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NIU graduates teachers from new program

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Northern Illinois University teacher candidates and their co-teaching partners in DeKalb School District 428 recently celebrated the successes of a new model of teacher preparation – the Professional Development School’s co-teaching model.

In the co-teaching model, an NIU teacher candidate is paired with a master teacher from a partner school district. The pair spends a full year collaborating on lesson plans, classroom management and student improvement.

Students had access to two instructors instead of one in the classroom and gained a full year of experience learning every aspect of a teacher’s work. This differs from a traditional student-teaching model, where student teachers instruct a class for just 16 weeks.

Kimberly Foster, a teacher candidate who finished her co-teaching experience in April, said she recognized the value of the new model right away.

“My cooperating teacher and I met for the first time over the summer. The experience was great from day one,” she said in a news release. Foster graduated in May and has already accepted a teaching position at DeKalb High School.

“I was hesitant to participate in the co-teaching model at first, but now that I’ve been through it, I wouldn’t do it any other way,” said Foster’s cooperating teacher at DeKalb High School, Colleen Solomon. “It was great having Kimberly there even before school started, and we had a seamless transition into having her lead the lessons during the second semester.”

District 428 Superintendent James Briscoe said that he and other area administrators saw the graduates as comparable to new teachers who already had a year of teaching experience. He added that these students were prime candidates for available teaching positions, even in this competitive job market.

DHS Assistant Principal Jennie Hueber coordinates student teacher placements at the school and said the district is serious about using a student-teaching model that best supports District 428 students.

“Beyond anecdotal stories from co-teachers from both the district and NIU, we are in the process of collecting data to quantitatively determine the success of the program,” she said in the release. “Our evaluation process is tracking performance of district students in the PDS classrooms to make sure that the model contributes to students’ growth.”

Since the establishment of the first District 428 PDS in 2004, the PDS program has expanded to all schools in the district, although the year-long co-teaching variety is used only in select programs. NIU’s PDS sites now include schools in four more districts – Huntley District 158, Kaneland District 302, St. Charles District 303 and Sycamore District 427.

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