Senior Zendalin Hibbard-Hernandez spends half of every school day assisting in the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) room for students with disabilities at Carmel Middle School.
“Every day, I help middle (school) students with different disabilities,” she said. “The class ranges from high functioning with high social skills (to) high functioning with low social skills but high comprehension skills.”
Hibbard-Hernandez participates in the classroom as part of the Education Professions class offered at CHS. This is a fully-weighted course offered to seniors for Butler University credit first semester and ACP credit second semester at this school. In order to take it, students must first complete the prerequisite class, Principles of Early Childhood Education, which can be taken through the family consumer science department.
Kimberly Lenzo, Education Professions teacher, said she encourages junior students to consider taking Education Professions during their senior year as it gives them a unique opportunity to see what teaching looks like and experience it for themselves.
“This class really gives students a chance to discover what teaching is really like firsthand,” she said, “and see if it is something they want to pursue as a career in the future. You can get so much out of this class so I urge students curious or interested in teaching to definitely sign up for it.”
Hibbard-Hernandez said she believes students should take this class regardless of whether or not they want to pursue education as a career.
“It is an invaluable experience to not only see if you want to go into teaching, but also a true test to see if you have the patience and skill set to work with children all day” Hibbard-Hernandez said. “Not everyone can and that is OK, but it is incredibly amazing if you can figure that out before you spend money in college only to not like it later on.”
Sophia Gilliam, Education Professions student and senior, said she has learned many lessons from leading the third grade class she helps with at Mohawk Trails Elementary School.
“Every student is so sweet and special to me and has impacted the way I see everything in my life,” Gilliam said. “Working with them helps me get to see a young child’s point of view on things and see how curious and interesting everything in life really is. Their excitement towards even the small things also reminds me to enjoy small moments more often. What I’ve learned from this class goes so much further than just how to teach young kids third grade math.”
According to Lenzo, seeing her students lead and connect with their elementary school students is why she has continued to teach the Education Professions class.
“I love the opportunity to see my students go and really immerse themselves in the classroom,” Lenzo said. “When I go and visit them in their rooms, it makes me the happiest when they wave at me but continue on helping one of their kids because it means they understand their role in the classroom and I get to see them help a child grow. Seeing the impact they have on young children brings tears to my eyes.”
Hibbard-Hernandez said she agreed this experience allows the student teacher to connect with their students and get to know each and every one of them on a personal level.
“Working with kids has made me realize that children are far more capable than we give them credit for,” she said. “They are intelligent and are willing to learn, you just have to be patient and help them get there.”
Additionally, Gilliam said this experience has helped confirm her passion for young kids and her career aspiration of teaching.
“Going into this class, I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it,” Gilliam said. “I honestly thought it might be too hard for me, and some days still are difficult. But, through this class, I’ve been able to experience those hard days and persevere through them and still wake up excited to see my kids the next day. It has really just demonstrated to me that while there will inevitably be (bad) days, I can handle those, and still enjoy teaching overall.”
Gilliam is not the only one who recently decided she wants to go into education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, teaching as a profession will grow 8% from 2020 to 2030.
Lenzo said she believes the field is growing because of the joy that being around children can bring.
She said, “In not every profession do you get to help a child develop and form into their own person. Seeing them grow into their personalities, that is what really makes teaching so satisfying and why so many are now going into education.”
Overall, Hibbard-Hernandez said she is grateful for being able to be around children so much.
“I’ve changed so much from this experience and have such a different outlook on everything now,” Hibbard-Hernandez said. “Truly, I am so thankful for these kids and the opportunity to not only help them develop into great people, but also undergo (my own)personal growth as well.”