BU School of Education stands out with early-on student field experience

Baylor’s education students are exposed to real classroom experience as early as freshman year. Bethany Dawson, a graduate of Baylor’s School of Education, is currently a full-time teacher at Lorena Primary School. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By Sophie Acebo | Reporter

Baylor’s School of Education has spent a century preparing future educators of different levels to lead in the classroom.

Dr. Sandra Talbert, clinical assistant professor and assistant chair for the School of Education, said the program’s unofficial goal is “to provide the highest-quality educators in each of our fields that we can.”

The department offers concentrations in three different levels of education—elementary education, middle education and secondary education. Talbert said that the most unique aspect about the curriculum compared to other schools is getting Baylor students in a classroom setting as early as their freshman year.

“One of the unique things about our School of Education here is that we get the students out onto campuses in the city earlier than most,” Talbert said. “Starting their freshman year, they spend time working individually with students in area schools.”

Throughout their undergraduate years, students in the program work their way up from engaging with one individual child to working with a small group, and finally, working with an entire classroom. During their senior year, all of the time is spent completing a year-long internship in the classroom where they are in charge of classes while working alongside a mentor.

“Comparatively, they spend much more time in the field than other schools of education,” Talbert said.

Talbert said that the level of support for these students in the classroom is another aspect of the School of Education that sets them apart. One of the levels they establish to ensure success is professional development schools (PDS), which the School of Education has partnerships with.

“At University High, there is someone who is hired half by Waco ISD and half by Baylor and are the ‘site coordinators,’” Talbert said. “They are there on the campus, so when our students go out there, there is always somebody there to support them.”

There are also university liaisons hired by Baylor who watch the Baylor students teach in order to provide feedback and constructive criticism on ways they can improve, learn and grow. Content Specialists are also available for anyone in the secondary education concentration to observe students teaching specific subjects and provide feedback. Even the teachers that students work under are there to provide support to ensure success.

“If we have a student who struggles, there are just so many ways that we can assist them,” Talbert said. “We have answers.”

Dallas senior Katy Stockton is an elementary education major and is currently completing her year-long internship at Robinson Primary School. Alongside her mentor, she helps teach a first-grade class.

“I usually get up at 6:30 a.m. to get to school by 7:30 a.m. depending on the day,” Stockton said. “I’m always teaching at least one subject every day, but some days I might be teaching everything.”

Stockton spends mornings setting up the classroom, getting the children together to head to class and beginning the lessons that have been planned.

They complete a multitude of activities that help the class learn to read, write and conceptualize stories, complete math problems and much more.

While the students are with other teachers doing recreational activities, like art or physical education, Stockton spends free time with her other mentors planning for the weeks to come.

“One day a week, I meet with my mentors and the other math, science and social studies teachers, and we plan for the next week or the week after,” Stockton said.

Even apart from this meeting, Stockton spends her free time planning ahead.

“I work on lesson plans, other homework assignments that I have, and we grade papers, clean up the room, get their folders ready for them to take home, pass out papers … that kind of thing,” Stockton said.

Dismissal ends at around 3:40 p.m., and even after dismissal, Stockton sticks around a while longer to finish working on tasks.

“I usually do some more work and leave by 4:00 p.m., sometimes later than that,” Stockton said.

Stockton said she recognizes that it can be easy for someone to think that being an education major is easier than other majors, but that classes taught are not re-learning concepts. She said they are helping the students learn how to apply concepts in a multitude of ways to best teach them.

“I think the misconception of, ‘Oh, I’m just re-learning things I’ve already learned’ is just not true at all,” Stockton said. “They expect us to know these things already, of course. You’re not learning the content; you’re learning how to teach it. I think it’s hard for people who haven’t been in it to understand what it actually is.”

Stockton said she did not anticipate how difficult it would be to try and help a diverse group of students learn the same concept.

“I didn’t realize how difficult it can be when you have 20 kids who are all so different and unique and come from different backgrounds,” Stockton said. “There are subjects that they get and subjects that they don’t get, and you have to teach all of them in 30 minutes.”

Stockton said that being an education major and completing her internship, on top of outside organizations and activities, is no easy task.

“You’re in your school from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. which is most of your day, and if you’re in a sorority or fraternity or have a job or are in any sort of club or organization. You’re gonna have days that are taken away from you,” Stockton said.

Despite the trials of navigating time-management through such a busy schedule, Stockton said she is extremely grateful for the knowledge and support the School of Education has given her.

“In the end, I look back, and I’m really happy that I stuck through it, even when it got hard,” Stockton said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve gained experience that is super valuable.”

Bethany Dawson graduated from the School of Education in May of 2019 and is now a full-time kindergarten teacher at Lorena Primary School. She said that she owes her success to the department.

“It just hasn’t seemed as tough as I would expect because of all of the background and experience I’ve had,” Dawson said.

Dawson said that Baylor was able to help connect her to job opportunities through a job fair where a diverse group of Texas school districts visit to potentially recruit students.

“My current principal…I actually met at the job fair,” Dawson said. “I introduced myself to her and set up an interview and now here we are.”

Visit Baylor’s website for more information on the School of Education.