FREEPORT (WREX) — Most future teachers don't get classroom training until the late college years, but some students at Freeport High School are getting a head start with a unique teacher prep program.
Through the halls of Freeport High School are future leaders, and some students already know what they want to be.
"Music has been a passion of mine, I played the saxophone since I was in 5th grade and my passion has just grown from that," Senior, David Helbling said.
"I’d like to be a P.E. teacher and soccer coach potentially for the high school or middle school," Senior, Franco Avila said.
While David and Franco walk different paths they do have one thing in common, their love for education.
"This group of students I have here they’re all senior students and they all want to be teachers they come in every day talking about well when do we get to do this and when do we get to do that. Those relationships is what they’re really excited for," Family & Consumer Science Teacher, Nacia Patterson said.
Nacia Patterson is leading the 'Future Educators' course at Freeport High School.
"This class is clinical-based so they go out into the middle school and high school and work with a teacher one on one doing kind of like a student teaching experience as you would in college," Patterson said.
The program is usually hands-on, but students had to navigate the class differently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We didn’t get to have the face-to-face experience with our students so they did it virtually so this will be our first year back in the classroom working with the kids and students one on one," Patterson said.
The nationwide pandemic caused some students to question if the education field was right for them.
"A lot of kids last year they were like I don’t like this, this isn’t fun, if this is what teaching is then I don’t wanna be a teacher," Patterson explained. "Because they don’t get that face to face interaction there’s a lot of things you’re limited to you can’t do any hands-on activities and crafts and things like that that you typically get to do in a classroom,"
After a year of virtual learning students are back inside the classroom with a zest for learning.
"Some of us are more hands-on learners and it helps a lot being there seeing how the teachers do their job it helps us a lot for our futures," Avila said.
The 'Future Educators' class is a year long course.
"I wanted to get as much experience as I could before actually going to a university so I have some more experience under my belt compared to other students," Helbling said.
Students are getting a taste of what it's like to teach all subjects. Nacia said it's important to make sure her students are exposed to everything.
"Making sure they get into one area one semester with a teacher that they’re interested in and then the next semester they might be with something totally random just to give them that exposure into a content area," Patterson said.
Students said they're grateful for this program, knowing not everyone will get this opportunity.
"It’s kind of a big deal there’s only eight of us in this class," Helbling said. "And I'm one of eight so getting that experience compared to other kids that might be going to a bigger university with a class of 100 me being that one kid that got that experience is a big leg up compared to all those other kids,"
Something new added to the course, due to the pandemic, is students now learning about virtual lesson planning and teaching over zoom.