Academy focuses on future teachers

Anne Marie Amacher
Quad-City area incoming high school seniors interested in pursuing an education degree take a class at St. Ambrose University in Davenport June 20.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Some incoming high school seniors interested in pursuing a teaching career are taking college-level classes for college credit during the inaugural Future Teachers Academy at St. Ambrose University (SAU).

Dale Blesz, director of the St. Ambrose School of Education, said the 11 incoming high school seniors from Quad-City area high schools enrolled in the program are “rock star students and dynamite.” For two weeks, students take two introductory college courses common to teacher preparation programs, followed by a day trip to Chicago, a presentation day in July and an additional class in the fall with observation hours that accommodate their high school classes.

Students earning a “B” average or higher receive seven college credits toward a teaching degree at no cost, Blesz said. The university offers those students early admission to SAU along with $8,000 in scholarships spread out over four years. If a student does not choose to attend SAU, the credits are transferable. He plans to follow up with the students to learn whether they enter an education program, graduate with an education degree and pursue a teaching career.


Benefactors provided funding so SAU could offer the courses and college credits at no charge to students. Addressing the teacher shortage was the impetus for the program Blesz said. He talked with Quad-City area superintendents for input about their course offerings and what they thought would be helpful to encourage students to consider a teaching career. He said he was impressed with the number of high schools that offer classes for students interested in teaching, including observation time.

His initial goal for the inaugural program was 30 students but he expressed enthusiasm for the 11 who chose to attend. “They are very diverse, ask a variety of questions, are eager to learn and have concerns about teaching. They are not afraid to ask anything.”

Various faculty members teach the courses and bring their experiences into the classroom. Courses include lectures, group discussions, activities and colloquia across campus to gain insights about becoming teachers. Students learn about child and adolescent development, psychology from birth to adolescence, and explore what it means to be a teacher and the importance of the teaching profession.

Blesz said the trip to Chicago dives into cultural experiences. In July, all of the students will present their research focus at a presentation symposium. “This activity will highlight their summer learning as well as showcase their presentation skills.”

Ashley Garcia-Villalva, an incoming senior at Moline (Illinois) High School, said she has taken high school courses in anticipation of possibly going into teaching. A teacher told her about the SAU program. The cost-free aspect certainly helped, she said. Although some of the materials are a review for her, Ashley said the courses are “very educational and beneficial. They have offered some insight for teaching and the impact on students. Regardless if I go into teaching, this has been very beneficial.”

Nina Daugherty, an incoming-senior at Rock Island (Illinois) High School, also has taken courses at the high school level in preparation for a possible education degree. She worried about taking college-level courses, but after talking with her mom, Nina decided the program would be a “good fit for me.” She likes having multiple instructors and appreciates the insights offered.

Izzy Dudek, another Moline High incoming-senior, said she talked about the program with her mom, a teacher. “I have a busy schedule,” Izzy said. “But this was a good option for me.” The classes are more in depth then high school, as they are college-level courses.  One aspect of the program she appreciates is the encouragement for students to talk with one another and with the instructors. “There are a lot of concerns in the field of education,” she said.

Blesz said, “We are honored to have these high school students participate in this experience.”

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *