A "Day in the Life" of a Millikin education major
Students in Millikin University's School of Education are put in a unique position to gain hands-on field experiences starting their very first semester as well as benefit from co-teaching opportunities. All of these experiences lead to students who are prepared to be teachers and are qualified to enter the workforce right after graduation.
The Millikin School of Education is also doing its part when it comes to addressing the need for future educators through its annual Tomorrow's Teachers Conference. This year's conference, the 6th annual, was held on Oct. 7. The conference provides a venue of support for Illinois high school students who are interested in education-related careers as they are shown a "day in the life" of a Millikin education major.
"We brought in junior and senior high school students from area schools. The students were designated to go to specific classes and were involved with a variety of group activities," said Dr. Pamela Barnes, director of the School of Education at Millikin. "We closed our session with an awarding of a $2,000 scholarship for each attendee."
This year's conference had the largest attendance in its six years with 100 students from across the state being registered to participate.
In the morning, students were divided up into three groups with one group taking part in a "Becoming Blue Selfie Tour" of campus; one group taking part in musical games and activities in Pilling Chapel; and the third group working on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) experiments with Dr. Anne Rammelsberg, associate professor of chemistry.
The conference continued with more specific sessions on project-based learning and innovative education. Students experienced virtual reality in Millikin's New Technologies Studio in the University Commons as Rachel Bicicchi, director of online learning, led a session on the "future of education."
Dr. Lyle Salmi, professor and chair of the Art Department, introduced easy printmaking as part of his art education session, and Dr. Joyce Bezdicek, associate professor of education, led a discussion on early childhood education from a global perspective with a look at preschool from three different cultures.
In Kaeuper Hall at the Perkinson Music Center, Dr. Neal Smith, associate professor of music, led a drumline of future music educators and offered insight into Millikin's music education program.
"It's a big program that currently has 80 students and it's something we're well known for because we have a lot of former students who are out teaching around the country," Smith said. "Our students are getting jobs well before they even graduate."
Smith added, "Our emphasis at Millikin for a long time has been offering practical experiences to undergraduates. You do a lot of work in schools directly with kids in situations where you're the teacher, and we do that very early in the program even as freshmen. Because of Millikin's size and scope, and because music is a big deal on campus, it's a great place for those who like to dabble. We have many students who can sing and play – Millikin is a good place to do a little bit of everything."
Students also had a chance to tour Dennis Lab School in Decatur, Ill., a preschool through 8th grade partnership school that has transformed learning using the concept of project-based Learning.
A student panel discussion was held during lunch with Millikin education majors Maggie Baltz from Millstadt, Ill.; Destiny Musick from Assumption, Ill.; Evan Miller from Springfield, Ill.; and Megan Garrison from Buffalo, Ill. While taking questions from the audience, the students shared their thoughts on what inspired them to become teachers.
"I came to Millikin because of hands-on experiences and you get to do an internship during a semester where you get to work in the classroom," said Baltz. "I really like that because I am a hands-on learner, I want to be in the classroom."
Evan Miller added, "I knew I liked working with kids and I have a passion for knowledge and wanting to learn more. It wasn't until someone started talking about education and why it would be important for me as a black man to be in education. It's important to me because less than one percent of elementary education teachers are black men and almost 40 percent of school age children are minorities – it's important to be that mirror. I have a passion for making a difference and that's where I am."
Dr. Pamela Barnes says the conference is a great recruitment tool for Millikin and addresses the teacher shortage that is impacting Illinois.
"It's also a great recruitment tool for many education programs, and we want to bring students to campus and show them what we do in terms of Performance Learning," Barnes said. "We get students out into the field their freshmen year and that's unlike many other education programs."
Dr. Barnes says the School of Education collected information on each of the registered participants and their interest areas. "We went through each of the students and paired them up with either sitting in on classes or assigning them to activities they were interested in," she said. "Sometimes this is their first experience with Millikin and to have them come to campus for the day, it allows them an opportunity to interact with faculty, students and staff."
Dr. Barnes noted, "I think one of the best assets from doing an event like this is when they see us interact with our students on campus. I think that sets the tone and that we have faculty on campus who are looking out for the students' best interest. I do believe we have a very good impact on students who attend the conference."