First-grade teacher Marisa Torres distributes five bathroom tickets to each of her 20 students every Monday. The children use the tickets when they have to go to the restroom during class time.
“It works because my goodness, these kids constantly have to go to the bathroom,” Torres said.
The 24-year-old received her teaching credentials from CSUN this year after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 2004. She started her new job as a first-grade teacher at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School in Burbank in September.
A critical part of her indoctrination into the teaching profession was CSUN’s student teaching program, a two-semester in-class program that gives aspiring teachers hands-on classroom experience.
Torres said her education at CSUN has been very helpful in her teaching career.
“I think CSUN is doing an awesome job with education, period,” said Torres, whose mother, Susie Torres, is an administrative support assistant for CSUN’s journalism department. “The teachers and the classes are great. I’ve brought (what I’ve learned) into my classroom.”
There are about 1,400 students currently enrolled in the traditional teachers’ credential program that Torres graduated from, said Bonnie Crawford of the Education Credential Office in the Department of Elementary Education.
The student teaching program is part of the overall coursework and exams students must pass in order to earn their teaching credentials.
Student Teaching Coordinator Steve Holle explained how the student teaching program works.
“(Student teachers) are placed in a school by the university supervisor,” Holle said.
In the two-semester training session, student teachers take the place of elementary school teachers in the classroom and with supervision, learn how to conduct a class.
In the first semester, student teachers are assigned to kindergarten to second-grade classes and in the second semester they work with third to fifth-grade classes.
The university supervisors, along with the classes’ regular teachers, observe student teachers in action. The supervisors give the student teachers a midterm and final exam and a final evaluation is completed by the supervisor and supervising teacher.
Torres described the schedule of the two-semester student teaching year.
“The first semester, you’re there from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., for nine weeks,” Torres said. “You slowly take over the classroom, but only during the morning. For your second semester of student teaching, you’re at the school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
Any meetings that the class’s assigned teacher has to attend, the student teacher must also attend.
“You’re basically shadowing the teacher,” Torres said. “Whatever the teacher needs to be there for, you’re there.”
“The last two weeks, you’re teaching the whole class,” Torres said. “The regular teacher is supervising you while you teach. I had a great experience with it. I just can’t say anything bad about it.”
Torres said that she had no problems when she had to take over class at the elementary schools.
“It wasn’t at all intimidating when I did have to take over the class,” Torres said. “The kids knew that they couldn’t just walk over me.”
Program coordinator Holle said that having student teachers at elementary schools allows for more subjects to be covered.
“The supervising teachers are very grateful to have student teachers in the classroom because science and social studies are left off the program, and thus, the children are getting an opportunity to learn social studies,” Holle said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Holle said he thinks this phase of CSUN’s teaching credential program is the most important because it gives students hands-on experience.
“It’s the experience the student gets when delivering instruction, time management and standards,” Holle said. “Once someone finishes the second semester successfully, they will be earning a preliminary credential.”
Holle said the student teaching segment is the part of the program that CSUN students look forward to the most.
“It’s the one that’s most meaningful to them,” Holle said. “They get teary-eyed when they have to leave the school.”
Being watched by a supervisor while instructing a class can be intimidating for some.
“(Student teachers) are apprehensive because it’s different,” Holle said. “When the university supervisor comes in, (the student teachers) are being evaluated and at the same time, nerves start racking up. If (the children) start acting up, the student teacher gets frightened that they will get marked down.”
Holle said that children might act up when a new teacher shows up in their classroom.
“They’re going to test you,” Holle said. “They’re going to see how far they can go without getting into trouble. Boys will be boys.”
From a teaching standpoint, Holle said there are noticeable differences between male and female student teachers.
“Men seem to have more difficulty with student teaching than women,” Holle said. “In the Student Teaching Assistant Plan (a program to assist student teachers), 80 percent are men. I don’t know what it is. Everybody realizes we want male teachers in elementary. We need more males in elementary.”
By state law, public school teachers are required to obtain a California teaching credential.
Torres said she thinks that the number of tests required to complete the credential’s program should be decreased.
“I just think that the whole state of California is getting a little too crazy with those tests,” Torres said. “I have several cousins that turned away from teaching because they want to add more tests.”
Torres does not have a full teaching credential yet.
She will not obtain that until she has completed two years of teaching at Stevenson Elementary and only if her evaluation goes well.
If Proposition 74 passes on Nov. 8, Torres will have to wait an additional three years to receive full credential.
Proposition 74, backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and opposed by the state teachers’ unions, would increase the time it takes for teachers to become permanent employees from two to five years, and make it easier to fire tenured teachers who receive two unsatisfactory evaluations.
“I’m still going to workshops after school, writing up papers, listening to speeches,” Torres said. “I’m doing this for two years. It’s not easy. I teach from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. I am a beginning teacher and still learning, but five years of doing that, that’s a bit excessive.”
Maribel Diaz, a junior who transferred from College of the Canyons this semester, came to CSUN to get a degree in literature for high school English. She graduated from COC earlier this year with an associate’s degree in English.
Diaz said she was inspired to teach by her Saugus High School history teacher, Adam Miller.
“He was hilarious, and at the same time, his teaching was passionate,” Diaz said. “He is the perfect example of what I want to do.”
Diaz has some theories about the teacher-student relationship.
“The connection with the student and the inspiration of confidence is important,” Diaz said. “One-on-one with students is most important to me.”
Diaz has some expectations for herself.
“I’m kind of a shy person,” Diaz said. “I really want to have my students see that I’m prepared and that I want to inspire knowledge. I want students to have respect for me (and each other). I don’t want to be a strict teacher because that’s not the best way to learn.”
Torres said that ever since she was a little girl, she has had a drive to be with little kids and to teach them. She said she liked to teach kids when she was in high school, and in college she taught children in a daycare program.
“My calling was to be with kids, (to) help kids. Not necessarily teach them ABCs, but to make an
impact on them,” Torres said.
“I somehow make an impact on these kids’ (her students’) lives,” Torres said. “I make them feel special throughout the day. Every morning they give me hugs. I can tell they enjoy coming into my classroom.”
Cynthia Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.