DeKALB – Northern Illinois University teacher candidates and their co-teaching partners in DeKalb Dist. 428 celebrated the successes of a new teacher preparation model – the Professional Development School’s co-teaching model.
In the co-teaching model, an NIU teacher candidate is paired with a master teacher from a partner school district. The pair spends a full year collaborating on lesson plans, classroom management and student improvement.
Students had access to two instructors instead of one in the classroom and gained a full year of experience learning every aspect of a teacher’s work. This differs from a traditional student teaching model, where student teachers instruct a class for 16 weeks.
Kimberly Foster, a teacher candidate who finished her co-teaching experience in April, said she recognized the value of the new model.
“My cooperating teacher and I met for the first time over the summer. The experience was great from day one,” she said. Foster graduated in May and has accepted a teaching position at DeKalb High School.
“I was hesitant to participate in the model at first, but now that I’ve been through it, I wouldn’t do it any other way,” said Foster’s cooperating teacher at DeKalb High School, Colleen Solomon. “It was great having Kimberly there even before school started, and we had a seamless transition into having her lead the lessons during the second semester.”
Dist. 428 Superintendent James Briscoe said he and other area administrators saw the graduates as comparable to new teachers who already had a year of experience. He added these students were prime candidates for available teaching positions, even in a competitive job market.
DeKalb High School Assistant Principal Jennie Hueber coordinates student teacher placements at DHS and said the district is serious about using a student teaching model that best supports Dist. 428 students. “Beyond anecdotal stories from co-teachers from both the district and NIU, we are in the process of collecting data to quantitatively determine the success of the program,” she said. “Our evaluation process is tracking performance of district students in the PDS classrooms to make sure that the model contributes to students’ growth.”
Since the establishment of the first Dist. 428 PDS in 2004, the PDS program has expanded to all schools in the district, although the year-long co-teaching variety is used only in select programs. NIU’s PDS sites include schools in four more districts – Huntley, Kaneland, St. Charles and Sycamore.