In High Demand: GCSU education students are top commodity at yearly recruitment fair

In High Demand: GCSU education students are top commodity at yearly recruitment fair

A lumni of the John H. Lounsbury College of Education are everywhere in Central Georgia.

They are superintendents, principals and teachers. Some come back to Georgia College & State University (GCSU) after graduation as pre-education instructors to help shape tomorrow’s instructors.

Next week, many will return to their alma mater for what they consider their most important task: hiring new teachers.

Many education majors will get on-the-spot offers from one of the 70 area schools that attend Georgia College’s annual Teacher Recruitment Day. The rest will be hired before graduating in May.

Dr. Joseph Peters
Dr. Joseph Peters
“Our graduates are highly desired. We get calls constantly from around the state from employers who want to hire our students,” said Dr. Joseph Peters, dean of the College of Education.

“A lot of this success is due to our mentor/cohort program," he said. "Having someone in your corner, who knows you and is there for support creates stronger student teachers.”

Georgia College implemented the mentor-led cohort program nearly 30 years ago to support students as they maneuver studies and in-classroom practicums. Cohort members go to classes together and share a common mentor who acts as a confidante, guiding and counseling students through their junior/senior years.

Having this adult advocate is tremendously important. They get to know you, and you develop a deep relationship. They help develop leaders. That person is not just your instructor but your teacher, your guide, field supervisor—someone who’s going to lead in a variety of different ways and provide quality feedback.
– Dr. Joanne Previts

In the spring, 80 to 100 senior education majors are assigned classrooms with veteran teachers throughout Central Georgia, said Previts, interim chair of the department of Teacher Education. Students help teachers develop, deliver and access every aspect of curriculum.

Senior Early Childhood Education major Madelyn Sutton is student teaching this semester. She recently stood before a class of fidgety but attentive first graders at Lakeview Primary School in Milledgeville. They sat on a rug before her with upturned faces, and she told them to turn on their “listening ears.”

Madelyn Sutton teaches a first-grade class at Lakeview Primary School in Milledgeville.
Madelyn Sutton teaches a first-grade class at Lakeview Primary School in Milledgeville.
For her special project, Sutton created interactive lessons about Sacajawea, the native American guide who helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition of the Louisiana Territory. Her pupils made explorer hats, acted as explorers on the playground and sent home postcards about their travels.

Her partner teacher, Rebecca Snow, ’17, ’18, received her bachelor’s and master’s in Early Childhood Education at Georgia College. Snow said she’s learned as much from Sutton as Sutton has from her.

Georgia College students often update teachers on emerging trends in education. They provide tips on data collection, evidence-based lessons, digital apps and new educational strategies.

“It’s a reciprocal relationship,” Snow said. “She’s teaching me new methods, new skills and new ideas. Her PowerPoints are amazing, and she’s a little more organized. She’s teaching me how to engage my students in a different way with more hands-on activities.”

By the time students graduate and become actual teachers, they’ve put in more than 1200 hours of field experience—double what most schools require, said Nicole DeClouette, interim associate dean of Education and associate professor of Special Education.

Without question, the most critical component to any child's education is the teacher who teaches the child. GCSU students are far and away the most prepared college students we have for both student teaching and practicum placements. I can proudly say that we very often hire from its pool of student teachers.”
– Charles Lundy
One alumnus, Superintendent of Jones County Schools Charles Lundy, can attest to the preparedness of Georgia College education students. He got both his undergraduate degree in biology and M.Ed. degree in Educational Leadership here.

Each year, Jones County hires about 50 new teachers and hosts about 20 student teachers in classrooms.

“Without question, the most critical component to any child's education is the teacher who teaches the child,” Lundy said. “GCSU students are far and away the most prepared college students we have for both student teaching and practicum placements. I can proudly say that we very often hire from its pool of student teachers.”

Charles Lundy
Charles Lundy
The data backs his claim.

The Teacher Preparation Program Effectiveness Measures (PPEM) survey—given at the end of a new teacher’s first year—consistently gives Georgia College the highest overall scores for teacher training. This is true for data collected by the Georgia Department of Education, as well, which uses graduates’ self-surveys and observations by administrators to evaluate teachers in the classroom.

The retention rate for Georgia College teacher graduates is impressive too.

According to the most recent Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) data, the six-year retention rate for Georgia College teacher graduates is 73%—a good notch above the 67% retention average for all Georgia providers.

Putnam County Schools Superintendent Eric Arena earned three degrees from Georgia College: a bachelor’s in economics from the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business and Technology, ’90; a master’s in Administration, ’02; and a specialist degree in Supervision, ’03.

At any given time, he said, there are about 100 Georgia College students shadowing or helping teachers in his county. In 10 years as superintendent, he’s watched nearly 1,000 Georgia College students complete practicums there.
 
“To learn with and beside mentors is priceless,” Arena said. “The infusion of new ideas and perspective from GCSU students, coupled with the wisdom and maturity from Putnam County School mentors, is a recipe for success.”

Once this recipe is mastered, graduates often share it with tomorrow’s teachers.

Brian Bowman teaches a pre-education class at Georgia College.
Brian Bowman teaches a pre-education class at Georgia College.

Brian Bowman received his bachelor's of  Middle Grades education from Georgia College in 2019. After touring campus and learning about its Call Me MiSTER program—which works to increase the number of black male teachers—Bowman never seriously considered attending any other university.

After earning his master’s and a specialist degree and working as a classroom teacher and school psychologist—Bowman now serves as a pre-education instructor at Georgia College.

“Our students deserve to be taught by passionate educators,” Bowman said. “It’s a cherry on the top when they’re taught by someone who just recently went through the very same College of Education experience. I’m showing students I teach that Georgia College produces stellar educators and lasting relationships.”
 
Charm Pace is a three-time alumna of Georgia College. She earned her bachelor’s in Middle Grades Education in 2003, master’s in ’06 and specialist degree in Curriculum & Instruction in ’10 from Georgia College’s Department of Professional Learning & Innovation.

“Georgia College has the reputation of having a challenging and rigorous education preparation program, and I wanted to pursue my degrees from a school that would prepare me to be the best teacher I can be,” Pace said. “Two mindsets that I learned from my experience at GCSU are to truly embrace being an architect of change and be a lifelong learner.”

The gifted lead teacher for eighth-grade Algebra at Clifton Ridge Middle School in Jones County, Pace has worked with 16 Georgia College student teachers over the years.

The seriousness in which we take this work is evident in these carefully-crafted learning experiences.
– Dr. Joanne Previts
It’s a story that repeats across Central Georgia—as each new wave of education students become teachers who then mentor, nurture and shape the next generation.

“The ways we invest in our teacher candidates takes a lot of work and time,” Previts said. “It’s not just about lesson planning but creating experiences and getting to know students and yourself.”

“The seriousness in which we take this work,” she said, “is evident in these carefully-crafted learning experiences.”