INSIDE Chico State
0 March 8, 2001
Volume 31 Number 12
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Teacher Prep Program Enrolls High School Students

Darryl Eisele, program director of University Connection, interacts with students who want to be teachers. They are enrolled at both Paradise High School and CSU, Chico.
Darryl Eisele, program director of University Connection, interacts with students who want to be teachers. They are enrolled at both Paradise High School and CSU, Chico.

(Photo by Cindy Leonard)

CSU, Chico's University Connection has been "a savior" for Lloyd Caldwell. The Paradise High School senior was ready to get his GED when he heard about and enrolled in this teacher preparation program, directed by Darryl Eisele, Paradise High School teacher and Education faculty member. The program gave Caldwell direction: "I realized being a teacher is what I wanted to do, and the program could help me."

PHS senior Katie McIntyre said the program changed her life. Before enrolling in University Connection, she was having a hard time with school. "I'm more motivated in this program," she remarked. "I want to get things done."

The impact of the two-and-a-half-year-old University Connection is due, in large part, to its unique structure. Students are co-enrolled in Paradise High School and CSU, Chico, spending half the day with peers who also want to be future teachers. They gain experience that directly connects to their future careers, and they get much support from program director Eisele and other faculty. Eisele works with the students in the mornings at CSU, Chico as they meet high school requirements and learn about education. In the afternoons, students take college courses on campus.

Twelve years ago, when Eisele saw student teachers come into his PHS classroom unprepared for the realities of teaching, he began thinking about a way high school students could be introduced to the profession of teaching through an elective class at the high school. For the next 10 years, he taught such a class. In 1998, Paradise High School and CSU, Chico expanded the idea into University Connection for PHS seniors.

One example of how this program motivates the students and prepares them to be teachers is a recent field trip they took to Bidwell Mansion. When they told the tour guide that they were future teachers, he expanded upon the tour's usual historical information. The students will use this information to design lessons around the theme of the Bidwells and the mansion, utilizing teaching and learning theories that will help them with third, fourth, and fifth-grade-level classes.

"As far as we know, this is the only university in the nation that is a year-long host to a group of high school students as future teachers," said Michael Kotar, chair of Education. "Early introduction to the profession is well supported as an important

feature of successful teacher preparation programs. By the end of the year, these high school students have begun to develop personal philosophies of education and have a much clearer vision of themselves as future educators."

Eisele credits Kotar and the university. "The university has given us space and welcomed me as a faculty member, and professors have been very generous with their time," he said. His appreciation extends to PHS: "It just doesn't happen that you send your high school kids 15 miles away. The school district is way out in front on this."

Students commute from Paradise to CSU, Chico in time for the 8 am start of the high school portion of their day. They agree that they like this arrangement. "At the university, there are people from so many different walks of life," noted McIntyre. "It's okay to be who you are."

The program provides a built-in support group that fosters friendship and academic performance. The students tend to perform well -- Thomas Gimbel set the curve in his pre-calculus class with a top test score, and two students have GPAs over 4.0, making the university's Dean's List last semester.

Other university students and faculty often express surprise and are supportive when finding out that the students are still in high school. "I get comments like, ‘Oh my gosh, you must be like a genius or something,'" said Shoshana Winnemucca. "I just let it stay at that."

Barbara Alderson

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