Campus program connects and educates future teachers

Ready, Set, Teach! is a program for high school students to experience what it is like to be a teacher. The first group of students who ever participated in the program will soon graduate from St. Edward’s University.

Fred Estrello, associate faculty and director of special projects in the School of Education, has been helping students in the program for six years. His involvement began with a partnership with three high schools in the area and has since grown to 10 high schools.

“After a while, students started coming here to St. Ed’s that were Ready, Set, Teach! alum,” Estrello said. “I wanted to try to keep them connected and be able to provide some extra support in case they needed it.”

That support, which began when some of his students were just juniors in high school, has grown to become a tight community of aspiring teachers at St. Edward’s. In addition to attending regular dinners and get togethers, the group of 13 former Ready, Set, Teach! students assist Estrello with Ready, Set, Teach! with presentations and award ceremonies.

Estrello worked as a teacher and principal for 30 years before becoming a professor.

For several of these students, Ready, Set, Teach! and Estrello’s partnership with the program is the reason they are attending St. Edward’s.

“I didn’t even know about St. Edward’s before,” art major Susan Dawson said. “If it weren’t for Ready, Set, Teach! I wouldn’t be at St. Edward’s.”

Dawson is a McCombs Scholar and Campus Ministry Service Break Experience Leader.

As high school students in the pre-teaching program, participants created lesson plans and taught classes. The experience gained from the high school program gives students an edge on the competitive education market. The leadership skills gained while in the program continue to grow into college.

Other students also hold leadership positions at St. Edward’s, such as Alex Duran, an organization liaison for Student Life, and Elyse Cortez, an officer for the pre-professional academic group St. Edward’s Educators.

In addition to improving teaching skills, the Ready, Set, Teach! program aids students in choosing what age group and what subject they would like to teach.

“The goal I had set for myself at the end of the program was to decide what I wanted to teach because I had no idea,” Duran said. “I ended up choosing history.”

Duran, Cortez and Dawson all have plans to student teach or go into the education field upon graduating either this spring or next.

Some of the students have known they wanted to be teachers their whole life and experiences with their own education only solidified that fact. For Cortez, it was her 5th grade teacher who made learning so much fun that led to her desire to become a teacher.

Duran had a similar experience. His 6th grade teacher left an impact on him when she followed her school’s new policy of wearing uniforms to school, even though it was only mandatory for students.

Transitioning from their various high schools to St. Edward’s, the group of 13 students found that the Ready, Set, Teach! community helped them to get more involved on campus.

“Fred was the first person I knew at St. Edward’s and he’s helped me along the way,” Dawson said.

Dawson, who started out with an education minor has an art major, but still hopes to work with children in the future. She is still fully connected with the unofficial group.

“Even though their majors change, the connection they have is with the experiences from Ready, Set, Teach!,” Estrello said.

Duran sees potential professional benefits arising from the community.

“It’s a possible collaborative effort,” Duran said. ‘I have a network of people to go to.”