When it’s July in Texas, discussions of the weather generally come down to one word: hot. For the past two weeks, discussions among 50 elementary school students also have included rain, clouds, hurricanes, and even blizzards. They’ve also talked about into volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters.
The first- through fourth-grade students, representing several Grayson County elementary schools, spent the entire morning each day at Jefferson School in the in the annual summer enrichment program, offered by Austin College students and faculty of the Austin Teacher Program (ATP). During this year’s program, the students explored elements of weather and natural disasters, which included many hands-on projects like making their own volcanoes and touring the weather center at the local KXII television station.
The collaborative camp is coordinated by Julia Shahid, associate professor of education in the ATP. She, along with administrators and teachers at Jefferson, conceived the project several years ago, recognizing the need for a summer program. Each year, a few Jefferson teachers take part in the program to provide technical support and to help evaluate the program.
Now in its eighth year, past sessions have explored the cultures of Japan and of India, as well as the topics of space exploration, weather, and the environment.
The program benefits Austin College as well as area elementary students. Shahid teaches a summer course for ATP students on science and social studies methodologies, but since area schools are not in session, can offer no classroom experience as part of the course. The Jefferson summer program provides her students the opportunity to experience an entire morning in the classroom.
ATP students prepare the summer curriculum, which incorporates higher level thinking skills and aligns with state curriculum standards. The students have full responsibility for preparing the lessons, pulling together the resources, and determining how each team, divided by grade level, coordinates the day. The ATP students further prepare for the sessions with exploration of teaching methods. At the close of each day’s session at Jefferson, the ATP students discuss the morning’s classes and apply their classroom learning to the actual experiences with the students. Shahid and the Jefferson teachers involved, who observe each session, evaluate the learning experience and provide feedback to the student teachers.
The Austin College Teacher Program is a five-year program that introduces students interested in teaching to experiences in the classroom early in their education. By the time students complete the program, they already have spent considerable time in teaching situations. Students at Austin College major in a subject of their choice then complete a Master of Arts in Teaching in the fifth year. The primary goal of teacher education at Austin College is to prepare teachers who will have the breadth and depth of intellectual development achieved through a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education. The ATP is fully accredited through the Texas State Board for Educator Certification.
The Austin Teacher Program graduate students, all graduates of Austin College, are listed below by city, along with their parents’ names and the high school from which they graduated in their hometowns.
Shannon Staton, daughter of H. B. and Valerie Staton and a graduate of Hebron High School;
Fort Worth, Texas
Katherine Abbey, daughter of Eugene and Patricia Abbey and a graduate of Arlington Heights High School;
Amy Holman, daughter of Tod and Eugenie Holman and a graduate of Pine Tree High School;
Bobbi Schulle, daughter of David and Debbie Schulle and a graduate of Lockhart High School;
Jonathan Hersh, son of Ed and Shellie Hersh and a graduate of Alan B. Shepard High School;
Pilot Point, Texas
Mallory Duesman, daughter of Jeff and Kathryn Duesman and a graduate of Pilot Point High School;
Katie Peterson, daughter of Bob and Pam Peterson and a graduate of Plano Senior High School.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.