BEATRICE, Neb. — When Jesse Meints enters Stoddard Elementary School she is hit with a tidal wave of kindergartener hugs.
The children mean more to the Beatrice High School senior than they know because for Meints these students are her first class.
For 13 years Meints has sat behind a desk learning, but also observing the men and women she someday hopes to become.
This year Meints and 23 other high school students have been participating in the Education Academy at BHS that has allowed them not only to earn college credit, but also about six hours of classroom time a week working with cooperating teachers in the district.
“It has been interesting to be able to watch them go from seeing the classroom as student to seeing a classroom as a student to seeing the classroom as a teacher and looking at everyone’s need,” Education Academy instructor Doris Martin said.
Martin who also helps coordinate the career academies, came out of her teaching retirement to become an adjunct professor for the class. She taught journalism at BHS for 32 years before retiring five years ago.
“It was kind of a win-win for me because I got to get back in the classroom, but I didn’t have to go back full time and I could talk about something that was an important part of my life,” Martin said.
The program originally was called cadet aiding and did not include class work at the high school. Martin said adding the class to cadet aiding has “added some meat” to it.
“Before students were exposed to the hands-on side of education; however, the course was missing the educational theory,” director of curriculum and Assistant Principal Jackie Nielsen said. “Students now get a more complete picture of what it means to go into the education profession.”
Students in the class earn 10 hours of high school credit and 4ﾽ hours of college credit.
Martin said the academy students have a chance to do a variety of tasks while working with the teachers they aide.
Senior Jalen Weeks whose parents both have taught in the district, is working with Beatrice Middle School computers teacher Steve Menke and his students.
“My favorite part is being able to go in the classroom and talk with all the kids,” Weeks said. “You really do get a better understanding of how kids react to other situations.”
Meints, who works with both kindergarten teachers at Stoddard, Jenny Frerichs and Dana Workman, has the opportunity to witness two different kinds of teaching styles, as well as finding different styles to work with each student.
“It is hard because each kid has to be disciplined a different way,” Meints said. “You have to discipline them differently because of the way they react.”
The district joined with Southeast Nebraska Career Academy Partnership (SENCAP) to bring back the academies this year that also include welding and health.
The SENCAP program is a partnership between high schools and Southeast Community College that gives high school students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credit in career-focused classes.
Education Academy students pay for half of their tuition while SCC pays for the other. BHS Principal Jason Sutter paid for the class’s textbooks.
The cadet aiding cooperating teachers help grade the academy students.
The students also have portfolio assignments that focus on career development.
Both Weeks and Meints plan to pursue careers in teaching after graduation. Martin has her students keep detailed journals in hopes of knocking off some of the required time in a classroom they will need in college.
Doris said the academies are a great introduction to college for the students.
Next year Nielsen said they hope to add agriculture and business academies.