When the FSU Professional Development Schools Partnership first received funding in 2006, Barbara Owens, Director PDS Partnership/ Clinical Experiences, realized it had potential to provide valuable connections. Graduate students working in the PDS office repeatedly told Owens they missed classroom interaction while earning their master’s degrees. “I thought how great it would be if we could send our graduate students into the classrooms and then bring those classroom teachers to Fairmont State to work with the PDS program,” she said. The idea became a reality.
Marion County Schools teachers Debbie Johnson of White Hall Elementary and Mary Jo Swiger of Fairview Middle School began working for the partnership in the fall. Master of Education students Gabrielle Beech, Rose Levelle and Heather Shelton soon joined the PDS program as the first graduate students to run a classroom while earning their master’s degrees. “From helping our graduate students open the classroom at the beginning of the year, answering questions from FSU faculty and creating new programs to allow teachers to collaborate across county lines, the experience has been full of new opportunities,” Johnson said.
The experience has given the graduate students a leg up on their competition, Beech said. “The teaching world today is more competitive than ever, and the firsthand teaching experience that Fairmont State has offered all three of us will ensure we stand out in the workforce. Because of this unique opportunity to run my own classroom while earning my degree, I feel confident in my teaching abilities and I have an incredible support system to help along the way,” she said.