In Classroom 7-F at Redcliffe Elementary School, wide-eyed kindergartners sat on a brightly colored rug as Summer Mathis, 17, read from a big book with an even bigger lesson.
By the time the Silver Bluff High School senior had finished Malcolm the Monkey's First Day at Jungle Elementary, a book she co-wrote with classmate Kelly Tarlton , the pupils could tell her why being nice to the new kid in class is so important.
The experience was rewarding and enjoyable, Summer said. She has longed to be a teacher since seventh grade.
"I want to make a difference in children's lives," she said. "I want to make learning fun."
She's part of Silver Bluff's participation in the Teacher Cadet Program, a yearlong course offered statewide to introduce high school students to the principles of teaching.
"This class is very hands-on," said instructor Lisa Evans . "It's designed to attract bright students to the teaching field and give them an idea of what it takes to be teachers."
That includes constructing lesson plans, learning about childhood development, having storytime with elementary pupils and understanding state learning objectives, Ms. Evans said.
Students are paired with teachers for eight weeks at the end of the year to experience what it's like to be in charge of a classroom.
"By the end, they really have a good idea of what it takes to be a teacher but it's a lot harder than they think," Ms. Evans said. Students spend time studying both the psychological and practical aspects of being a teacher.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff you don't understand," said senior Cody Temple, 17. "I didn't think how much teachers had to take into account. ... Usually, they're just (seen as) a figurehead in front of the classroom, dictating what to do. This class makes them a person."
Senior Jessica Jinks, 17, agreed.
"This really makes you appreciate teachers more," she said.
After preparing for storytime with her former kindergarten teacher's new class, Kelly had proof.
"It took a really long time to put the book together (with) all the writing and coloring, but I had fun making it," she said. "It was neat going back to her classroom; I liked it."
Most students do, Ms. Evans said.
"It's a fun class. Even if they don't go into teaching, they have a better appreciation of public schools and teaching in general," she said. "It also enhances their public-speaking skills."
In Classroom 7-E, Cody had a chance to do just that before a room full of 5-year-olds.
Giving voice to a rainbow-spotted cheetah, a puppet thought of by classmate India Smith, 15, Cody used storytelling as a way to work on enunciation, projection and inflection.
Verbal skills aren't the only things Silver Bluff Teacher Cadets get practice with, Jessica said.
"This class ties in all the subjects," she said. "You get to put them all together: English, psychology, everything."
Applying what she learns is the key reason senior Danielle Himsey said she finds the class interesting.
"It's so interactive. We do lots of artsy things as well, like scrapbooks," she said. "The class is diverse, not only in the people you get to know but the things you get to do in it."
The students aren't quiet about their accomplishments and projects.
"This is one of those classes you tell everyone about," Jessica said.
That's because the students get to learn so much about their personality and others, she said.
"We kind of get to get back in touch with our little-kid self," Cody explained. "Plus, it's like you get to reach back. And what other class do you get to do a puppet show in?"
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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