Initial Teacher Preparation
See how Loyola gets students ready to teach—right away
By Anna Gaynor
What makes a good citizen?
That’s the topic of the day’s discussion for a group of Loyola students who have taken over an empty classroom at Nicholas Senn High School on the city’s North Side. It’s their first class for the morning, but they’ve already been in school for a couple of hours—even before the first bell rang.
These Ramblers are among the first to benefit from the School of Education’s new curriculum, one that places aspiring teachers in classrooms around Chicago from the get-go.
“It’s time on the ground,” said Melanie Zagorski, a secondary education and history double-major. “Now when we’re doing a lot of our assignments, our professors say, ‘You’re planning a lesson but imagine that you’re planning it for one of your classes you’re in right now.’ We know these students. We know the situation. We know what kind of accommodations we have to make. I like that it’s realistic; it means more.”
Getting involved from the start
Thanks to a partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the School of Education is giving undergraduates the chance to learn directly from working teachers in diverse settings. While incoming freshmen start getting hands-on experience their first semester, Zagorski and her classmates were sophomores when the new curriculum began. Each was sent across the city to different schools, at different grade levels, and for different subjects.
“We started off being mixed majors, and as time has gone on we’ve narrowed down,” said Zagorski, a junior who spent last year in a high school psychology class at Uplift Community High School. “This is the first semester where it’s just secondary education and history, so this is the first time where we can directly learn about things that are going to be relevant in our future classrooms. I like this a lot. It’s very intimate.”
Zagorski and fellow Loyola junior Donny Schiek are now at Senn, which offers a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum to all of its students. Besides handing out papers, leading group discussions, and doing whatever else is needed, they also get the chance to lead lessons.
This is where that conversation on good citizenship comes in.
Led by Charles Tocci, who is Loyola’s faculty coordinator for Senn, and a guest speaker from CPS, the activity explores what civics classes can offer students. And it allows Schiek, a secondary education and history double-major like Zagorski, to explore other social sciences too.
“Those classes engage people to constantly be learning, understanding the other perspective, and being able to remove your bias and yourself from the conversation,” he said. “It’s the best way to be able to build those skills.”
‘Completely worth it’
As they look toward their senior year, Zagorski and Schiek will start their one-year internship (student-teaching) next fall. That means being in the classroom all day for at least two days a week—and then five days a week in the spring semester.
Schiek, who just found out he’ll be returning to Senn next year, says choosing Loyola has definitely paid off.
“It’s completely worth it,” he said. “It’s eye opening and builds the necessary skills that you need to be able to achieve in the classroom and to achieve in making education a profound occupation that is actually creating a better society and not just teaching facts.”
The teacher preparation program at Loyola’s School of Education is fully accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization and allows graduates to teach in IB schools around the world. Loyola, in fact, is the only undergraduate institution in the U.S. approved to prepare pre-service teachers in all three IB programs—the Primary Years Program, the Middle Years Program, and the Diploma Program.