Tomorrow's Teachers learn about the education field from Millikin faculty and students
For those who aspire to become teachers, sometimes the best way to understand the field is by seeing it up close, and Millikin University's annual Tomorrow's Teachers Conference provides that very opportunity.
Over 80 high school students from around Illinois, hoping one day to become teachers, traveled to Millikin's campus for the 5th installment of the Tomorrow's Teachers Conference on Oct. 15 to learn about the education field from Millikin School of Education faculty and current students.
Students from as far away as Chicago and Carbondale, including those from the local area, took part in breakout sessions on topics covering project-based learning, the future of education and team-building exercises. The conference was designed to show students a "day in the life" of a Millikin education major.
"This conference celebrates education and helps young students understand a little bit more about what it's like to be an education major," said Dr. Christie Magoulias, director of the School of Education at Millikin.
Among the activities was a 20-minute breakout session on the topic of STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) led by Dr. Anne Rammelsberg, associate professor of chemistry, as well as a session on teaching English as a second language and exploring bilingual education.
"The fact that we can bring high school students to campus and show them what a pre-service teaching program is like, it's really powerful," said Dr. Chris Cunnings, assistant professor of education at Millikin. "I think what we saw are students who are genuinely interested in education and I think to really build the profession for the next generation, you need events like this and it's great that we are becoming emerging leaders in that area."
One hour of the day was devoted to students' particular areas of interest – if students were interested in teaching music they could spend an hour exploring a class for music education, and so on.
Additional sessions included forward-thinking initiatives and methods activities such as an inside look at a virtual reality classroom hosted at the New Technologies Studio in Millikin's University Commons.
"Is virtual reality the classroom of the future? For this generation and for incoming college students studying to become teachers, it may very well be their classroom," said Magoulias.
The students were also given tours of Dennis Lab School and learned about the college experience from current Millikin education students during a panel discussion.
Maggie Comerford, a senior elementary education major from Decatur, Ill., was among the Millikin student speakers. "If a person has a passion for teaching, nothing else matters," she said.
Comerford added, "You can't imagine doing anything else. From second grade, it's 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and it's always been, a teacher. To be a teacher, you just need to have the heart to be a teacher."
Dr. Denice Love, assistant professor of education, noted, "Our students do a fantastic job of talking about all the different facets of college life such as being a part of Greek Life or being out in the field and getting experience."
Illinois is currently in need of qualified teachers as the state has 1,400 unfilled teaching positions. Magoulias says the shortage is acute, and while science, math and early childhood are particularly in need, teachers are needed in every area.
"Sometimes students don't realize the flexibility, the collaboration and the pure joy of becoming a teacher, and the impact it has on a child's life," said Magoulias. "What's really important to me as an educator is that they keep their mind open to education as a field and they see the rewarding aspect of becoming a teacher, and they follow through on what their heart is telling them."