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Summer Camp Provides Experience for Teacher Candidates, Helps Children with Literacy

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Teacher candidates at Dalton State are getting their first opportunity at planning lessons and managing their own classrooms at a literacy camp for elementary school-aged children this summer.

“We’re teaching every day during the camp,” said Cassie Trollinger, an elementary education major expected to graduate in 2022. “I feel like this is a great experience to have in addition to student teaching. It’s different because when we student teach, we’re in someone else’s classroom. But here, it is our own. The students are our responsibility from the moment they walk in the school until they leave. We’re also doing the paperwork and getting to experience the nitty-gritty details of teaching you don’t always think about.”

Dalton State’s School of Education partners with the Whitfield County School System to provide the literacy camps each summer. There was not a camp last summer due to the pandemic. The camp is provided at Dug Gap and Cedar Ridge Elementary schools currently and will be at Eastside and Dawnville Elementary schools later this summer.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Janet Johnson, an assistant professor of education at the college. “This gives elementary school children the chance to work on reading, writing and literacy over the summer months when it’s easy for students to forget the material they’ve learned in the previous school year. Our teacher candidates get crucial hands-on experience managing a classroom and creating lesson plans. We’re able to guide them and provide them feedback, as well as give the information to help them grow as teachers, without them having to worry about being graded.”

Johnson, along with Dr. Jacquelyn Mesco, an associate professor of education at the college, coordinate and oversee the camps. Teacher candidates spend two weeks making the lesson plans and preparing for the camp, then eight days working with students in the classroom setting. Teacher candidates spend hundreds of hours gaining classroom experience before graduating, but the camp gives them a more authentic place to design and teach lessons.

Each day centers around a different book with activities that match the story. Teacher candidates receive a classroom set of books and each elementary student goes home with two books per day for a total of 16 books for the duration of the camp. The camp is paid for through the Governor’s Office for Student Achievement Scaling grant.

There are fewer elementary students per classroom this summer to allow social distancing due to the pandemic. This allows for more individualized attention between the teacher candidates and their students. Most classes have from between two to seven children in them.

“This camp is incredibly beneficial for us,” said Ashley Lang, an elementary education major expected to graduate in 2022. “This gives us the chance to be on our own in the class. We’re teaching out of these books, choosing vocabulary words and making activities to reinforce themes and vocabulary. We’re also getting to know the kids and become familiar with them before we graduate and begin teaching in the local school systems.”

Community involvement is important for teacher candidates. Teacher candidates are getting to know the local community and the children and families who live here. They’re also working one on one with schools in the area.

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