It’s time for science, and the day’s topic of study is “Day and Night”. Twenty-five chins point upward, wide eyes gazing at a clear blue sky as Crockett Elementary first grade teacher Kerri Pedraza walks the students through their assignment. “Today we are studying the differences between day and night,” Pedraza says. “I want you to look at the sky, and the trees, and birds and the flowers and write a journal entry about what day time is like.”
It’s a novel approach to a science lesson—one the Crosby resident says she didn’t travel far to learn.
“After being a stay-at-home mom for five years I decided I really wanted to go back to work, but I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a career,” Pedraza explained. “Growing up in Crosby, Lee College was always the college you wanted to go to, so I enrolled.”
Prompted by what she describes as “the nurturing relationships” her son experienced in school, Pedraza applied and was accepted into the college’s Baytown Area Education Recruitment and Retention program (BAER2), a joint venture that uses community college preparation, university graduation, and school district experience to train future teachers for careers in education in Baytown.
Students may begin the BAER2 program in high school—attending workshops and transfer seminars specifically designed for education majors. At Lee College, students enroll in a comprehensive general education program that combines traditional classroom lecture with hands-on learning opportunities designed to prepare students for life in the classroom.
“Research has shown that students learn in different ways,” explained Lee College Teacher Education Coordinator Teresa Landers, “so a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t necessarily work. We teach our students to develop lesson plans that touch on multiple intelligences. For example, instead of drafting a traditional science lecture, our students learn to create lessons that combine classroom experience with journaling, group work, and outdoor observation—activities that help build children’s linguistic, interpersonal, visual, and critical thinking skills.”
Landers says the same approach is incorporated in the college’s program, where students are required to participate in group activities, develop learning portfolios, and present lesson plans to instructors and peers posing as elementary, junior high, and high school students.
After completing 54 semester hours at Lee College, BAER2 students may transfer to the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL), where articulation agreements provide a seamless transition into junior- and senior-level classes. While attending classes at both Lee College and UHCL, they are provided with a variety of special services, including advising assistance, mentorship and career counseling, and scholarship opportunities, and are encouraged to pursue employment opportunities with GCCISD.
Although participation in BAER2 doesn’t guarantee employment with the district, Landers says it provides students with “a foot in the door.” Since the program’s inception, more than 50 students have begun teaching in GCCISD schools after graduation.
And some, such as Pedraza, received job offers prior to their diplomas.
“I entered college in a down economy, so I was a bit apprehensive at first,” Pedraza said. “But I had an offer before I even graduated from UHCL in May 2012, and I think a lot of that had to do with the training I received at Lee College.
“The instructors at Lee didn’t just teach us, they kept us up to date on the latest research and trends, and they instilled a passion for education in their students, which makes a big difference in the classroom,” she added.
For additional information about the Teacher Education program call 832.556.4094.