Mount Union?s Early Childhood Teacher Candidates Making a Difference

April 27, 2010

Mount Union College's early childhood teacher candidates are once again making a difference in the lives of children in need.

Mount Union instructor of education Deborah Walker's Integrated Language Arts for Emergent Readers class is able to personally address specific individual reading needs of grade school age students at Good Hope School in Frederiksted, United States Virgin Islands.

Walker's class, in conjunction with Dr. Pam Kimble, a third grade teacher at Good Hope, and Charlene McGowan, a second grade teacher at Good Hope, have developed a program titled Reaching Across the Sea, to benefit both the Mount Union teacher candidates and the elementary students.

The teacher candidates have the opportunity to put into practice what they are learning about emergent reading strategies as they design and create these hands-on literacy centers. The candidates also get a sense of service learning as they provide much needed learning resources to the children at Good Hope.

With the help, for the second consecutive year, from a grant given by the College the Mount Union teacher candidates are able to collaboratively create a learning environment tailored specifically for Good Hope.

The grant includes the funds needed to purchase the books and supplies to help the teacher candidates create the activities for the literacy centers.

The project provides benefits for all involved. For Mount Union, early childhood education majors are able to learn, create and observe ways to teach reading to a diverse body of children. Good Hope School children are English as Second Language (ESL) students.

'It is a great opportunity to reach out to a child in need,' said Kelly Croysdale, a junior from Austintown. 'The children don't have the resources we do, so it nice to help out. It was a lot of fun but challenging at the same time because we don't know the child on a personal level.'

For Good Hope School, the young students are provided individualized learning centers that are drawn from their reading curriculum and created to meet the identified instructional and their interest levels.

Each student has different qualities and needs to which the project is tailored. For instance, if a student is consistently having trouble pronouncing certain sounds or comprehending certain vocabulary, the teacher candidates will develop a learning center to address the particular need using the theme of the books that are in their classroom.

'I thought it was great experience to get to know and design a project specifically for one child,' added Nanetta Kounouzvelis, a junior from Canton. 'Hopefully this makes a difference for them. This is a unique project because it is something we wouldn't normally get to do because of the distance.'

An added benefit is the video conferencing system purchased with last year's grant that will allow for the teacher candidates and students to interact and engage in a learning environment from their own classrooms. The teacher candidates will be able to work with the students and observe their progress.

'Having to work with an individual child and create new ideas and see how the student develops is a great learning experience,' said Tiffany Centa, a junior from Cleveland.

'The quality of these reading centers is very impressive and I believe that the teacher candidate's passion for teaching and making a difference in the lives of the children are reflected in their efforts,' said Walker.

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