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Practice Makes Perfect

March 21, 2017

Education students credit their success to extensive classroom opportunities.

Rows of children file into the classroom on a bustling Monday morning at Forest Lake Elementary School.  The chattering boys and girls shake off their snowy boots and hang up their coats as Mr. Pray asks each of them how their weekends were. The 27 students scurry to their desk clusters and plop into their designated seats to begin their morning worksheet. “Please remain in your seats and stay quiet until we are finished with the worksheet,” reminds Mr. Pray. When the children are finished, Mr. Pray announces the agenda for the afternoon and the school day gets into full swing.

Jackson Pray works with students in his classroom.

Jackson Pray works with students in his classroom.

Jackson Pray is a UMD Integrated Elementary and Special Education (IESE) major who is spending the spring semester as a fourth grade student teacher. “I came to UMD because I knew I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, and I knew how great the program was here,” says Jackson. The UMD Education Program offers a variety of teaching programs including the Integrated Elementary and Special Education (IESE), the Secondary Teacher Preparation Program (STEP), and the Unified Early Childhood Studies Program (UECH).


This semester is not the first time Jackson has been in front of the classroom. “One of the great things about the UMD Education Program is the many opportunities to be placed in teaching roles,” says Jackson. Prior to student teaching, Jackson and his education classmates at UMD have spent many hours teaching out in the field. “My first time in a classroom was overwhelming, and I didn’t know what to expect,” says Jackson, “but now I’m more confident and I know that my students respect me as their teacher.”

The UECH program incorporates 500 hours of classroom field teaching, while the IESE program includes 800 hours prior to student teaching. “We are in a classroom for about a month at a time, and we get long term, hands on experience as teachers,” says Jackson. “I know I’m getting more experience than my friends who are education majors at other schools. My advice is that if you want to go into teaching, you should go to UMD,” says Jackson.


UMD’s education program goes well beyond the state minimum for field teaching. “Our program offers students one of the most comprehensive undergraduate field teaching opportunities in Minnesota,” says Field Experience Coordinator Jim Sersha. “I get so many compliments from teachers and administrators about the students that come out of UMD,” says Jim.  

Not only do Jackson and other UMD IESE majors get more experience, but they also receive a dual teaching license after graduation. IESE majors graduate with both a K-6 teaching license and a K-12 special education license. “The students are licensed and experienced to be versatile,” says Jim, “It gives administrators a great deal of latitude.”

Third year IESE student Alyssa Sinclair came to UMD knowing she wanted to pursue a teaching degree. “I knew I wanted to teach elementary students, but I never considered getting a license to teach special ed until coming to UMD,” Alyssa says. “I believe that having the ability to teach general or special ed will help make finding a job much easier,” Alyssa says.

Both Alyssa and Jackson have spent much of their education majors teaching in front of a classroom while pursuing a dual license. “I knew UMD had a great education program, but as a senior in high school, I didn’t know why,” she Alyssa. “Now, I know it is because I am pushed to gain real experience, and I will come out equipped for a teaching career.”

Visit the UMD Education Department website

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