Signing ceremony a first step for students hoping to get into education

Published 6:03 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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Through a Minnesota Department of Education Grow Your Own program, Austin High School on Thursday night held a ceremony for students looking to get into education as a career.

Surrounded by family and individuals in the education profession who made an impact on them, the students signed certificates indicating their commitment to becoming a teacher.

“We really want to help students identify a pathway that they want to pursue and it’s amazing to see all of these kids say ‘yes, I want to go into education,’” said Austin Public Schools Board Chair Caroline Dube. “The goal is really to support that next generation of teachers so they feel like they have the tools and the network they need to be successful.”

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Austin’s program is made possible through  a nearly $750,000 grant spread over five years. According to Gifted Services for Talent Development / Mentorship Coordinator Andrea Malo, the district requires a plan detailing what those five years will look like as well as hiring people to help support the program, wrap-around services and eventually scholarships for students.

“We’re going to encourage students to take advantage of the (Austin) Assurance scholarships,” Malo said, referring to the program that allows Austin students to go to Riverland Community College for free. “Then they come back the last two years, as they enter their teacher education program and apply for our teacher education program grant funds.”

Through that pipeline, the hope is to generate educators from within the district by guiding them through not only the education to be a teacher, but by providing them real life experiences that would actually put them into classroom experiences.

“A huge component of this program is to get kids into the field so they will go into classrooms,” Malo said. “Get them into smaller districts. What does it look like there? Also take them to the special development activities where teachers go and what it means to be a teacher rather than what I experienced as a student.”

An important aspect of the program is the impact of current educators on the students themselves. For each student at Thursday night’s ceremony, there was a teacher or staff member who impacted that student.

As each student signed their certificate, a screen behind them gave testimonials from both the student and the teacher, providing insight into the bond that helped lead the student onto a possible path for teaching.

That impact was notable to both Malo and Dube.

“It’s huge. I think we can all look back to our days in education and point to one or two or a small handful of teachers that made an impact on us and encouraged us to become the educators that we’ve become,” Dube said. “It’s just amazing to see how the impact that somebody had 10 years ago is still having an impact.”

It’s a two way street for the teachers as well.

“I will always say that my favorite job I ever had was being a teacher and I still have opportunities to be in classrooms and do some teaching myself,” Malo said. “You don’t always understand your impact. We don’t always get to see what happens and how they are doing.”

Another benefit is a chance to grow diversity among teachers in Austin so that it better reflects the student body itself.

“Part of the program, part of the goals of the program, is to increase the diversity in our teaching groups,” Malo said. “We all want to look at professionals that look like us. I always say it’s like windows and mirrors … to see ourselves in the profession.”

Students who signed Thursday’s pledge

Oliver Banuelos

Alice Berke

Lizeth Hernandez Garcia

Wah Doh Nay Htee

Hannah Keenan

Mia King

Araiza Maldonado Basilio

Nadia Souvannarath