Teacher Cadet Academy paves the way for careers in education

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It was a long road to the teaching profession for Kaylee Wiens, a Family and Consumer Science teacher at Faribault High School.

She’s entering her fifth year of teaching, but before that she earned a degree in business, worked in the banking industry for a while and owned her own business for 10 years. Once she decided she wanted to be a teacher, Wiens had to go back to school to get her license. Now, through the high school’s new Teacher Cadet Academy, Wiens is helping set up a smoother path to a career in education for Faribault juniors and seniors.

The full-year course, which Wiens teaches, gives students the chance to plan lessons, gain hands-on classroom experience working with students at a variety of grade levels, and receive mentorship from Faribault teachers, all while earning transferable college credits from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“It’s an awesome way for kids to get college credits while staying in high school,” Wiens said. “College is expensive. It’s hard to go spend a lot of money on something when you’re not sure what you want to do. With this program, students will learn what teaching is all about.”

Wiens learned about the program at a conference last year and then attended a training seminar. Teacher Cadet Academy was added to the curriculum last summer and 13 students signed up at the start of the school year.

In addition to helping students save money, FHS principal Jamie Bente hopes the Teacher Cadet Academy will help address the statewide teacher shortage by enticing students to consider a career in education. He said he expects the program to grow in popularity over time and create the same kind of success stories that have come from the school’s National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation certification program and Business Academy.

“The biggest thing with these programs that have been successful for many, many years is that the students get internships, they get out there and they get to apply the curriculum in the real world,” Bente said. “With the Teacher Cadet program, in a full year the kids who want to be teachers can spend a portion of the year learning about teaching and still spend a decent amount of time in classrooms working with teachers and getting hands-on experience.”

Bente said that hand-on experience is also helpful for students who aren’t sure if a career in teaching is right for them.

“We want to help students find out what they do and don’t want to do while they’re in high school, to the best of our ability. We can do that by giving them the best taste of what a career in that field would look like,” he said. “We want them to walk out of FHS with a diploma in hand, knowing what they want to do.”

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