College students helping teacher shortages in elementary schools

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 8:56 PM CST
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Everybody loves a win-win, but what about a win-win-win? That’s what’s happening with a partnership between universities, elementary schools and students.

VCSU and NDSU have teamed up for sometime for their education program, but this school year, they’re taking the classroom to the classroom.

“They’ll learn about it in the class, and then they’ll go into the classrooms and see what our teachers do,” said Tabatha Joyce, principal of Eastwood Elementary School. “Really going from theory to practice.”

Seniors in the program are taught lessons in the elementary school before heading next-door and applying those lessons hands on.

“It just prepares you a lot more,” said Brianna Meissner, a senior in the VCSU/NDSU Education program. “Because I think of the last couple years, just being on the college campus, it’s been really great. The switch is, doing a project and then being able to say, ‘ok, let’s go show students.’”

On top of students getting credits and experience, there’s an added bonus for the staff they work with as the students can hop in as substitutes or for future positions in yet another market that has stuggled with shortages.

“We can get to know the students and find the best fit,” said Joyce. “So, if I’m looking for a first-grade teacher next year, I might say, ‘you know what, actually I got to know this student and I want to interview this person for this job.’”

“It has helped me a lot,” said Melissa Fritchman, a 2nd grade teacher at Eastwood Elementary. “I have a one and a half year old at home, so if I need to be out with a sick child, I know my class is in good hands. My practicum student has been in my room, she knows how everything operates, she knows where everything is.”

It’s something students are happy about, and not just the ones in college.

“Anytime my practicum student is in the hallways, my students are always saying, ‘Hi, when are you coming back to the room?’ Having those relationships across other classrooms throughout the school is super helpful to make kids feel welcome and like they belong,” said Fritchman.

“I love it and it’s fun so come on out for elementary,” laughed Meissner.