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Education Students Travel to Chicago

Posted by Jenna Ray on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013

Seventeen University of Minnesota, Morris elementary education seniors recently completed week-long practicums in the Chicago Public Schools district. Now in its twentieth year, the program is led by Professors of Elementary Education Carol Cook and Gwen Rudney.

According to Cook, the Chicago-practicum program began as an attempt to provide more cross-cultural classroom placement experiences for future teachers. What started as an experiment with just seven elementary education majors in 1994 has mushroomed into a multifaceted approach to teacher training. Over time, Cook and Rudney have partnered with 12 Chicago-area schools as well as the College of Education at Chicago State University to provide more than 300 participants the chance to teach and learn from a wide variety of students.

“The trip was an extremely humbling experience,” says Evan Reller ’14, Melrose. “I observed some excellent teachers implementing some incredible teaching practices, even with limited resources.”

The trip provides students an opportunity to see Chicago and gain valuable insight into the teaching profession. During the day they are immersed in one of three partner schools. At night students gather to discuss their experiences and how they differ from those they have had in Minnesota.

“It’s a bonding experience for the class,” says Cook. “We live together. We cry together. We get frustrated together. You never know what’s going to happen, but it’s been such a positive experience.”

She notes that because the Division of Education’s mission is to prepare teaching candidates to “teach all students in all places,” the Chicago trip is a vital opportunity for teaching candidates “to have different experiences with diverse populations of students.” This breadth of training prepares them to teach “in Minnesota and beyond.”

“I got to see a lot of diversity just in my own classroom, which had about nine different nationalities represented,” says Andelee Quast ’14, Big Lake. She notes that although her “class was very large and overwhelming at times,” she learned from her cooperating teacher “to be ready for every situation.”

Cook believes the program impacts more than just the student participants, though. She argues that it benefits both the faculty organizers and the education division as a whole. Furthermore, she adds that it takes steps toward eliminating the country’s achievement gap by providing teaching candidates the tools they need to educate and motivate diverse learners. For these reasons and more, Cook feels confident that the Chicago practicum has blossomed into “a very successful program.”

Additional information on teacher education at Morris is available online.

Pictured above: Elementary education students with Professors Gwen Rudney (left) and Carol Cook (right).