Future Student Teachers Partner with Local School

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Future Student Teacher Image

Jake Hembree, TMCC education major, enjoys getting to know children and building positive relationships with the Picollo students.

Updated May 6, 2015

NSHE Regent Sam Lieberman Visits With TMCC Education Majors

Sam Lieberman, Nevada Regent District 5, read about the partnership between TMCC's education majors and the staff at Marvin Picollo School, making special arrangements to visit with and speak to the class on Thursday, April 23.

Regent Lieberman said that he was "Sam" before he was a Regent, and is still "Sam" now that he is a Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) official. He said that he would like to be accessible to Nevada's college students, to hear their views and concerns. The students enrolled in EDU 208: Students with Diverse Abilities and Backgrounds shared their positive practicum experiences with Lieberman.

Regent Sam Lieberman with TMCC Education Class Image

He spoke with the class about the importance of building a better workforce with people of all abilities, viable for Nevada’s future.

“People with disabilities need the freedom to excel at whatever level they can,” Lieberman said.

He added that the entire community benefits when all people are productive and contributing their best to the labor force, out of sheltered environments, interacting with each other.

Class members shared specific examples of the practical component of their coursework, such as the joy of seeing a child relax on a therapeutic horseback ride more than the student had ever seen the child be able to unlock muscles before. Another student spoke about a rewarding field trip, where she helped children practice math skills while on a directed grocery shopping excursion.

Picollo Principal Matt Burak said that the Washoe County School District was short 80 Special Education teachers at the start of the school year.

When the class was asked if any students were interested in a career teaching children with special needs, they all raised their hands.



Original Story: March 12, 2015

A remarkable collaboration between Micaela Rubalcava’s Truckee Meadows Community College education teacher preparation class and the students and staff of Picollo School has begun.

The partnership took place during Spring Semesters 2013 and 2014, and is continuing in Spring 2015. Young prospective student teachers are entirely enthusiastic about the program.

“When I first observed here at Picollo, I loved it – I love the atmosphere, and what they do here with the kids is awesome,” said Kayla Davis, education major at TMCC. “You have to have a lot of patience and a kind heart. It’s inspiring to see a whole building of teachers that do this on a daily basis.”

Davis interacts with the morning preschool class by playing with the children on the playground, helping with therapeutic horseback riding sessions, and getting them ready for the bus ride home. Picollo’s students range in age from 3-22 years old in grades preschool; low, middle and high elementary; middle school; high school; and the transition class, which focuses on post high school graduate work.

The TMCC class is EDU 208: Students with Diverse Abilities and Backgrounds, a course intended for those interested in pursuing a special education major. They travel to Marvin Picollo twice a week for about one and a half hour sessions.

“The point of this is the heart-to-heart connection,” said Micaela Rubalcava, Education Professor at TMCC. “Many of the students at Marvin Picollo are the same age as TMCC students and they benefit from interacting and eating lunch together.”

Rubalcava adds that the idea for the collaboration originated while working together with Matt Burak, Principal of Marvin Picollo School.

“I have researched early field experience and the findings are overwhelming that getting prospective professionals into the field in an immersion circumstance expands and improves the quality of the future professional pool,” Rubalcava said. “Matt and I thought that immersing my class with direct experience helps fill the need in our community.”

The Interaction Benefits Both the Future Teachers and Young Students With Disabilities

“The first and primary function of this class is to orient the TMCC students to all the career options at our school,” Burak said. “We have a full time R.N., full time occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech teachers, music therapist, adapted P.E. specialist, special education teachers and a special education aquatics teacher for classes at our therapy pool.”

Picollo staff shares their personal journey with TMCC students, who can also shadow a professional whose career they’re interested in pursuing, Burak said.

Another part of the special education majors’ program at Picollo is experiencing upbeat and positive interactions with young students.

There are about 120 students at the school, all with an Individualized Education Plan to manage physical, language and cognitive disabilities.

“The IEP team recommends attendance at Picollo for some students because the convergence of services available at our school will be superior to meet their individual needs than those they might receive in the mainstream,” said Matt Burak, Principal. “The parents then choose whether they wish to have their child attend Picollo.”

Neighboring school kids come and visit with the Picollo students. It is difficult for the school to schedule mainstream interaction with high school students from other Reno schools because teens are typically fully involved in various time-intensive activities.

“The high schoolers in town are so busy, this gives an integrated experience for our kids,” Burak said. “It fills a gap in mainstream integration. It’s pretty cool.”

Staff at Marvin Picollo School Talk About Their Daily UPS and Downs, Joys and Concerns

Cara Rudolph, B.S.N., pediatric nurse practitioner, spoke with students on Tuesday, Feb. 24 about how she came to be a nurse, and compared the higher pay that goes along with 12-hour duty shifts working in hospitals, in contrast to more modest pay and shorter shifts at the job for school districts.

She monitors children with health needs at the school, taking care of young students with seizures, tracheostomies, feeding tubes, or taking medicines such as insulin. There are more than 20 children at Picollo with gastrostomy tubes because they cannot swallow food. Rudolph’s responsibilities include noticing physical changes in students’ health, and to catch small changes that could indicate other health issues.

“TMCC students are getting a true, intense experience of their possible career choice,” Burak said.

Students Have Come From Different Backgrounds To Follow a Teaching Career Path

TMCC students Jake Hembree and Matt Gordon work with a small class of first and second graders, playing and visiting with them, and helping during lunch time.

Hembree came to a crossroads in his education and changed his major.

“I was going to business courses and my mom thought I was more of a teacher,” Hembree said. “So I tried education classes and it’s grown on me. You start to build a relationship with kids and understand them.”

He said the best parts of the class are the practical experiences at Picollo.

“The best part is the hands-on experience, preparing for what a day in the life of a teacher is like,” Hembree said. “You can ask them what the ups and downs of the day are like.”

Fellow student, Matt Gordon, smiled in agreement.

“My mom said the same thing to me,” Gordon said.

Gordon worked in jobs as a truck driver and in the pharmaceutical industry before returning to college. He had discovered that he just loved kids most of all.

“I’ve been a foster parent for seven years now, and this seemed like the next natural step,” Gordon said. “I enjoy helping my own children with their homework, with their wants and needs.”

For more information about becoming a teacher, call the Education Teacher Preparation program at 775-673-7185.