You may have been on the Tech Tower lawn and heard screams and laughter coming from across the street, only to look up and see it’s the sounds of children at play across the street at neighboring Centennial Place Elementary.
For Georgia Tech students looking for experience in the field of K-12 education, this location could hardly be more convenient. Stephanie Greear, a fifth-year international affairs and Spanish major from Woodstock, is spending her summer at Centennial Place as its first pre-teaching intern from Tech. Greear has been at it since May and will continue through the first few weeks of the school’s upcoming academic year.
“Life in an elementary school is always busy and hectic,” Greear said. “There is literally always something that needs to be done, and you’re never bored.”
Greear’s internship placement was facilitated by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and the Division of Professional Practice (DoPP), which are working together to broaden opportunities for the increasing number of Tech students interested in exploring careers in education. Nearly 300 of last year’s freshman applicant pool expressed an interest in teaching, up from just 20 the year before.
“Because Tech doesn’t have a college of education, students who wanted to become teachers had volunteer opportunities and classes they could take, but no way to truly explore the experience of being a teacher,” said Tech Pre-Teaching Advisor Susan Belmonte, who collaborated with the principal at Centennial Place to create the internship.
Enabled by Centennial Place’s year-round schedule, Greear has been privy to the closeout of one academic year and the summer preparations for the next. She has observed in the classroom, helped conduct reading comprehension testing, and participated in interviewing new teachers, which gave her insight into preparing for her own future job search. She’ll get more classroom time again in August when the internship will culminate with her teaching for a week.
“Everyone is really supportive of each other — kids, teachers, and staff alike,” Greear said. “I already know that leaving in August is going to be very difficult and sad, and I am already trying to work out my schedule for fall so that I can come volunteer at the school in my free time.”
Belmonte hopes to grow the internship next year to place two students at Centennial Place, and eventually establish middle and high school internships as well.
Tech has collaborated with Centennial Place, a STEAM-themed (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) school, in numerous ways in recent years. Among other activities, the Into the Streets freshman day of service has helped fill backpacks with supplies for students in need, an annual 5K race raises funds for students and teachers, and College of Architecture students have taught introductory architecture classes. Chris Burke, Georgia Tech’s director of community relations, even serves on Centennial Place’s foundation and school council.
The collaboration between Tech and Centennial Place supports Tech’s larger goal of helping K-12 teachers develop and offer a relevant, 21st-century STEM curriculum to prepare students to compete in a global economy.
“Having students within walking distance who are a little younger than our teaching staff is a wonderful way to have a little mentorship for our students,” said Alison Shelton, Centennial Place’s principal. “Sharing what college life is like helps the students see Georgia Tech as their college, and we’ve had several of our students go on to attend Tech.”
For the elementary school with the highest homeless population in Atlanta, having Tech students lend their time goes a long way toward helping students and families visualize college in their future. For students interested in pursuing a career in K-12 education, the new Centennial Place internship is a chance to try their hand at a classroom experience before pursuing a master’s or alternate certification program.
“Stephanie has been phenomenal,” Shelton said. “She supported us at the end of the year, has worked with with our administrative staff during the summer, and has come up with some great ways to improve our communications, even applying her expertise from leading Humans versus Zombies at Tech.”
Tech students interested in pursuing teaching can contact Belmonte to learn more about the pre-teaching program and available courses and opportunities.Visit the website at www.preteaching.gatech.edu.