Education column: Program nurtures future teachers

Last week I had occasion to spend time in Lisa Jo McCasland’s family and consumer science classroom at Clovis High School, talking with one of her students. McCasland and six of her students recently returned from Baltimore, Md., where they attended the 23rd annual National Conference of Future Educators Association.

The students accompanying McCasland were Savanna Bunch, Emily Burns, Adriana Chavez, Cayla Dallas, Bailie Phillips and Kayla Revell. McCasland, veteran teacher of 24 years, described the experience, “At the FEA conference we went to the most amazing breakout sessions that covered a range of education topics.”

This conference is, in fact, a big deal with well known speakers:

• Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education and keynoter,

• America Ferrera, commonly known as “Betty Suarez” on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” who spoke about the great impact teachers had on her life.

This all came about as a result of high school teachers with vision who began the pre-teaching program for high school students interested in education in 2002. It has been carefully nurtured over the years, and there are actually teachers employed by the Clovis Municipal Schools who started with the high school pre-teach program.

The idea of introducing such a program in high schools is a result of studies by the Center for Education Recruitment and Retention Association to determine why so many teachers began in education, but dropped out after a couple of years. The secondary pre-teach program supports and better prepares young pre-teachers early on so that expectations are more realistic. McCasland teams with Sandia Elementary, whose principal, Matthew Vetterly, is supportive of the program.

The FEA conference offers competitions each year that include individual competitions and FEA chapter competitions. Bunch participated in an impromptu speaking competition at the conference. Phillips was the young lady I had the privilege of speaking with. Bailie won one of the prestigious, highly coveted FEA National Leadership Awards and is now recognized on the national level as a leader in her community, school and church. Bailie found out that she won while at the conference and was stunned, then thrilled to have received one of no more than a dozen awards that were given before an audience of more than a thousand. It was special, indeed, since this was the first time students from Clovis had been able to attend this national conference.

Bailie had gone above and beyond in her submission, including an essay and a variety of artifacts that went to make up her portfolio. Rarely have I seen such a determined and motivated young lady. Bailie, now a senior, will be graduating this May and shared without a moment’s hesitation and with great conviction, “I will be the first in my family to graduate from college.” In addition to her ambitious efforts in school, Bailie is active in her choir, church and also works 20 to 25 hours a week in a local testing lab.

Congratulations, Bailie, and keep the inspiration going, Ms. McCasland!

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org