Rookie English teacher finds fulfilling niche with pre-teens through HCDE teacher alternative certification programLeave a comment
April 13, 2017 by HCDE-Texas
Rookie middle school teacher Jennifer Siger works with students she calls “inbetweeners.” The often misunderstood middle schoolers can be a challenge, she acknowledges, but they’re also a joy to be around.
The teacher-in-training enrolled in the Harris County Department of Education teacher alternative certification program gets plenty of support from teacher veterans who are her instructors. Siger began preparing for her new career through evening, weekend and online classes at HCDE last year and is already working as a teacher.
The HCDE educator preparation program provides a personalized training experience for aspiring teachers as qualified college graduates enter the program and spend seven to 10 months in pre-service training taking teacher preparation courses. The next 12 months are spent teaching. Small group instruction is hallmark to the program, with a range in classroom size of eight to 20 students in the teacher prep course.
Since 2011, the program has recorded a 100 percent pass rate for students completing the courses and taking the certification exams, said Lidia Zatopek, director for HCDE’s Educator Certification and Professional Advancement. Assistance is provided in securing teaching assignments in elementary or secondary education classrooms.
Siger chose English language arts and reading 4-8 as her teaching discipline and teaches sixth grade English language arts at Frank Black Middle School in the Houston Independent School District, a partner with HCDE in the program. Because of the brain changes teens undergo through puberty, the teacher prep program includes adolescent psychology and brain development discussions for teachers that aspire to teach these budding adolescents.
They’re very unsure of themselves and make a lot of poor choices because of it,” said Siger, a mother of two from Klein. She enrolled in the HCDE alternative certification program to make the switch from private to public school teacher, a move which requires Texas Teacher Certification. “On the other hand, they are so ready and excited to learn about the world at large.
“They are starting to envision themselves as individuals and are hungry to explore the possibilities available to them.”
Along with teaching the writing, technology, hands-on activities and teamwork are prominent in her classroom. During a bottle-flipping persuasive writing exercise, student teams weigh the pros and cons of flipping water bottles which should land upright. It’s currently trending, but schools don’t like the menacing noise and mess that results in student grandstanding.
A video shows the principal giving his take on why he doesn’t like the practice. She hands out laptops for students to use to get their research to support the side they take. Collaboration is rampant. Siger watches for attention-deficit behaviors and redirects students to the assignment.
“One, two,” she says. “One, two, eyes on you,” the class choruses, returning to their lists of pros and cons.
Best teaching practices are at the heart of the alternative certification program at HCDE, Siger said. Keeping teens engaged in their studies means exploring what works and doesn’t.
“Most (teacher prep) programs would give you tools and say here, now go do it,” she explained. “HCDE helps its teachers every single step of the way. The facility and staff are top notch, and they are very invested in us. It’s cliché to say it’s a big family…but I know they care about me, and that’s important to me.”
Siger was inspired to enter the teaching profession by a teacher who made a difference in her life. She was a sixth grade English teacher and instilled a love for books.
While she doesn’t expect to make a difference in all her students’ lives, she knows she is making a difference with many. That’s good enough, she says.
“I smile all day at work,” Siger said. “These kids are truly a joy to be around.”
(Siger was recently nominated for the Texas Alternative Certification Association Intern of the Year Award. Winners will be determined by the association by June.)
Photo: Jennifer Siger teaches sixth grade at Frank Black Middle School in Houston Independent School District through the Harris County Department of Education teacher alternative certification program. Her student Valeria Martinez shows off a poster she is using in her persuasive writing exercise about a new teen craze called “bottle flipping.”
About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE helps school districts in the state’s largest county meet the needs of uniquely challenged learners, directly serving students at their schools or one of four HCDE-operated campuses across the county. Learn about these services and more at www.hcde-texas.org .