Columbia College student teachers gain direct placement in public schools

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Beginning this fall, education students from Columbia College will be able to student teach in Columbia Public Schools without going through the placement office at MU.

The partnership results from recent growth in Columbia College's education department and a desire to streamline the placement process.

This agreement, titled the Professional Partnership Plan, was signed July 23 by  Superintendent Chris Belcher and college President Gerald Brouder. It also includes opportunities for education students to work in after-school tutoring programs and to substitute teach.

"It's a great benefit for the Columbia Public School District," Brouder said. "They won't have classes uncovered, and our student teachers can handle these courses."

Belcher agreed. "We've tried to create an environment where local students can get work experience and benefit from the situation," he said.

As an incentive, teachers who agree to take a student teacher will get a free, three-hour graduate course in education from Columbia College, to be taken on campus or online, Brouder said.

In the past, prospective student teachers and tutors had to go through the placement office in MU's College of Education, but this plan streamlines the process, said Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for academic affairs for Columbia College.

"Columbia College has grown over the years," said Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources for the school district. "They wanted a direct connection."

Because of the number of student teaching positions available, Laffey said she doesn't think the process will become competitive between MU and Columbia College. "We don't run into a lot of difficulty with placement with the district," she said.

Kristina Miller, field experience coordinator for Columbia College, said that even though the placement process will change, she intends to continue a relationship with MU.

"The biggest benefit will be that we will have that direct tie between us and the schools," Miller said. "It was always a bit of a challenge with that middleman. This is a positive opportunity to simplify things for us, Mizzou and everyone."

This fall, student teachers from Columbia College will be placed at Benton, Grant, Midway Heights and Russell Boulevard elementary schools, Gentry and Smithton middle schools and West Junior High School, Smith said.

Last year, Columbia College had 14 student teachers placed in the Columbia district, said Tammy Mann, certification officer for Columbia College.

In the spring alone, MU's College of Education, which has a much larger program, had 78 student teachers in the district, said Idolene Mazza, field experience coordinator for MU.

This fall, six student teachers from the college will be placed in the district, Mazza said. MU will have 13 student teachers in Columbia schools; most MU students do their student teaching in the spring.

Originally, only four schools showed interest in the direct partnership, but more joined with the encouragement of Linda Bradley, who recently retired from Smithton but who will now work at Columbia College, Laffey said.

Craig Martin, principal at Smithton, said this reassurance prompted the school's approval.

"Linda's presence at Columbia College, her knowledge of Smithton Middle School and her desire to return here and help out in some capacity with our programs made it very easy for us to join the partnership." Martin said.

If a student teacher wants to work at a school other than one of the seven, they must go through MU, Laffey said.

In addition to student teaching positions, the agreement provides Columbia College post-baccalaureate students seeking field experience an opportunity to volunteer as substitute teachers for as many as five days or volunteer in the district's after-school tutoring program, Mann said.

Education students will be able to volunteer as tutors two to three times a week and will emphasize communication arts, math and science — though they will provide assistance where needed, Laffey said.

"I think it's going to be a great opportunity for us in terms of having students and teachers who can come over and help us with some of our standardized testing as well as tutoring," Martin said.

Anne Billington, principal at Midway Heights Elementary, said she fully supports taking student teachers from Columbia College.

"At Midway, we support all educators and believe they hold the future in their hands. I have the utmost respect for teachers," she said. "Therefore, I am always looking for ways to support educators, pre-service teachers and support staff so we can provide the best education for all students."

Last spring, Columbia College placed 82 field-experience students within the Columbia district, and MU placed between 350 and 400 students, Mazza said. The upcoming fall semester placements have yet to be determined.

An annual report will be produced by Laffey and Smith. They plan to meet twice a year to review and adjust the arrangement.

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