Michigan needs teachers. Melvindale high school students explore the career
- Melvindale High students can explore whether they want to be a teacher without having to pay for college coursework
- Students say they are learning patience and teaching skills while working with elementary school students
- Programs like this are popping up across Michigan as the state seeks to get more people interested in teaching
ALLEN PARK—Every week, a school bus takes a group of 19 students from Melvindale High school on a five-minute drive to Rogers Early Elementary School.
The high school students are part of Bradley MacDonald’s education foundation course where they learn the ins and outs of being a teacher in Michigan. Not just how to manage student behavior in the classroom, but also instruction on teaching standards and developing lesson plans. It’s part of a broader effort across the state to get more high schoolers training credentials or perhaps consider a career in education.
On a recent Thursday morning, Leyla Lopez, a sophomore, walks around Donya Haidar’s first grade classroom helping students get ready for reading lessons on their laptops.
In Haidar’s class, 24 of the 29 kids are English language learners, according to the teacher, which makes Haidar appreciate having the support of the high school students.
Lopez said she picked MacDonald’s class because she thought it would be easy but she gets “excited” now to help students including one student whose primary language is Spanish, which Lopez also speaks.
“It's such a pleasure for me to help him because he (is) always like ‘I need help, I don't understand the teacher’ or ‘I'm struggling,’ and it's such a pleasure for me to help him, to have my skill of Spanish help him,” she said.
It’s the third year the school has offered the career and technical education course but it’s the first year with consistent visits to the elementary school.
MacDonald estimates that most of his high school students will be involved in education in one way or another, whether that’s becoming a teacher or just being a substitute teacher while pursuing some other path in college.
“Everybody’s having a great time working over there and I think, you know, every few weeks, we turn another kid” to get them interested in the profession, he said.
The high school students can put their classroom hours toward earning a state credential in youth development. Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Schools Superintendent Ryan Vranesich said the credential would allow someone to work alongside a certified teacher in a classroom or run after-school programming on their own.
The district participates in the state’s Future Proud Michigan Educator LAUNCH program, which includes high school students taking career and technical education courses to earn industry-recognized credentials.
The state launched the program in 2019-2020 when there were 49 programs. Now, there are 105 programs across the state including 12 which run through early middle college programming, according to the Michigan Department of Education.
State funding of about $19,000 helped the Melvindale-Northern Allen Park district offset transportation costs and buy new instructional materials, according to the superintendent.
The state is trying to get more people to complete a college degree or skills training after high school. Michigan is also dealing with a worker shortage in virtually every type of education role from bus drivers to counselors, social workers and special education teachers.
Michigan Department of Education spokesperson Martin Ackley said students in the state program can get paid during their work-based learning once they meet state required health and safety training. Using high school students, like the ones in Melvindale, can help schools combat staffing issues when trying to offer after-school care.
MacDonald said the course gives his students “an understanding of what they're getting into before they might go into debt in college studying teaching.”
Lopez said the experience has taught her why it’s important for teachers to dress professionally.
Alexis Keros, a senior, said she already liked working with students before taking MacDonald’s class, but the course helped her narrow in on her goal of becoming a third-grade teacher.
“As a student, you don't really comprehend every single thing that a teacher does,” Keros said. “Because we only see the teaching part. And not the lesson planning behind it, or the guidelines that they have to follow with their restrictions and standards and being able to meet that by the end of the school year.”
Keros said she plans to attend Eastern Michigan University to study elementary education.
While some students may be set on teaching as a career, MacDonald and high school principal Trevor Kessell know not everyone will find teaching to be the correct path for them.
“I don’t think anyone takes this class if they don’t think there might be a chance they’d be a teacher,” Kessell said. “And I think if they have a good experience in this class, they’re more likely to continue on (in a) teacher education program in college.”
Students are also learning to be patient, organized and punctual, Kessell said, lessons that can apply to any future career. “We want to build job skills that could work anywhere,” he said.
Asmaa Ghalib, a junior, is still deciding what she wants to do when she graduates from high school, but is considering teaching and medical careers.
“I think this class literally helped me and it would help me with…anything I want to get into,” she said. “I feel like it gave me the confidence that you can actually be something, you could inspire others, like you could be an inspiration.”
Ghalib said she previously had anxiety around speaking in front of people but MacDonald’s class boosted her confidence and provided “inspiration” to express herself.
For one assignment, Ghalib worked on a team and presented a lesson as if she were a kindergarten teacher. Her classmates pretended to be kindergarten students, too.
“I've learned a lot (on) how to communicate with kids, how it works. And sometimes you have to change your behavior and the way you act with each and every one.”
Three students who took the course last year visit the elementary school every day now.
For Kessell, the principal, the goal is simple: “It’s successful if we have people leave it and become teachers.”
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