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Date published: 9/16/2012
A new pilot program will place 40 student teachers in area early education programs beginning this week.
The University of Mary Washington has teamed up with Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area to identify high-quality early childhood classrooms where its education majors can practice what they've learned--and possibly be recruited after graduation.
"[Elementary teacher] candidates enrolled in literacy courses focused on the early grades now have the opportunity to work with [pre-kindergarten] students to develop literacy skills," said Adria R. Hoffman, director of clinical experiences and partnerships for UMW's College of Education.
They'll be placed in Head Start and early childhood special education classrooms in Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania, and at Minnieland Academy at Salem Fields in Spotsylvania.
The classes and private early education center have all received high ratings in Smart Beginnings' Virginia Star Quality Initiative. It assesses professional child care and instruction, and provides mentors and resources to help improve the quality of their services.
Hoffman said studies show that teachers who graduate from teacher education programs that provide field experience and mentorship have higher retention rates and greater student achievement than those who don't.
"As the College of Education continues to expand, we will require additional practicum placements for teacher candidates," she said. "We are particularly excited about our new five-year pathways toward licensure in special education."
The Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area initiative began as Success By 6 through the Rappahannock United Way in 2001 with a focus on early literacy. Its goal today is to improve the quality of care and education for children from birth until kindergarten so that they are prepared for school.
"It's that cradle to career look," said Sara Branner, Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area's executive director. "If we can get [children] ready for school, they'll be ready for the workforce and to help the economy."