Tabitha Pacheco, a former BYU student, was recently chosen to join 17 other teachers as a part of the Hope Street National Teacher Fellows Program. The program is a team that works together to improve teacher preparation programs across the nation.
Pacheco said she felt very blessed and honored by her selection to be a part of this program.
“I think there are a lot of big changes happening in the field of education, especially for prospective teachers. It’s a career that’s definitely on the rise,” Pacheco said. “It’s really all about changing the way that education is in our nation and putting more power in the teacher’s hands. Letting them know that they have a voice and that their opinions matter.”
Pacheco has always been passionate about education, something that she said her BYU education helped her with. She has been looking for a way to have a bigger impact on education and make it better for teachers and students for a long time. She said being chosen to work as a part of the Hope Street Fellows program is the perfect opportunity for her to do that.
Gary Seastrand, a director at the McKay School of Education, explained a little bit about what teacher preparation programs currently look like.
He explained every college may have slightly different requirements, but all teachers must meet the state certification requirements. This includes having to pass a certain number of courses and then time must be spent with “hands-on” learning experience in the classroom. Certain content exams must be passed and teachers in Utah are required to at least hold a bachelor’s degree.
Pacheco said she is working together alongside her fellow program members to improve these programs so there can be higher quality teachers throughout the nation. The Hope Street group has monthly conference calls and webinars together as they work to improve these programs.
The group mentioned they are currently working on connecting with different focus groups of teachers and finding out how they felt their teacher preparation programs have helped them. They want to make it easier for people to become teachers to encourage more people to join, while still striving for that higher standard.
The preparation that goes on to become a teacher is only part of the process. More work and preparation comes after one becomes a teacher, including creating lesson plans and work for students.
“Most teachers spend far more than (their time on the clock) not only preparing, but correcting work, recording scores and working with individual students. It can expand into evening hours and weekends,” Seastrand said.
Randy Skinner, a highly-rated professor at BYU on ratemyprofessor.com, said he has loved working as a professor at BYU over the past 12 years. He said if there is one thing he has learned over the course of his career as both a former student at BYU and as a professor, it is that a class must be interesting and engaging or else students will not come to class or will not listen.
“You can be a brilliant researcher but if you can’t get your point across verbally to a group of freshman then it doesn’t matter, because nobody will ever know what you know,” Skinner said. “Sometimes you have to dance on the table.”
His class time experience includes a break after a half hour of class for “joke time” and a picture of a dinosaur in every lecture.
“When I’m prepping for class, I go through my lectures and look for ways to make the lectures more engaging,” Skinner said, “If they don’t come to class because it’s dry or boring then I can’t teach them anything.”
Tyler Griffin, a well-known religion professor at BYU, said perspective and relevance are what he considers key parts of the preparation process. He said he analyzes who the students are and how he can make the lessons and stories come to life for them. He also explained that his lessons take a lot of his time and energy.
“You’re always prepping,” Griffin said.
All of these professors agreed that preparation is vital to their teaching process. The Hope Street Group explained they are working hard to improve teacher preparation programs and help enhance teaching nationwide.
“It can make all the difference,” Pacheco said.