Before future educators are able to graduate from college and work full time in a classroom, they must spend a year student teaching in order to gain experience and get a feel for teaching a room full of kids. Dinah Wilgus student teaches for Andy Hunt, and she takes over his first period Honors US History class.
She arrives at school at 6:30 each day in order to brush up on the material before class. “The biggest challenge is preparing to know all the content each day,” said Wilgus. “I read everything I can in order to get as much knowledge on the subject as possible.”
Wilgus said that through the student teacher process, she has learned everything about US History, from the 18th-19th century until now.
For her, the best part about student teaching is interacting with the students. “They have a lot of funny things to say! The slang has changed a lot. I had no idea what ‘gucci’ meant until this morning,” laughed Wilgus.
However, the students can also cause trouble in a classroom run by a teacher who is teaching for the first time. “The students talk to me like I’m a friend. They like me but don’t respect me as a teacher. I don’t like when they’re talking when I’m teaching.” This is especially a problem for Wilgus because she threatens disciplinary action, but does not enforce it.
“I came into this [teaching] with this idea that there was no need for discipline – I thought that if I treated the students like adults, they would act like adults. Which is true for some students, but if I let it go, many walk all over me,” said Wilgus.
In fact, the best piece of advice Wilgus got from current teachers is about discipline. “I was told I need to be more authoritative. I tried it my way, which didn’t work out, and it came back and bit me.”
Although teaching, preparing and working on finding a fair way to control the students is time consuming, Wilgus also works hard during the time she is not running a class. She observes Hunt in second and third period as he teaches the AP US History classes, grades during her planning period, and works on her student teacher program in order to get her college degree.
The amount of work that Wilgus puts into learning how to be a high school teacher will all pay off when she gets her teaching certificate, which has been a dream of hers for a while. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher first, and I’m not the best suited for elementary school,” explained Wilgus. “With my degree, I can technically teach middle school as well, but I like this [the high school] age group better – the students are more mature.”
Wilgus graduates from Appalachain State University in December.