Deeper Insights for a Future Teacher

Photo of Jade Simpson courtesy of Jenny Shiplett

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be a teacher. I love working with kids, and I think I have the heart for it. A lot of my friends say, “I could never do that. I don’t know how you’re doing it.” It’s definitely not for everyone. But when I heard about the Teacher Academy at New Lexington, I was excited for the opportunity to get a feel for the classroom before I move on to college.

Teacher Academy courses are fully online, offered through Central State University. My first class was Intro to Education, and I’m currently in the second class, Educational Technologies. We complete coursework independently and turn in weekly assignments. One day a week, we get to spend time with the kids in our school’s daycare, which provides free care for the children of teachers. This helps us learn whether we want to work with the very young kids or if older students are a better fit. One day every other week, we have an observation class where we get more hands-on experience in a classroom of our choice. Once a week, our teacher for that class meets with us to make sure we’re on track and doing what we need to do to achieve our career goals.

I chose to observe Ms. Shiplett’s third-grade classroom. I was debating between elementary or high school, but elementary classrooms are so fun, and the kids are a lot more entertaining. Typically, I work with kids one-on-one or in small groups and help out with any activities they’re doing. One day, I got to plan a lesson—a scavenger hunt using math problems—and do it with the class. I’m able to apply some of the things I’m learning in my online classroom almost immediately in my observation experience. One example is my technology class, where we learned about websites, activities, and other resources that we can use with students. But the most beneficial thing for me has been getting the hands-on experience connecting with students.

My mom teaches first grade, so I already had a lot of insight into what it’s like to be an elementary teacher, but now I have even more understanding. It’s exhausting but rewarding. The kids get so excited to see you, and it’s just so sweet to watch their faces light up when they learn something new or get the right answer to a problem.

So far, I love third grade and I’m pretty sure that’s what I want to teach. But I’m a junior this year, so if I change my mind, I can choose a different class to observe next year. In the meantime, I’m working on earning enough college credits to graduate early once I leave high school. All but one of my classes are College Credit Plus classes. They’re offered to students for free not just through the Teacher Academy but through other local schools as well. Our core classes are through Hocking College, and we can also take classes through Central State University or Zane State College. I’m taking a sustainable agriculture class and an agribusiness class because I’ve always been really interested in agriculture, and a teacher told me the credits could count toward a teaching degree in agriculture. But even if I don’t take that path, I’ve learned a lot from those classes, and they’ve helped put me on track to graduate college early and start my career that much sooner.

I would definitely encourage other students to explore careers this way. Take advantage of everything your school offers. A lot of kids I know are just focused on graduating top of their class but not really considering their future after high school. I think it’s important that if you’re interested in a career path, you just pursue it now and don’t care what other people think or say. Do what’s best for you and what’s going to help you in your future.

–Jade Simpson, junior, New Lexington High School

American Educator, Spring 2024