Students in the Ketchikan High School Educators Rising class and club have been racking up wins at the Alaska state competition, as well as practicing skills that prepare them for careers working with children.
In early March, the state Educators Rising leadership conference was held at the University of Alaska Southeast Juneau campus. Six Kayhi students placed in the top five in the conference competitions, allowing them to travel to the national event in Dallas, Texas in June.
“It’s the first time I’ve had six kids win at once,” Kayhi teacher Shayla Shelton said from her busy classroom this past Wednesday.
She laughed when she said she was delighted, but then overwhelmed when she realized they’d have to raise about $10,000 for the trip. This was the third year her students have qualified for the national event.
Students compete in various events, such as Creative Lecture, Children’s Literature, Lesson Planning and Public Speaking.
In the March conference, senior Karri Montero won fourth place in Creative Lecture. Montero has been in the program for four years, and won placements at the state level the past three years.
Alyssa Howard, also a senior, won second place for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math lesson plan. This is her second year in the program.
Ellie Carter, a junior, and Gabe Cruz, a senior, won third place for a K-3 children’s literature entry. The book featured sentences written in Tagalog and English, with illustrations created by Carter. This was Carter’s second year in the program, and Cruz’s first.
Jhason Seludo, a sophomore, and Abba Shelton, a freshman, earned a fifth-place win for their entry in K-3 children’s literature for a Japanese to English book. This was Seludo’s first year in the program, and Shelton’s fifth.
Shayla Shelton said that participation in the program can be a real boost when students apply for college.
“It’s big, for school resumes, for college — it’s kind of a big deal,” she said.
Unfortunately, she added, the for-credit class is ending this year, so students will only have the option to be involved in the after-school club. Presently, students who are club members are eligible to compete at events, but any Kayhi student can take the class.
She said one challenge, when the class option disappears, will be finding elementary students for her students to work with. Her students, this school year, made regular visits to Ketchikan Charter School to work with K-3 classroom students, and that will not be possible when the club meets only in the hours after school.
Student Alex Trugon commented as he walked by, seeking a snack, that there are other benefits to having an education class in addition to a club.
“Some of these lesson plans take days to do,” he said. “We have an hour every day. The issue with a club is that everybody’s got other things going on, like NOSB, AcDc.” That was in reference to other Kayhi teams: National Ocean Sciences Bowl and Academic Decathlon.
Shelton said that Kayhi switched to the national Educators Rising program three years ago from the Future Educators of Alaska program. That change enabled students to participate in national events, and also to be eligible to win scholarships.
She said Alaska’s Educators Rising teachers continue to focus on not only preparing students to work with children, but also on encouraging them to stay in Alaska when they complete their educations.
Shelton, originally from Utah, has taught in Aniak, Point Hope and Skagway before teaching at Kayhi. She will teach at both Kayhi and Revilla Alternative School next year.
Seludo took time away from his class work to talk about the program.
“I want to be a teacher,” he said of his motivation to take the class and join the club. “I love helping children, working with children.”
He said he also is very interested in child psychology.
Another benefit of the program that he’s felt was important was the bonding experience of traveling to the state competition with his fellow students, whom he called “basically siblings now” as he laughed.
He said the most difficult part of competing in Juneau was “trying to keep my cool.” He added that he felt a bit more rattled than he did in sporting events he’s been a part of because he was less sure of the expectations of the judges.
An enjoyable aspect of the state event, he said, was sitting in on other students’ creative speech deliveries.
Seludo said he’s learned a variety of useful skills as part of the program.
The subjects that he’s tackeld have included “how to work with kids, knowing certain subjects, how to teach, make certain projects, how to give a lesson plan,” Seludo said.
The value of participating in the competitions is that it motivates students to boost the effort they put into the quality of their work, he added.
“It’s a lot of work, honestly,” he said, “especially if you want to go to competition, but it’s honestly worth it, because you get to know more about education in Alaska — what’s going on with it.”
Carter, who is an Educators Rising club member, and who was visiting the class Wednesday morning, said she started in a similar program in Arizona several years ago, but that this is her second year in the Kayhi program.
She said there are many reasons she’s stayed with education programs for so long.
“I like being able to go work with the kids,” she said. “It’s really fun to build a relationship with them. Last year we went to Houghtaling and I would go in there and the kids loved me.”
She explained that when she’d walk into the classroom the kids would be very excited to see her and run to hug her.
“We do learn about how kids develop and what goes on in their brains, and how they think and how they will feel about different things,” she said.
“Also,” she added, “we do lesson plans in class, so you get to create your own and you do it based on the standards for your area and the state, and then what age group you’re teaching. It really does give you good experience for what you’re probably going to be doing in the future.”
Carter also said that practicing teaching skills in front of people they’re comfortable with, instead of going straight into a classroom, is a big benefit.
She said she plans to make some improvements to the book that she and Cruz created for the state competition before she presents it at the Texas event. Cruz will not be there, as he will be in the Philippines for the summer, so Carter will present it alone.
Carter said she’d like to teach third graders when she finishes her education, but that she also is considering a pediatric nursing career. She was very clear about why she thinks a program like Educators Rising can benefit any student.
“Either way, going through life, if you’re not even going to work with kids, you’re still going to encounter them,” she said. “I feel like being able to handle them and work with them — even if you’re not a kids person — I think it’s good to learn about them because it’s something you’ve been through. Going through the class, you learn a lot about yourself and why you are the way that you are, based on how you grew up and what happened to you.”
The Kayhi team will leave for the national Educators Rising conference on June 17 and will return on June 26.