Teacher Cadet could be shaping the next generation of teachers

Students teaching others and sharing a lesson.


Students teaching others and sharing a lesson.

A few years ago at Thornapple Elementary School, Lauren Ehrlich—now a college student—shadowed her mentor, learning what it was like to teach young minds through Teacher Cadet.   

“I was able to go into a classroom, shadow a teacher, and also work with students,” Lauren said. “It was super hands-on and a great experience. I really got to see what it was like to be a teacher.”

Working in a fourth-grade classroom gave Lauren a good perspective on how a classroom works, along with the effort and planning teachers have to undergo. Teacher Cadet impacted Lauren and influenced her and her career choice after high school. 

“I was able to get a little experience in a career I was extremely interested in,” Lauren said. “It gave me a little taste of day-to-day interactions with different students. It also allowed me to practice implementing a lesson plan, which is something I have to do a lot in my senior-level education courses.”

Lauren is now nearing the end of her senior year in college and is planning to go into teaching after she graduates, but first, she has to experience student teaching in the fall. 

Teacher Cadet advisor Patricia Richardson has been teaching this class for quite some time, and she has been able to guide students through the process, as well as watch over them as they work; she’s a helping hand in case they need it. 

“My role is to help the students see the ins and outs of teaching,” Richardson said. “I work with them to find mentors to work with and then provide insight into workings in classrooms. Students then look for and reflect on the pedagogy or practices we discuss at CHS in their mentor classrooms outside of the building. I go and see the students at work in their mentor classrooms to help them do their best.” 

Richardson was asked to teach the class after the previous teacher retired. Ever since then, she has been able to provide a range of opportunities for her students and watch them grow into what could be the next generation of teachers. 

“The students who have taken the course give me hope for the future of the teaching profession,” Richardson said. “I have often said that if I didn’t teach high school students, I would want to teach teachers. This class allows me to do both.”

Through her Teacher Cadet experience, junior Addi Bunnell has been learning that the class doesn’t just teach her, but it also helps the young students around her. 

“While in Teacher Cadet, I have learned to spend more time working with people to understand why they did something wrong before immediately helping them,” Addi said. “It is important to spend a little extra time with a student to see where they were coming from and how they solved a problem before stepping in and telling them the right way to go about fixing it. This practice prevents students from making the same mistakes in the future and will promote growth.” 

Addi has been able to shape the class to fit her own abilities, just like junior Margaret English. 

I love the excitement that the students come in with every Monday with stories about what they did in their mentor classrooms. I love hearing how they have been able to make a difference.

— Richardson

“I’m taking [life lessons] away from this experience,” Margaret said. “Being able to have patience and understanding [that] everyone has a different situation is helping me realize what I want to do with my future.”

Margaret has been working with first graders at Collins Elementary School. Teacher Cadet has been giving her the freedom to learn from a teacher other than the ones who teach her classes. This class has allowed her to be a part of what goes on behind the scenes of teaching.

“Cadet has brought me so much joy,” Margaret said, “from learning new things and what goes on behind the scenes in the school and also getting to know all the students”

Just like Margaret, Addi has come away from her experience with a handful of questions and some new knowledge, as well as new skills and appreciation for what it takes to be a teacher. 

“The teachers in the classroom do a great job of explaining everyday scenarios on a deeper level,” Addi said. “For example, my mentor teacher has done a great job of explaining why some students act out and behave and how to properly correct it. She has shared many methods with me regarding how to get a student to work on their assignment, calm their behavior, or deal with messy situations. This made me realize that there are specific ways to respond to the student’s actions that should be used at certain times.”

Both Addi and Margaret have taken a liking to Teacher Cadet; they both have even decided to stick with it during this year’s second semester—taking the class as their independent study. They both may follow in the footsteps of the college students who walked before them and chose to make a career in it, like Lauren Ehrlich. 

Richardson has high hopes for those who continue to show interest in the class and dream of becoming a teacher.

“I hope it gives students some insight into the rewards of teaching,” Richardson said. “The profession is in need of new and good teachers. This class can help students see what teaching is like before they go to college and have to pay for classes to explore the profession. I love the excitement that the students come in with every Monday with stories about what they did in their mentor classrooms. I love hearing how they have been able to make a difference.”