Scott Hart’s experiences in the public education system ended in the same place it began: a first grade classroom.
The 2012 South Boardman graduate, who majored in special education with a minor in child development at Central Michigan University, recently returned from Immokalee, Fla. from his last tenure as a student teacher at Pinecrest Elementary School.
However, this wasn’t your basic grade-school teaching job.
“My experience in Immokalee consisted of my time being split between teaching first and second grade sheltered classrooms,” Hart said. “Sheltered basically means the student is an English Language Learner and needs to receive basic English instruction.”
Working against a language barrier in any profession can be difficult.
“For my particular students, all 38, Spanish was their first language,” Hart said. “I didn’t really know what to expect … I feared not being able to teach my students.”
However, with time, this concern quickly evaporated.
“After spending just one day there, my fears were erased and it was more welcoming and happy than I could’ve ever expected,” Hart said. “Overall, they flowed like any other classroom.”
Hart was one of nine CMU students who were student-teaching in Immokalee when he first arrived. He said he began each day at 5 a.m. and would depart for the elementary school by 6:30 – just enough time to arrive a half-hour before class began.
“Arriving at school a half-hour before school began gave us time to prepare,” Hart said. “When the bell rang at 8 a.m., I would bring the students inside, and they would begin morning work while the school news was broadcasted.”
Hart’s decision to go travel to Immokalee through the study abroad program was an easy one to make, but a difficult one to implement. As with all study abroad trips, there is a requirement that a specific number of students participate. Hart was charged with recruitment.
“Recognizing the name of the professor leading the group, Lorraine Berak, I quickly emailed her to get more details,” Hart said. “I told her I would be dedicated to ensuring this trip took place. About 15-20 class presentations later, we had nine student teachers signed up.”
After the logistics of the trip were worked out, Hart says the final decision to go was a no-brainer.
“The price was right, the location was great, and it would be a new experience,” Hart said. “I’ve always loved Florida, and since age 14, I set it as my goal to move there. It was if the stars were aligned that day. My mind was racing with the potential opportunities.”
He was soon offered a full-time kindergarten teaching position at the same school – just in time for graduation.
“From the first day I started student teaching at Pinecrest, my heart was settled,” Hart said. “I felt right at home. The atmosphere was inviting, and the staff was incredibly helpful.”
For Hart, the best part of student teaching is the students.
“They were learning so much, and I think they were teaching me just as much, if not more,” Hart said. “One of the biggest things I took away from this experience was don’t assume. Don’t assume that because a student doesn’t know English, they’re not intelligent or that they don’t care. They are intelligent, and they do care.”