As an elementary and special education major, Sam Cavazos can be hard to find on campus. That’s because he spends a lot of time at local schools building the practical skills he’ll need to excel in his career.
“Going into the education field, there are plenty of requirements. I have to go to schools,” he said. And that’s what he likes most about the program. By the time he graduates, he will have completed three practicums and spent his last semester student teaching full time.
In education programs at some other universities, “You’re not in a school until your last semester to student teach,” Sam said. “Getting experience in classrooms before graduating is really, really valuable.”
Gaining Hands-On Skills Through Observing, Planning Lessons, Teaching
He spent sixty hours in a practicum at Cambridge Elementary doing a range of duties: observing, designing, and executing lesson plans, reading books to students, and helping the teacher. He also spent 20 hours observing a classroom at the school. “It’s nice to see a typical classroom — how it operates, the class schedule, and how the teacher interacts with the students. It’s good to get that experience,” said Sam, who lives in Montgomery, Vermont.
In his observation work, he learned about building “an equitable classroom, one that offers a very welcoming environment for all students,” he said. That is a focus of the education program.
In a practicum coming up, Sam will teach math. His student teaching will include teaching units, planning lessons, and managing the classroom. “That’s absolutely going to be a great experience,” he said.
Faculty Mentoring Keeps Students on Track
In addition to the real-world experience Sam is gaining to help him stand out in the field, NVU’s program will prepare him for teacher license endorsement in elementary education (grades K-6) and special education (grades K-8), a combination called inclusive elementary education that’s unique in Vermont.
Whether he’s working at local schools or going to classes on campus, Sam values faculty mentoring.
“I’ve enjoyed having small classes, and knowing all my professors on a first-name basis has been great,” he said. “I like the ease of contact, being able to email or text my professors and get a response within 30 minutes.” His faculty adviser keeps him on track about the education classes he needs to take each semester and meeting other graduation requirements.
A Close, Supportive Community
The close-knit, caring community is a bonus for Sam. “I have a really good relationship with every student in each class,” he said.
That’s the kind of connection he wants to have with the students he teaches after he graduates. Before enrolling, “I didn’t have a career plan at all,” he said. “Now, I’m really looking forward to learning more, getting prepared, and entering the education field.”
“Learning by doing. The experiences I gained from working in a real classroom are more practical than words in textbooks.”