Laurie Rodriguez: Part One: Education-in-Training Pathway

The semester is 18 weeks, but, for example, my practicum class—now called Instructional Practices—is a double-block class. It’s an 18-week course, but we don’t have 18 weeks of solid classroom instruction because we’re trying to get these kids field experiences. It’s really go, go, go. The students are surprised because we start as soon as the announcements are over, and then before they know it, the bell is ringing, and they’re saying, “Is it time to go?” So, we really only have about eight weeks of solid instruction in the classroom before we’re already taking the kids off campus to visit the elementary schools. They’re paired with a classroom teacher, and they get to experience what we’ve been discussing, such as student population and how to target a variety of students, considering inclusion and mainstreaming in the classroom.


We discuss what a teacher needs to do to ensure all kids learn, not just certain ones. It’s quite an experience, and the kids go all in. Besides that, we also take the students to Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization. It was something I wanted to start doing. It’s an outing for a day where we visit an elementary school, and the students are paired up and go into a classroom to teach. Junior Achievement provides them with materials for basic lessons. The students study the materials, take notes, and go over the activities they will do with the kids while the regular classroom teacher sits in. This gives my students the opportunity to take over, practice classroom management, and work with kids in a real field experience instead of just theoretical discussions in the classroom.


I had a student come to me after a Junior Achievement experience and say, “Miss Rod, I’m going to be a teacher.” This was at the beginning of the semester, and she was a first-year student. I was surprised and asked what she meant, and she said that after the Junior Achievement day, she knew this was what she wanted to do. That’s when I realized how impactful the Junior Achievement experience could be for some students.

When I first took over the program in 2012, I didn’t have many students pursuing education, but by 2013, I had quite a few become teachers. Over the years, the majority of my students have pursued teaching. We prepare these kids to think more clearly about their future, but I know it’s challenging because they are so young. It’s amazing when they really go for it. I run into my former students often throughout the district. For example, I was in the library at Killam, another one of our schools, and a 2016 graduate came in and recognized me. She was a substitute teacher because she was still in college.


I see a lot of my former students working as substitutes or teacher aides. The teacher aide position is a full-time job, so not everyone can do it due to their college schedule, but I have a few who are teacher aides and quite a few who are substitutes. My current students find it fun when my former students sub for me. For instance, when I visit my daughter in college, I schedule my absences, and my subs are often my former students. They tell my current students that they better get their work done because I’ll be on them when I return.

Sometimes, my substitute is someone who did the same assignments and recalls how I am about getting work done. It’s neat for my current students to see that. They hear a lot of talk about it, but seeing other students who were once in their shoes makes it real for them. For example, one time, I was absent, and my students told me the sub was the girl on the bulletin board—Dora, my former student, who now works as a full-time sub. It’s a cool thing for them to see because it makes it real instead of just hearing about past students. I like that.

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