Sarah O’Connor, who is the Special Education Case Manager at Bailey Charter Elementary School in Reno, says that education is a profession that requires a person to be flexible and organized at the same time. “You can have the greatest lesson planned, but if it’s not working for the students, you have to change it.” O’Connor, who completed her Associate of Arts in Elementary Education at TMCC still finds that the reasons that drew her to the profession—the desire to make a difference—is something she encounters every day. “I love my job,” she says, “even on the toughest day. I am proud of what I do.”
It isn’t easy work: O’Connor remembers a particular student who had difficulty identifying letters. His teacher had tried everything, but nothing seemed to work. One day, when working with O’Connor, the student said: “Ironman starts with an ‘i’.”
“I was shocked, because that’s not exactly an easy word,” O’Connor said. She found flashcards that featured super heroes—catering to the student’s interests—and he began to identify letters. “It’s like solving a puzzle,” she said. “You have to find out what a student needs to succeed. Given the chance, they will rise to the occasion.”
Partnership with NSC
Through a new partnership with Nevada State College, TMCC students don’t have to leave home to receive their Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education—or even enroll at nearby UNR. The steps to your new career as a teacher are simple:
- Complete your pre-education Associate of Arts degree at TMCC (60 credits)
- Enroll as a transfer student to Nevada State College
- Attend classes and complete student teaching in Northern Nevada (60 credits)
- Graduate licensure-ready with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education
- Start Teaching!
“The TMCC-NSC transfer agreement has paved the way for TMCC to offer a new course that NSC requires, EDU 206 ‘Classroom Learning Environment.’ All the students in this new class are applying to NSC,” said Dr. Micaela Rubalcava, who teaches in the Education Program at TMCC. Rubalcava wants to provide her students with the tools and resources they will need to be successful—and much of that, she says, has to do with creating a classroom learning environment that empowers resilience and naturally occurring systems of support.
“After five years of teaching, 50% of teachers leave school in part because they do not have guided immersion experiences prior to becoming a full time teacher—so they don’t have the knowledge or skills for effective classroom management with diverse students," Rubalcava continued. "That’s why TMCC focuses on establishing classroom routines that teach structure, resilience, and empowerment to diverse students. The student resilience model transforms the standard punitive approach to classroom management to involve designing classroom ecosystems that not only organize classroom procedures, but also facilitate personal connections and inclusive student success in academic content.”
Classroom Management and Practical Experience
Students in Rubalcava’s classes don’t just sit in desks, reading curriculum theory. Instead, there’s movement—called kinesthetic learning—interaction, lesson planning, curriculum design, instructional delivery and reflective discussion. Students in her Children’s Literature Class (EDU 207) submit lesson plans and implement them in class, receiving constructive criticism from peers. One group leads a lesson on Sign Language using cantaloupe and oranges as props. Another group of students utilize puppets and a story about a journey on a train to lead students on a brief walking tour into an outdoor education experience about immigration.
Anahi Cruz decided she wanted to become a teacher after participating in Early Education classes at Spanish Springs High School. “We worked with kids on site,” she said. “I discovered that I really like working with kids.”
She’s now in her first year of Education classes at TMCC, and has her sights set on teaching young children, in grades K-2. TMCC’s emphasis on hands-on experience is especially useful, she said. “I really like the teaching demos and going to see how different teachers do things in their classrooms,” said Cruz. Her favorite activity was creating a lesson plan that presented different Cinderella stories from around the world. “The lesson was a great way to describe diversity,” she said.
Dean Cerney, who’s in his second year in TMCC’s Education Program, finds value in the openness of Rubalcava’s classes. Getting experience in actual classrooms is what stands out about the Education Program at TMCC the most and that makes Cerney feel as though he’s prepared to teach in a classroom of his own one day.
Emma Pray, who is a first year Education Teacher Prep student, has found her calling working with students with disabilities. The EDU 206 class, held at Marvin Picollo School in Reno, has enabled Pray to get real classroom experience with the population she is interested in working with in her professional future. “One day a week, we get a lecture from a teacher at Marvin Picollo; then, the second day of the week, we are in a real classroom, working with the kids.” Marvin Picollo now employs, in full-time and part-time positions, former TMCC students.
Pray, who is working with Kindergarten-aged children, says that watching how other teachers teach these students to do simple tasks, like turning the pages of a book, has helped her to appreciate the career she’s chosen even more. “I really want to give back to my community—and to the people who need us to help them.”
Through these hands-on education classes, students are learning how to do exactly that. For more information about the TMCC-NSC Transfer Agreement, contact the Education Teacher Preparation department at 775-673-7185.