Posted Date: 11/19/2018
Credit: Standard Democrat
For Lauren Beydler, student teaching at the Sikeston Kindergarten Center and Early Childhood Center this semester has been like going home.
A 2015 graduate of Sikeston High School, Beydler attended kindergarten at the Center, and since August, she has served as the student teacher for Hilary Hummel’s kindergarten class.
“I like being home,” Beydler said. “I love this classroom and this school. I’ve grown up here.”
Beydler is also Sikeston R-6 School District’s first “Grow Your Own Teachers” participant to student-teach in the district.
“Lauren student-teaching here is a really big deal because colleges typically don’t allow students to complete student teaching in their home district, but some will make an exception for districts who have a Grow Your Own Teachers program,” said Lisa Vaughn, who serves as the GYOT coordinator for Sikeston R-6. “Hopefully, students who complete their student teaching in Sikeston will want to apply for a job here as well.”
It was two years ago when Sikeston R-6 School District began its “Grow Your Own Teachers,” or GYOT, program to address the nationwide shortage of teachers, which is expected to increase as Baby Boomers retire, according to Vaughn.
Research shows that almost half of all teachers leave the teaching profession within five years, which also contributes to the problem, she said. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education implemented a “Grow Your Own” initiative to help combat the teacher shortage, and Sikeston R-6 Schools joined the initiative.
Vaughn said the goal with GYOT is to increase the number of quality teaching candidates who apply within the district and to increase teacher retention.
The program aims to increase interest in the teaching profession, show students what a rewarding career it is, identify students who may be interested in or have an aptitude for teaching and offer opportunities for these students to learn more about the profession and gain experience in the teaching field.
Hilary Hummel, who is in her 11th year with the district, had nothing but praise for the job Beydler’s been doing teaching her class this semester.
“I think she is doing great,” Hummel said of Beydler. “She is very dedicated and takes initiative. She even came on the first day of school when she wasn’t scheduled to begin yet.”
Beydler said she wanted to see what it was like being a teacher on the first day of school.
“You can and do learn so much on your own by student teaching,” Beydler said.
Beydler also comes from a family of educators, which she said has proved helpful in her studies. Her parents, Dee and Steve Beydler, teach in the R-6 district, and her sister is a first-year teacher at a St. Louis school.
“I enjoy the kids,” Beydler said. “It’s really nice because if I happen to have a bad day — or think I’m having a bad day — they make it a good one.”
Being able to student-teach in Sikeston benefits Beydler because she knows the district — the buildings and the people, she said. And it benefits the district because they know her, too.
“I’m known in the district — not because my parents teach here — but because I’ve gone through the school. The administrators all know me. They know me and know that I’m going to be the best I can,” Beydler said.
Beydler also gave credit to Vaughn.
“Mrs. Vaughn definitely tries to give (GYOT) students the best experience possible. She makes it easier and enjoyable,” Beydler said.
Students in the GYOT Program have participated in job shadowing experiences and visited Southeast Missouri State University’s College of Education.
The program also addresses teacher recruitment, Vaughn said. Research shows that 60 percent of America’s teachers work within 20 miles of where they attended high school.
“This indicates that the students in our district are a very valuable resource. The GYOT Program will help prepare ‘homegrown’ teachers and bring them back to our district. Students will be mentored throughout college and encouraged to apply for teaching positions in Sikeston upon graduation.”
The GYOT program also offers incentives such as forgivable loans to help attract quality candidates.
“‘Homegrown’ teachers are more likely to stay because they are already vested in the community. Also, according to research, teachers who feel better prepared are less likely to get overwhelmed and leave the profession,” Vaughn said.
The opportunities and mentoring provided by the GYOT program will better prepare teachers for the classroom and increase their chances of staying in the profession, Vaughn said.
While Beydler is the first Sikeston R-6-grown student teacher, she won’t be the last.
“We are expecting three more GYOT student teachers next semester, and the number should continue to grow each year as students who were more involved in the program begin to graduate,” Vaughn said. “This is really significant for our district because the whole idea behind GYOT is to ‘grow our own teachers’ which will provide quality teachers and improve teacher retention.”
In recognition of American Education Week, which was celebrated the past week, the district had 23 seniors from the GYOT program job-shadow teachers across the district, Vaughn said. The students were placed with teachers in the same grade level/subject area they are interested in, she said.
“Our hope is that the GYOT program will encourage students to ‘come back home’ to teach,” Vaughn said.
And that’s exactly what Beydler plans to do.
Beydler, who will graduate Dec. 15 from Southeast Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and elementary education, said she plans to pursue job openings in the R-6 district.
And Beydler already knows at least one thing she’ll be thinking about this Thanksgiving.
She said: “I’m thankful to be in the program.”