University's Education Students Thrive in Local Schools

Student teacher Kassandra Alexander began the fall semester with as much excitement and anticipation as the second-graders she was assigned to teach.

During her first week, the Palm Beach Atlantic University senior said she remembers making name tags for students in her class at South Grade Elementary, a public school in Lake Worth. Said Alexander, “It was just so interesting to look at the names and think, what are they going to look like? What are their personalities like?”

By the end of the semester, she knew she had found her calling.

“It was amazing,” said Alexander, who has wanted to teach ever since she was 5 years old in her native Trinidad. “I fell completely and madly in love with each student individually.”

Palm Beach Atlantic University education student Kassandra Alexander assists a student at South Grade Elementary School with a classroom writing assignment during the fall semester. PBA is a private, Christ-centered college in West Palm Beach, Fla., USA.
Palm Beach Atlantic University education student Kassandra Alexander assists a student at South Grade Elementary School with a classroom writing assignment during the fall semester.

Her cooperating teacher and her principal were equally enamored with Alexander, who is completing the second half of her student teaching requirement this spring at a private school. This is the first academic year in which education students will be spending a semester at both a public and private school.

For decades, PBA’s School of Education and Behavioral Studies has turned out graduates whose skills are in high demand.

“PBA interns appear to have accepted God’s call to incorporate into learning communities the wisdom of pedagogy and leading from the heart,” Associate Dean of Education Programs Ann Killets said.

South Grade Principal Michael Riley, who has hired several PBA graduates, is among many South Florida principals who say they are pleased to have long-standing partnership with the University. “PBA consistently provides me with a source of good, quality teachers,” said Riley, South Grade’s principal for the past nine years.

“They have compassion, commitment and a clear direction for what they want to do with their lives. They’re well prepared, they’re dedicated and they’re ready to roll.”

Such characteristics are essential at school like South Grade, an extended-day school where a majority of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch and speak languages other than English.

Alexander was one of four PBA student teachers at South Grade during the fall. “Our PBA interns are just a godsend,” Riley said. “They made it so much easier for us.”

Of that group, one student has since accepted a job offer as a fifth-grade teacher at South Grade, Riley said.

In fact, several PBA graduates presently are employed full-time there. Alexander’s cooperating teacher last semester was 1998 PBA graduate Heather Burritt, who has spent about half of her 15 years as a classroom teacher at South Grade.

Looking back to her education at PBA, Burritt described the faculty of the School of Education and Behavioral Studies as warm and caring.

“They knew you by name,” she said. “It was kind of like a family, where they would take care of you.”

Alexander said that she couldn’t have asked for a better role model than Burritt. “She makes teaching look like an art,” she said.

“She was always telling me what I could work on. I knew I was still learning, so I was very receptive to that.”

Besides their exemplary work in the classroom, PBA students possess other qualities that make them stand out among other candidates, Riley said.

The student teachers who come out of PBA are willing to mentor the students who do not have a significant adult in their lives, he said. “At PBA, they don’t ignore the human part of it.”