BY TODD MARTIN
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
With the start of a new college semester, Monday marked the first day of school for a group of University of Mary Hardin-Baylor students stepping into classrooms as student teachers.
Eighteen student teachers in their final semester at UMHB make up the initial class of a newly formed partnership between the university in Belton and Willow Springs Elementary School in Killeen.
Willow Springs Principal Andrea Chaney welcomed the young teachers from her usual post at the school’s front door as the day began.
The school’s administrators provided the group of student teachers notebooks of information and conducted an orientation to welcome them and to inform them about the school and its students.
Director of Graduate Programs Todd Kunders, a former KISD elementary school principal was impressed.
He said he was not aware of another principal ever rolling out the red carpet to make student teachers feel so welcome and to bring in so many at one time.
“I wanted them to learn what it is to be in a school building,” Chaney said. “I wanted them to know who we are, our beliefs, our instructional practices and who our kids are.”
The first-year Willow Springs principal went through the doctoral degree program at UMHB and she said she thought the student teachers would gain valuable experience at the large elementary school with its diverse population.
“I made the request to the dean,” she said. “I thought this would be a good experience to see this population and to see all KISD has to offer to teachers. It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we have.”
A group of five Willow Springs student council members gave the college student teachers a tour of the building, pointing out each grade-level hallway, the library, restrooms and other important spots.
The university has 61 education students in their final semester placed in Bell County schools as student teachers this semester.
For one school to take on 18 is unique, Kunders said. Actually, Willow Springs has 19 student teachers including one from Texas A&M University-Central Texas.
The student teachers come in with about 180 hours of classroom observation. They will take on gradually increasing roles in their assigned classes, eventually teaching on their own.
Following the orientation session and an inspirational video, Chaney urged the student teachers to love their students and to be a consistent presence in their lives at school. The school’s theme, she said, is “Hearts of Warriors.”
“I look forward to seeing them grow,” the principal said after dropping each new student teacher off at their assigned classroom. “It will be rewarding to watch their relationships with students grow.”