Lauren Ehrlich starts her future with Teacher Cadet


Abby Wright, Staff Writer

Timesheets. Lesson plans. Mentor teachers. Real-world teaching experiences.

This is what art teacher Neven Allan planned when designing the Teacher Cadet program, a class any junior or senior can take who is interested in pursuing a career in the field of education. The semester course offers students insight on the basics of teaching, and eventually, they get to teach a lesson with the help of their mentor teacher.

Senior Lauren Ehrlich is in her first year of the program.

Lauren spends her sixth hour playing with fourth graders at recess and helping the kids with math. She usually works with a group of four to five students who need extra help, applying the skills she already knows.

“It’s really interesting to see how the kids interact,” Lauren said. “You don’t really know what they know or don’t know.”

She also helps her mentor teacher, Paige Gustafson, grade papers. Right now, Lauren is an extra helping hand, but eventually, she will instruct without the help of Gustafson.

Gustafson thinks Lauren is doing an excellent job so far and enjoys having her in the classroom. Lauren is always willing to intervene and help in any way possible.

She is very conscientious, responsible and relates well to my students,” Gustafson said. “She has always shown confidence in my classroom when helping students with their work.”

Everyone in Gustafson’s room collaborates well, including Lauren and Gustafson, which is important. Without a healthy relationship between the two of them, Lauren wouldn’t be able to learn as much from her experiences. She thinks very highly of Gustafson and is grateful that she has such a great teacher to observe.

“She is so kind and the students love her,” Lauren said. “It is very cool to see how she works with her class and how much they respect her.”

Lauren has learned the important skill of patience through observing Gustafson. She watches her control the room of 30 chatty students well and knows that these experiences will be beneficial to her when she teaches one day. Lauren is planning on going to Michigan State University for elementary education, and without the Teacher Cadet program, she wouldn’t be able to enter college with the skills she has been able to learn and apply.

“I love the opportunity that the class gives me,” Lauren said. “It is a full hands-on experience of what it will be like in the teaching field.”

Allan teaches the students how to format a lesson plan and different teaching techniques for certain learning styles, which is the full hands-on experience. The students apply their knowledge every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the class of their choice.

“They’re not a student teacher,” said Allan, who has been running the program since the 2007-2008 school year. “They’re just beginning.”

The mentor teacher never leaves the teacher cadet alone in the class and is always there to help. At the end of the day, the mentor teacher initials the teacher cadet’s time sheet, which is 20 percent of their grade. Another 40 percent is an evaluation which is also filled out by the mentor teacher, the last 40 percent is participation and attendance, which is an incredibly strict policy.

When a teacher cadet is going to be gone for the day, they have to notify their mentor teacher and Allan, which is the polite and professional thing to do. If they choose not to do that, a percentage of their grade goes down, which strictly enforces that the teacher cadets be present and professional.

“If they take a lot of mental health days, that affects the classroom,” Allan said. “It’s not good for learning.”

Along with attendance, they have to follow a dress code. In real-world teaching, you dress for the grade and what you’re doing that day. If the teacher cadet is teaching a first-grade art class, then they wouldn’t wear their nicest party dress. It all ties back to being professional. If the students want the experience or a future job, they have to be prepared and dress for the part.

Students in the program also learn self-awareness; learning more about themselves and their leadership skills. At the end of the semester, the students gain a newfound respect for their teachers, because they understand first hand what they do daily. Throughout it all, Allan is there for her students every step of the way.

“I have their back,” Allan said. “If they’re having some challenges with their mentor teacher, if there’s a disagreement or whatever, then I’m there for them.”