Pasco Co. hoping to train future teachers through new high school program

River Ridge HS launches New Teacher Academy
Posted at 6:53 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-04 18:53:39-04

Right now, Pasco County Schools are looking to fill nearly 200 jobs and more openings are coming as new schools are built. That's one reason the district just launched a New Teacher Academy getting high schoolers on the path toward a career in education.

It's "American pride" day at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey.  But these students are also proud to be part of the first ever New Teacher Academy in Pasco County.

"I think it's really cool getting the experience at a young age to show what it's like to affect people's lives like this, and i think that's what the teaching profession does for you," said student Caleb Sheldon.

Some of these high schoolers knew going in they want  to be teachers one day. Others, like Larissa Johnson took a chance signing up.

"And I absolutely fell in love with it," said Johnson.

As you might expect, students here are learning the craft of teaching.

"This is an opportunity for us to put a new face on education," said Beth Hess, Pasco Co. New Teacher Academy lead teacher.

That lesson comes at a crucial time. At colleges nationwide, the number of students majoring in education has dropped six percent in the last decade. So this class is one way Pasco County, is hoping to energize the next generation to consider a teaching career.

"I think going through this program, that these will be gifted teachers," Hess said.

The 38 students in the academy are getting a real world glimpse at what it's like to teach. They're working with third graders at Hudson Elementary, the county's only failing school. And already, these future teachers know they're making a difference.

"They thrive to learn more than anything. Even at the age of 8, 9, 10--they know they want be in a better position than their parents are," said Johnson.

They're learning strategies to help younger kids overcome academic struggles. Right now, they're creating name tags with motivational messages for every student's desk at Hudson Elementary.

"Every one is personally unique to every student so that everyone can feel special," said student Matthew Pecori.

"This is going to encourage the students to not give up on what they're doing and to want to do more and to want to learn," said student Karlee Bedson.

Most of the teens are now confident they will become teachers one day. And as an incentive, Pasco's superintendent has personally guaranteed a teaching job to every student who completes the new teacher academy, and then earns an education degree.