Kirt Davis, David Jackman, and Russell Stephenson—master’s students in the educational leadership program in the McKay School—spent the month of June interning in Houston, Texas, with the Aldine Independent School District (ISD) Summer Escape Program. The summer program gave them a unique opportunity to work with a school district outside of Utah while completing a large portion of the required administrative internship hours for the educational leadership program. All three master’s students received the Enhanced Learning Grants through the McKay School of Education to partially finance this experiential learning opportunity.
Davis and Jackman volunteered at Grantham Academy for Engineering, a middle school hosting sixth through eighth grades. Stephenson split his time between Grantham and Parker Elementary. This was the second year McKay School master’s students have participated in the summer program. By observing the administrators and teachers who led the summer program, Davis, Jackman, and Stephenson learned important leadership lessons that will help them as future administrators.
The Aldine ISD Summer Escape Program serves a dual purpose: to provide additional assistance to students who failed the Aldine ISD standardized STAAR test, and to create a place for students who would otherwise stay home during the summer. “There’s probably half of our kids that just don't have anywhere else to go in the summer,” said Davis.
As interns, Davis, Jackman, and Stephenson assisted the teachers and administrators who manage the summer program. They helped the program run smoothly, from making sure the buses arrive on time, to monitoring the hallways, to filling in for absent teachers. Yet their most important role as interns was to identify students who needed extra help or a friend.
“It’s not about test scores,” said Stephenson. “It's not about ‘how do we get kids to graduation?’ It's honestly just about the well-being of our kids and putting that first. It's about trying to help these kids in the part of life that they're in and trying to give them the support to be happy and to figure out themselves.”
The Aldine program was structured like a summer camp with students assigned camp counselors and divided into tribes. Days were split between lessons and group activities as students studied the material in the STAAR test then played games or sports in the gym. During the final weeks of the camp, counselors awarded students prizes, such as the Snickers Award for the camper with the best sense of humor and the Mentos Award for the camper who helped mentor others.
“It's been fun to watch kids being creative,” said Jackman when talking about the summer camp program. “[The district] is trying to involve kids in developing 21st-century skills through these new approaches and trying to make it so these kids have positive experiences.”
All three master’s students have ample experience working with young students: Davis as a social studies teacher at Riverton High School, Jackman as a middle school music teacher at Willowcreek Middle School and district instructional arts coach for Alpine School District, and Stephenson as a science teacher at Fort Herriman Middle School. However, none were used to working with such a diverse group of students. The Aldine Independent School District student population is 72 percent Hispanic, 23 percent African American, 2 percent white, and 1 percent Asian as of the 2016–17 school year. “We’re the minority by far here,” said Jackman. “It’s been a good experience to work with these wonderful professionals and try to fit in with the culture. It gives us an opportunity to learn and grow.”
For Davis, Jackman, and Stephenson, the most important takeaway is making sure students’ underlying needs are met to ensure success in a classroom setting. “They all want to be understood,” said Davis. “They want to be appreciated, and they want to be heard, especially these kids here.”
“One thing that I'm starting to realize [is] that kids are the same,” Davis continued. “They want to be loved, and each kid has a story. Part of our responsibility as educational leaders is to figure out what that story is.”
Want to read more about the EdLF department? Click here for information on the MEd School Leadership Program redesign.
Writer: Emma Smith
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922