“Overwhelmed with support,” is how CSULB student teacher Alayna Grapel describes her mentor teacher relationship at Starr King Elementary School in north Long Beach. Starr King is a participant in the CSULB Anchor School program funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which creates a model of deep clinical practice benefitting both student teachers and their on-site master teachers. Through this program, faculty at the partner schools can elect to be a funded master teacher to a CSULB student teacher, becoming partners and allowing the student to observe instruction and gain invaluable clinical experience.
Dean Shireen Pavri took CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Educator Preparation and Public School Programs, Dr. Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, to visit Starr King Elementary to observe this clinical partnership in action. The goals, to see student teachers facilitating lessons with their students and also hear from them and their master teachers on the success of this partnership.
While at Starr King, Dr. Grenot-Scheyer and Dr. Pavri observed student teacher, Alayna Grapel and CED alumnus, Nick Kertz, in their classrooms. Grapel’s literacy lesson to her classroom of first graders utilized gestures and movement to emphasize the sounds and syllables of each word being learned. Students watched Grapel closely to mimic her movements allowing them to focus on each word as they slowly pronounced each letter.
Former student teacher at Starr King and now full-time teacher to a fifth-grade class, Nick Kertz shared, “The most beneficial things about working with a master teacher was the mentorship, having a safe place to fail, and someone to help with building my ability to reflect…They gave me insight, asked thought-provoking questions, provided feedback, gave me tools to use, and provided their expertise/perspective.” Kertz, an alumnus of the College of Education’s Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, was hired as a teacher after graduating from CSULB. One of the benefits of the Anchor School model is that faculty are able to see student teachers’ quality of work in practice and can recruit those same student teachers. Those student teachers are already familiar with the school site, its logistics, and student body allowing for a smoother transition to full-time teaching.
Funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the partnership between the College of Education and Starr King Elementary is the result of the Preparing a New Generation of Educators for California Initiative (NGEI), a multi-year endeavor taking place across CSU campuses to better equip and prepare student teachers for their classroom careers. Starr King is one of 18 Anchor Schools in the greater Long Beach area who work with the College of Education in this capacity. At CSULB, the approach has been to place pre-service students in classrooms that are part of the clinical practice network. This allows pre-service students to complete their student teaching in the same classroom where they completed their fieldwork, gaining a year-long experience at the school site. This creates continuity in the classroom benefitting student teachers, the PK-12 student body, and their master teachers.
Seeing this teacher pipeline in action reinforced the value and necessity for strong clinical partnerships between teacher-preparation programs such as those found in the College of Education and area schools. The reciprocal partnership benefits both school site and student teacher, allowing both to learn new approaches to teaching, give additional classroom support, and develop strong teachers who seamlessly enter the teaching profession prepared to teach on Day 1 of assuming a teaching position.