Providing students with exceptional opportunities to gain hands-on experiences is a cornerstone of the School of Education (SOE) training across our departments and programs. Through these experiential learning opportunities – both inside and outside of the classroom – our students build the skills necessary for success in their careers.
Examples of how we integrate hands-on, practical experiences directly into our courses can be found throughout our programs. Students from the Department Teacher Education and Higher Education and the Department of Specialized Education Services complete class projects and research their own interests the SELF Design Studio, a makerspace devoted to training teachers how to integrate technology and innovation into K-12 settings. In the Department of Educational Research Methodology, training in evaluation, assessment, and data analysis is provided by having students work directly on real analysis and evaluation contracts secured through our Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services (OAERS). Students in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development gain real-world experience working with clients in the Vacc Counseling and Consulting Clinic, which is a world-class facility for supervising students in the Counseling programs.
These are only three examples of the many avenues students have to gain hands-on experience within the walls of the SOE.
Outside of the classroom, SOE students have tremendous opportunities for internships, practicums, and applied field experiences, through the Teacher Education Fellows program, student teaching, graduate program placements, and study abroad programs, to name a few.
Admittance to the UNCG School of Education opens countless doors for students to gain valuable applied, real-world learning experience in their chosen field. Shameeka Wilson, a junior Deaf Education and Special Education double major from Williamston, N.C., has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to her, securing internships, student teaching positions, and a study abroad program.
Wilson entered the SOE as a Teacher Education Fellow in the fall of 2014 and has since embraced leadership roles in the student-led organization that allows undergraduates to have a voice in the program.
“Being a Teacher Education Fellow has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader and person,” Wilson said. “I have learned how to interact with various personalities, working toward common goals.”
The Teacher Education Fellows program, unique to the UNCG SOE, is funded by generous gifts to the Marian Franklin Scholarship, the Jacqueline W. & Jack H. Varner Scholarship, and the J. Barnwell & Mary Blair Allison Scholarship.
Fellows are afforded the opportunity to travel abroad for one semester, spending time in school-based internships. Wilson will travel to Shanghai University in China with Dr. Ye He in the summer of 2017, where students will immerse themselves in the Chinese education culture.
“The SOE is phenomenal,” Wilson stated. “The faculty and staff really believe in the students. The support system and network has helped me grow as a future educator, and has given me a safe place for conversation about that growth.”
Wilson has also been placed in internships during her time at UNCG, gaining invaluable classroom experience in her intended career path.
The SOE Office of Student Services and Advising helps students through the internship placement process. Judy Pelance is the Placement Coordinator and guides students to internships that best suit them.
In the first semester of her sophomore year, Wilson took a teaching fellows internship at the Newcomers School, assisting in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. She taught sixth graders who were struggling to learn English grammar, spelling, and literacy lessons using visuals, repetition, and other methods under the supervision of the classroom teacher.
The following semester, Wilson traveled to Randolph County as a deaf education intern in elementary schools. She learned and implemented new oral teaching methods for deaf and hard of hearing students using assistive hearing technology such as cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Wilson also interned in a special education inclusion setting at Northwest Guilford High School. She assisted in creating individualized education plans (IEP) for students requiring diverse accommodations in the math classroom.
“Jared Rolfes, my classroom teacher, let me step in and aided along the way,” Wilson said. “It was sink or swim, and I jumped right in, offering extra help to students who needed a helping hand in the fast-paced class.”
In addition to her student teaching positions, she currently serves as a habilitation technician at Lindley Habilitation, getting a glimpse into direct care of individuals with disabilities and needs that could be used in a special education classroom.
Wilson works with individuals with a range of disabilities, including those who are wheelchair bound, non-verbal, and intellectually disabled, as well as with those who are ambulatory, verbal, and cognitively able.
As a habilitation technician, Wilson learns what goals her clients have, and helps in the achievement of those goals. Her current client is wheelchair-bound, and Wilson aids her in verbalizing and advocating for herself, taking her out in the community to have “inclusive” experiences.
Wilson educates others who haven’t been exposed to people in her clients’ situations and who are curious, encouraging them to talk directly to her clients and hold a conversation with them.
“This takes my special education degree and makes it applicable in real time,” Wilson said. “I can gain experience immediately and be prepared for a full time position when I graduate.”
All of Wilson’s experiential education opportunities haven’t been off campus, however. She has taken advantage of the SELF Design Studio in the SOE for projects and teacher development.
Wilson has utilized the technology in the makerspace for class projects, creating visual aids for deaf students in history, science, math, and literacy. Dr. Claudia Pagliaro asked the students in her Instructional Education of Deaf Students class to create a visual aid to teach deaf students; Wilson and partner Morgan Allen decided to use a green screen and Google forms to teach the Civil War. Wilson was even able to present the project to Margaret Spellings, President of the UNC system, on her visit to UNCG.
“I was never the type to struggle in school, but Dr. Pagliaro’s class and this time in the SELF Design Studio really challenged me,” Wilson reflected. “It was eye opening and life changing, opening the door for creativity since there were no constraints on the project. I also learned that there is beauty in making mistakes. Dr. Pagliaro once told me that we learn from the 95, not the 100.”
Wilson will continue to pursue experiences to aid in her educational and professional growth and is still contemplating where her education will take her when she graduates.
“I’m leaning toward working in special education, but I can’t decide. I think I will ultimately be teaching ESL, maybe teach abroad. The sky’s the limit, so I’m going to keep an open mind and let life take me where it wants to go!”