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Want to be a teacher? You can start now!

The Teacher's Academy in the Renton School District.

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Want to be a teacher? You can start now!

Malina Taing, Staff Writer

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In the Renton School District, we offer a program called Teacher’s Academy. It is in our course catalog, on the announcements, and on posters hung up all around the school!

But this class hasn’t had the attention it deserves. People tend to miss out on opportunities: so this must be heard.

Why This Needs More Attention

People who want to start this career pathway towards education and becoming a teacher do not always know where to even begin. The coordinator of the program herself, Carla Smith, agrees that education careers need to be brought more to attention.

“I find it really hard. Really challenging. To figure out how to advertise in a way that everybody hears the information, because you know, I’ve been teaching Teacher Academy at Renton High School–this is my 8th year.  And I still run into students all the time in their senior years that say ‘Oh I want to be a teacher! I didn’t even know you had this class,’ and I’m thinking ‘oh my goodness! It’s in the course catalog, it’s in the announcements, I make posters, I invite you for pizza lunch-ins,’ you know. It’s like I don’t know how else to advertise it,” explained Smith.

With such a huge opportunity and resource available to students, the word needs to be spread!

It is Eye-Opening

When taking this class, students may realize that they do want to be a teacher after all, or they may realize that being a teacher isn’t something for them. In some cases, after taking the class student can walk away saying that it was a great class, a great experience, but being a teacher isn’t for them. Sometimes, students may choose to come back to it years later and want to start on the teaching pathway again.

For example, right now a past student of Mrs. Smith’s reached out to her saying that she wants to come back. They are both going to meet for coffee on in November as she prepares to start in the winter quarter at one of the colleges this program is connected too. This is just one example of why taking this class and having the experience is worth it.

Mrs. Smith stated that the woman she’s going to meet this month is probably the 3rd or 4th person within the past 6 months to reach out to her years later after graduating high school requesting to study to become a teacher again.

“And if you decide not to be a teacher, that’s fine. But at least you know generally where your heart is leading you,” states Mrs. Smith

What Is Teacher’s Academy Exactly?

Teacher’s Academy is a one-year class taught at all three comprehensive high schools in the Renton High School District where students are taught how to be a teacher and get to experience for themselves exactly what it is  like. Students between the grades of 10th to 12th can apply.

“It’s one of the most unique programs in the state of Washington, and it’s the only one like it in our area,” shared Mrs. Smith.

How are students taught?

Throughout the course of this class, students use Canvas. The course requires a lot of project-based learning, collaborative learning, and hands-on experience of exactly what is like to be a teacher. For example, they learn what it’s like to plan a unit of curriculum to teach others. The students can also teach one another and are able to take on internships.

All the ways they learn are blended, such as how they get to leave campus twice a week, which is what makes this program unique from others.

It’s unique!

This course gives students the opportunity to have first-hand knowledge on what a college campus feels like instead of having to look at pictures through the internet. They have a partnership with Central Washington University where students in the district can go sit with college students and learn together, or sometimes the college students sit with them instead. Everyone in the class travels together going on college field trips.

In Mrs. Smith’s opinion, “all of it is unique, but the thing I think that sets us apart from everyone else is the amount of time we spend off campus in a real-life teaching situations. We’re not pretending to teach and work in schools. We really are teaching and working in schools.”

The Benefits of Teacher’s Academy

When taking this class, young adults become more aware of what teachers must go through. The program pushes them to be their best selves by having them make scary decisions based on little experience. From this, they gain way more knowledge as well as background on how to be a teacher. With that experience, they gain skills on how to handle situations which makes everything less intimidating and stressful for them.

There are many future opportunities ahead from completing this class, such as being offered scholarships, not having to spend any money on college classes, receiving a certificate for employment being able to become a PARA Educator and earning up to 4 college credits with a pay of $17 to $18 per hour.

If deciding to be a teacher, young adults know what they are walking into with eyes open, understanding the challenges, having experience from real-life practice, watching the challenges in the classroom of exactly how it’s like, and already knowing what they are signing up for. All of this comes from joining Teacher Academy.

“At the end of the year, it sometimes helps them realize that teaching is not what they want for a career pathway. They value it as an experience because it makes them a better citizen, it will make them a more informed voter, it can make them a better parent perhaps…So even if they don’t decide right away that they don’t want to be a teacher, it’s a very valuable class,” explains Mrs. Smith.

What Is A PARA Educator?

A PARA Educator is a teacher’s assistant. Their job is working with students who need additional physical or mental support. Some examples include helping students navigate around the school in a wheelchair and giving extra support in classes they have.

Mrs. Smith thinks that “They are Rockstars. And teachers can’t do their jobs as well if they’ve got 30 students in the room and they don’t have this one para educator to help the students that may need just that additional support.”

About the Coordinator, Mrs. Smith

She is very nice and friendly. Even if a person is not a high school student, she is open to talking to anyone about teaching! For people who have taken her class before and continue the pursuit in becoming a teacher, she will check up on those students once a month or so to see how they are doing and if they need any help.

“Even though you aren’t in my class, the fact that you were in my class kind of keeps you in what I call my teacher academy family…sometimes they just need a listening ear and sometimes they need somebody to help them problem solve. But that’s kind of my rule after they graduate from my class,” shared Mrs. Smith.

What Keeps Her Going

A fire sparked inside of her back when she was in high school. As a 10th grade student, she met a teacher named Mrs. Alice Vetter. Seeing the way Vetter taught the class, Mrs. Smith wanted to do the same thing ever since then. Vetter has been her inspiration, and her experiences in the class influenced her to become a teacher seeing the way Mrs. Vetter taught. Through non-traditional learning, Mrs. Vetter helped Mrs. Smith back then feel smart, important, and capable. Smith talked about how even though Mrs. Vetter was hard and honest, she loved it and wanted to so badly to make her proud. In those moments she realized what her passion was and that is to teach! Her goal is to be just like Mrs. Vetter. They still keep in touch today!

Loving Her Job

Mrs. Smith states that she believes so strongly in the power of story, in the power of relationships, and in the power of connecting people their dreams and goals. She believes that Teacher Academy brings all those elements together. She believes in creating a world that is better for the future, that there is so much power in teaching, and that is the way the world is going to change.

“I can’t quite imagine being happy doing any other kind of job because I can’t think of any other jobs that brings all of those pieces together and puts them into this lovely package with a bow on it called Teacher Academy,” shared Smith.

Additional Information

The class is mainly designed for juniors and seniors in high school because of how they must take on internships. In the program, they often go on field trips which require transportation; it often is difficult for young adults who can’t drive yet, which is why only very few 10th graders can join Teacher Academy. If so though, they can provide an ORCA card.

Ready to Become A Teacher? Well…

If you have a heart for people, that’s the only thing you need to sign up for the class called Teacher Academy and let Mrs. Smith take care of the rest. All you need is an open heart.

For questions or more information about the Renton Teacher Academy please email: carla.smith@rentonschools.us

“It’s probably some of the most important work I’ve done in my whole life other than being a mom. I have two kids of my own. But other than being a mom, I believe that Teacher Academy is one of my most valued experiences in life.

~ Carla Smith (Teacher Academy Coordinator)

About the Contributors
Malina Taing, Staff Writer

Hi! My name is Malina Taing. I am a freshman at Renton High School.

Instagram: @simply.malina

Feel free to talk to me about anything, and I'll listen....

Riley Opiniano, Photojournalist and Project Manager

Hey! My name is Riley Opiniano. I am the RHS photojournalist and project manager. Outside of journalism, I enjoy volleyball and spending time with my...

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