College students get early look at teaching

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This fall she#s been pitching to first graders at Benefield Elementary School in Lawrenceville.

First grade students in Jean Lane#s class at Benefield have eagerly anticipated Cagel#s weekly visits to their classroom over the past five weeks. Cagel says she equally has looked forward to visiting them.

Cagel, a freshman education major at Georgia Perimeter College, participated this semester in a Junior Achievement program called the #J. A. College Initiative.# The program places college students in elementary and secondary classrooms for hands-on teaching experience. For Lane#s first graders, Cagel#s visits meant a break in routine to do some fun activities in class.

#They reacted like I did when I was little,# Cagel says. #I used to get excited when new people came to teach. Junior Achievement has exciting programs for the kids, and they love it.#

Benefield Elementary and the Gwinnett campus of Georgia Perimeter College, located at the Gwinnett University Center, last year teamed up with Junior Achievement to launch the J. A. College Initiative program in Gwinnett County. Junior Achievement also operates College Initiative programs at Morehouse College, Emory University and Georgia Tech.

A nonprofit organization, Junior Achievement specializes in economic education in elementary, middle and high schools. #Our goal is to inspire students to succeed in the free enterprise system,# says Kyle Ross, director of education for Junior Achievement of Georgia. #Georgia Perimeter College students go into the classroom and inspire young people.#

Working with an assigned elementary teacher, each college student participating in the program presents one lesson a week for five weeks. For Cagel, the program represents a unique introduction to teaching.

#You don#t have to make lesson plans. You can concentrate on interacting with the kids,# she says.

#It#s a great program,# says Dr. Louise Freeman, assistant principal at

Benefield. #We#re very pleased to give aspiring teachers a chance to work in the classroom. The children really enjoy the Junior Achievement lessons.#

Dr. Irene Prue, dean of student services at Georgia Perimeter#s Gwinnett campus, says the program is a win-win situation for the college and Benefield.

#The Benefield students are enamored with a young, fresh face,# Prue says.

#And for the college student, it is a bonus. Many education students at four-year institutions don#t get into the classroom until their junior or senior year. Then they often discover they really don#t like teaching. This exposes them to the classroom in their freshman or sophomore year.#

Dr. Stella Smith, a business information systems instructor at the Gwinnett campus, says, #The program exposes them to classroom management, which is crucial.#

Smith advises the campus Student Georgia Association of Educators (SGAE), a club associated with the social sciences department chaired by Dr. Ray Huebschman. The SGAE elected to participate in the J.A. College Initiative program.

Another advisor for SGAE, communications and theater instructor Janet

Hollier, says that the GPC students #come back from the Benefield classrooms motivated and excited about the career choice they#ve made.#

Smith adds that the experience also helps future teachers establish contacts in the Gwinnett school system. #The program is creating a pool of teachers who will stay in the county,# she says.

Georgia Perimeter College, the largest associate degree-granting college in the University System of Georgia, serves more than 20,000 credit and non-credit students through six locations in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit