Building Operations staff member Thach Pham, from left, together with New Teacher Induction Specialist Taylor Gilley and Principal Robert Long help lead new U-STAR students on a tour of the Thompson campus.
HOUSTON – Aug. 11, 2017 – The beginning of a new school year means both excitement and nervousness for teachers, even those with years of experience.
But for new teachers, like Courtney Hamlyn, the challenges can sometimes seem overwhelming. That’s why Spring ISD partnered with Texas A&M University’s College of Education and Human Development to give teachers-in-training a better foundation.
“Being an early elementary teacher, the first few weeks of school are critical,” says Hamlyn, who just graduated from A&M and completed the Urban Student Teacher Advanced Residency (U-STAR), an intensive student teaching program launched at Thompson Elementary last year.
Now she’s back at Thompson for her first year as a full-time member of the faculty, with a real appreciation for the importance of starting the school year off right.
“It was very nerve wracking at first. I mean, these kids come in crying, don’t know how to walk in a line, they just want to go home and see their mom,” Hamlyn said. “You’re teaching them what school is. You’re that first introduction to what’s going to shape the rest of their school lives.”
Hamlyn and two other former U-STAR participants now returning to Thompson as teachers – Emily Jernigan and Rayshanda Massey – gathered this week, along with veteran teachers and administrators, to help welcome a new group of U-STAR student-teachers for 2017-18.
“It was kind of a leap of faith,” Hamlyn says of coming to Thompson last year. “We were all kind of nervous and scared. But doing this program was the best thing I have ever done in my life.”
Despite the challenges of the program, Massey agrees. “Because of that experience … I’m here today, and I’m ready, and I’m excited.”
The U-STAR participants spend four full days each week at Thompson, with one day reserved for classes at the A&M campus in College Station. The intensity and time commitment involved set it apart from most teacher education programs.
For the 2017-18 school year, six new A&M seniors have joined the U-STAR family. During a recent orientation at Thompson, they heard that the coming year will bring tears and some tough days, but also laughter and much learning. And, most important, they won’t be going through it alone – they’ll have the support of their mentor teachers, last year’s U-STAR alums, their professors and advisors in College Station, and Thompson principal – and dedicated Aggie – Robert Long, who couldn’t be happier to be hosting the program at his campus.
“We are just so excited about this opportunity to carry on this initiative,” said Long. “We’re enthused for our students and our community who get to benefit from this partnership.”