Top of the Class

The UTEACH program benefits from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s support.

A generous SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union grant is benefiting CSULB’s UTEACH program.

Even as children, Jodie Podeszwik and Markaley Smith knew they wanted to be teachers when they grew up.

Now their aspirations are coming true thanks to SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s five-year, $500,000 grant to CSULB’s Urban Teacher Education Academy in a Clinical Home (UTEACH) program in the College of Education.

“Supporting education and professional development is more important than ever; educators build the future, and we believe the work they do is incredibly noble and important in helping to form the next generation of leaders. We are honored to support a program that helps prepare teachers for the future,” said Bill Cheney, president and CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU.

“On behalf of all of our students, I want to express my sincere appreciation to SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union for their generous donation,” said College of Education Dean Marquita Grenot-Scheyer. “Your support will provide essential scholarships and stipends for our outstanding students, most of whom are the first to attend college in their family and many of whom work multiple part-time jobs during their program.”

UTEACH is benefiting students and teachers.

UTEACH students get intensive yearlong instruction that involves teaching methods classes plus student teaching in a Long Beach Unified School District elementary school under guidance from master teachers in the schools, CSULB education faculty and fellow students. It’s so successful that the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education named it one of the nation’s top teacher preparation programs.

Podeszwik and Smith are teaching one semester each in transitional kindergarten (TK), a bridge between preschool and regular kindergarten; and fifth grade at John G. Whittier Elementary School.

Each grade presents its own challenges. “In transitional kindergarten, in addition to content, you also have to teach students things like ‘hands to yourself,’ and in fifth grade the content is much more rigorous,” said Podeszwik.

That’s why she’s grateful for master teacher and CSULB alumna Trina White. “Ms. White keeps a journal and whenever I’m teaching, she writes both positive and constructive feedback for me so that I can improve my teaching and just get better.”

In turn, White sees the novices turn into professionals as the year progresses. “It’s exciting to see them go from that to being teachers who are in front of the class and in command and planning their own lessons, working with the students and helping the kids to grow.”

Smith, too, is acquiring wisdom. “It’s definitely an amazing experience to teach them things and the light bulb goes on. I think the difference between being a student and being a teacher is that you teach the students a lot but you’re also still the student. You still learn from the students. They teach me so many things.”

Even the veteran master teachers are gaining from UTEACH. For instance, White said children get more out of the new Common Core curriculum when they learn from different teachers’ styles.

Master teacher and alumna Outey Khuon agreed the program benefits everyone. “For me, I can have small groups with my little ones—they’re in transitional kindergarten and not even five years old yet. In a small group setting, they can focus more. For the student teachers, they get firsthand experience. They get to interact with the kids and learn how to deliver the lesson the right way.”

Smith and Podeszwik are grateful for the SchoolsFirst FCU-supported scholarship and stipend to help them financially, since student teaching is a full-time, unpaid job on top of paying university tuition, and focusing on their students is essential, Podeswik noted.

“Because I’m less stressed, it allows me to perform my best every day.”

See how CSULB’s College Of Education recognized SchoolsFirst FCU for its generous support of UTEACH.
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