Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Graduate School of Education News

Gervais, Willamette University form unique partnership

GSEA unique partnership between Gervais School District and Willamette University has elementary school students seeing double when they go to class.

Just about every elementary classroom in the district has a student teacher Tuesdays and Thursdays, thanks to the new partnership this year.

“We have 22 student teachers on campus and 21 classrooms,” said Sharman Ensminger-Stapp,principal of Eldriedge and Brooks elementary schools. “Talk about a game changer. That we’ve been able to open doors and do this is such an exciting opportunity.”

The students are actually in their only year of postgraduate studies. Instead of spending six months in the classroom followed by three months of student teaching, these students are entering their master’s program with hands-on experience. But they have class time as well, which is actually on-site at Brooks, in what has become named the “Willamette Room.”

“This is a pretty amazing model, when we’re able to bring first-year candidates into the classroom so soon,” said Sarah Taylor, education professor at Willamette.

“We’re really fortunate to have a district like this to learn with and grow with.”

The student teachers are also elated at being able to work with children.

“It’s cool because we learn from the teachers and we learn from the students,” said student teacher Hope Kloczko. “I haven’t been this excited about going to school in a long time.”

Robin Chung, who is from California, came to Willamette because she embraced its education philosophy.

“This has reaffirmed that I want to work with early elementary education,” she said.

“We’re learning what it’s like to be a teacher on a daily basis, from setting up and preparation in the morning to getting to know the students.”

Parent and school board member Molly McCarger pointed out that the elementary students are also enthusiastic about the partnership.

“The kids get excited for Tuesdays and Thursdays, because that’s when the ‘helper teachers’ are there,” she said.

An additional perk to the partnership for Ensminger-Stapp was learning that her professor from Pacific University, Linda Tamura, is now one of the professors involved in the program at Willamette.

“How exciting, not only the partnership, but that here was one of my first professors from early in my career, who I’m working with now in this part of my career,” she said.

Gervais School District Superintendent Rick Hensel worked with Willamette to bring the program to Gervais.

“This is a great site, it’s remote, and I thought it’s great for them because of what they would be able to see in one location,” Hensel said.

Willamette isn’t the only university partnering with Gervais School District this year. Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) students are also interning with the school district nurse, helping to work on the district’s health curriculum. There are currently 16 student nurses and two OHSU supervisors at the district regularly.

“They’re looking at what we can do to promote health and wellness and how they can encourage the K-12 community in this area,” Ensminger-Stapp said.

While the benefits are most obviously for the nearly 40 student teachers, the more experienced teachers have also been positively impacted, according to both Hensel and Ensminger-Stapp.

“It’s great to see the bright and shiny faces of the veteran teachers as well,” said Hensel. “And that’s not because they have less work to do but because they now have new ideas and new energy.”

“The teachers are really seeing the benefit of the partnership, not just because of connecting these adults to students, but just the loop of professional development,” Ensminger-Stapp said.

“The teacher has the opportunity to go through the steps of what they do, what works and why.Having a student teacher here helps that process and ultimately helps the teachers to refine their practices.”

-Lindsay Keefer