Six student teachers were put to the test recently when they presented their teaching portfolios in the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Program’s annual defense. Each completed a full-time, 14-week teaching practicum in a public high school or middle school earlier this spring.
This year’s cohort was composed of three seniors and three recent graduates, each specializing in a particular subject area — Rachel Lopkin ’13 (French), Molly Porcher ’13 (Social Studies), Matthew Bernstein ’13 (Social Studies), Will Holland ’12 (Latin), Kate Reichert ’11 (Social Studies), and Will Cogswell ’11 (English).
During their defenses the teacher scholars discussed “one of the principles or practices they’ve come to uphold or embrace” during the process of becoming certified as Highly Qualified Teachers, said Assistant Professor of Education Doris Santoro. They were questioned by an audience that included faculty from their subject areas, as well as the entire education faculty.
“It went really well, and it was actually a lot of fun,” said Reichert, voicing a sentiment shared by other participants in the event. Santoro described this year’s crop of defenses as “by far the most sophisticated and thoughtful I have seen yet” in the five years of the program.
Students who participate in the Teacher Scholars Program start preparing early on in their college careers. To take the practicum as seniors, they have to finish all of their other Bowdoin requirements before senior spring. Alternatively, they can fulfill the requirements for a teaching minor as students, and then come back to do the practicum within two years of graduating.
“In the practicum they take sole responsibility for three classes, attend all faculty meetings, attend all staff development, and basically live the day of a full-time teacher,” Santoro said.
The experience varies from participant to participant according to his or her school, mentors, and subject—but one critical experience the teacher scholars all share is a weekly seminar led by Santoro. They collaborate to help each other improve their skills through exercises such as presenting dilemmas for group discussion and sharing videos of themselves in the classroom.
“It was so helpful that we were all in the same boat,” Lopkin said. “Definitely there was a big support system amongst all of us, and I think it was important to have all those discussions where we could easily bounce ideas off each other.”
Completing the program is a big accomplishment for the teacher scholars. “They have shown a remarkable maturity in terms of thinking about students’ learning, and the role of a teacher in connecting content and curriculum with students,” Santoro said. “And they have actively challenged each other to be the best educators that they can be.”