Amanda Packard ’15 just completed a year-long job interview that now has her teaching seventh-grade mathematics at Midway Middle School on the outskirts of Waco.
Yes, a year-long job interview.
It’s no big surprise when a Baylor School of Education graduate gets a job right out of school – more than 100 started work in Texas schools this fall — but Packard was part of a “professional-development school” (PDS) program that is entering its second year at Midway Middle School but the Baylor teacher education program has supported PDS work for over a decade.
Seven Baylor seniors at Midway Middle School are going through a full-year “internship,” teaching side by side with mentors Monday through Thursday, while on Fridays they return to Baylor for additional classroom instruction. Another 15 juniors are also spending a few hours at the school each day before heading back to Baylor for classes.
Midway Middle School Principal Herb Cox, Ed.D ’08, Amanda Packard ’15, and Baylor’s Rachelle Rogers, Ed.D ’05
“Throughout the year, I was observed often by administrators completing walk-throughs,” Packard said. “I collaborated with other teachers and administrators on lessons and more, and I made connections with professionals throughout the school. Completing my internship at MMS was a tremendous experience because I felt that I was constantly supported and constantly learning.”
Packard added that many teachers and administrators encouraged her to apply for the job opening at Midway. “My familiarity with the environment and the encouragement I received along the way really boosted my confidence in both my formal job interview and in my ability to start my first year of teaching in my own classroom.
“This program is one of the best things to ever happen to our campus,” said Midway Middle School Principal Herb Cox ’79, EdD ’08, who estimates that 75% of his 1,201 students see the Baylor candidates in at least one class per day. “We’ve had two phenomenal groups here.”
“In Texas, we’re very focused on state-mandated assessments and we have many parents in Midway ISD with high expectations, so our interns double my chances to do well on the standardized tests,” Dr. Cox said. “These students come in so well-prepared from day one that the students just think they have two teachers; they are blown away when we tell them that one is an intern from Baylor.”
Before her first day at Midway, Brittany Rollins ’16 says she was “terrified about being in a classroom by myself. After two weeks, I know now I can do this.”
“The textbook can’t teach you classroom management,” added Michelle Cook ’16.
Cox said a surprising benefit to the program is that the Baylor students walk in with “the coolest applications” that they share with teachers and students alike.
In fact, Packard shared an iPad application called NearPad with the other Midway math teachers that she had learned about in a math methods class at Baylor from Dr. Rachelle Rogers EdD ’05, who is the University Liaison to the program.
“This program allows us to connect theory to practice. We are able to teach instructional practices, our candidates can immediately apply the instructional approach, and then come back and discuss it,” Dr. Rogers said, adding that she believes Baylor’s efforts to create programs like this makes it a leader across Texas universities. “And we have a classroom in this school where we hold seminars that allow us to say, ‘go out and look for this.’”
And the side benefit for professors in the Baylor School of Education is that they can come to Midway and see the impact of what they’re teaching, which Dr. Rogers said “keeps us real.”
Dr. Rogers says she spends more time at Midway Middle School than she does in her office at Baylor, saying that while the spirit of collaboration between the two schools is great, Baylor is building relationships with faculty members that have resulted in the Midway teachers making national presentations on the successes of the PDS program.
Cox and Rogers said they’ve launched a research study to assess the impact of two teachers in the classroom, but the anecdotal evidence indicates that the large financial commitment on the part of both Baylor and Midway is well worth it.
Baylor has eight additional PDS sites within Midway and Waco ISDs, offering juniors and seniors the chance to start their job interview processes.
For Packard, the experience was all she hoped it would be.
“The vast amount of experience I gained through my internship in regards to lesson planning, differentiation, integrating technology, classroom management, and more made me feel more than ready to embark on my first year as a teacher,” she said. “So far, my first year has been better than I ever could have imagined! I am very happy to have made the decision to stay at MMS, and I am most definitely proud to be a Panther.”