federal Hocking Local School District. “When I was in teacher education, we were lucky to have any significant field-placement time before student-teaching, or what we refer to in The Patton College as a professional internship in teaching. Many of our candidates tell us after this experience that it solidified their desire to teach.”

This past September, as part of the EDTE 1500 requirement, Elasky’s students participated in a service-learning project with the “Lancer Welcome Wagon,” a literacy outreach program sponsored by the Federal Hocking Local School District in Athens County. As part of the program, The Patton College teacher candidates developed interactive learning centers for children ages birth though 4, using children’s books – and, in some cases, music – as a means to connect with children and their families. 

“For us, the project has a number of purposes,” said Elasky. “First, it gets our teacher-education candidates out into the community and helps them have a more realistic perception of Athens County and its residents. Second, it is an opportunity to improve relationships by giving our candidates and county residents a positive experience with one another – one centered on working with children. And third, it’s an important early experience in doing the things teachers do: planning, making educational centers and materials, collaborating with colleagues, and working with children.”

It is also, at its core, an opportunity to give back to the community. Elasky invited Mary Louise Phillips, Welcome Wagon coordinator, to his EDTE 1500 class to describe the program and fall family event. She also brought a number of potential children’s books and activities for teacher candidates to incorporate. Students then broke into small groups and developed a learning station.

On the day of the event, Elasky and his students helped set up the learning stations, presented their books and activities to children and their families, and helped clean up afterward. Teacher candidates wrote a reflection piece about the experience and discussed service learning the following week during class.  

“I think the biggest thing I learned was how to adapt to different situations,” said freshman Carrie Brown, a Middle Childhood major with concentrations in Language Arts and Math. “As a teacher, nothing is ever going to go exactly the way it was planned, so you have to be adaptable to every situation.”

Brown, like many of her classmates, learned that teaching goes beyond what happens in the classroom. 

“There were approximately four hours of preparation work that went into this event, which was only two hours long,” said freshman Nick Fowkes, an Adolescent/Young Adult Major. “I have a newfound appreciation for all the teachers who have spent countless amounts of their own personal time preparing the lesson that they would then teach us the next day.”

Overall, Elasky said the feedback was very positive across the board.

“Candidates are generally very excited about the opportunity to do something real, to work with children, and to help build bridges between the university and the community,” said Elasky, who also credited his volunteer teaching assistant, McKenna Flores, for her contributions over the years. “And the parents and children were excited by the activities our candidates presented.”

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of EDTE 1500 candidates are freshmen or sophomores, though sometimes juniors and seniors participate if they have changed majors or are taking the class as an elective. Some teacher candidates, of course, decide not to continue in teacher education after the experience, which Elasky doesn’t necessarily see as a bad thing.

“This is the time to learn if this is the right profession for you,” he said. 

For Nick Schopis, it is. 

“Although the projects themselves took a lot of time and effort, in the end it was all worth it,” said Schopis, a sophomore Adolescent/Young Adult major. “Because of what we did, we were able to make kids smile and laugh, which is a joy like no other, and we were able to make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Elasky has organized service-learning projects with Welcome Wagon and the Federal Hocking Local School District several times in the past, both with his EDTE 1500 course and other classes that he has taught. Under his guidance, students have, for example, planned field trips for fifth- and eighth-grade children and worked with the Kilvert Community Center. 

“It is important to be out in the field planning activities and leading lessons early on,” said Elasky. “The candidates who worked with Welcome Wagon in this particular group expressed a bit of surprise at how much time and energy went into preparing for their lessons and how often they had to adapt their activities for different kids. One can talk about diversity, differentiating lessons and child development, but it is all abstract until you get into a classroom and actually use the things we talk about to help children learn.”