Teacher prep: What is successful? Spending significant time working with students in urban environments, supportive professors and mentors, and opportunities to team with other interns paves the way for a successful first year of urban teaching.

This month I’m very excited to have my CTQ colleague Lana Gundy sharing some posts here at On the Shoulders of Giants. Following my last post on what’s missing from teacher preparation, Lana discusses what worked in hers.

Three reasons why teacher internships work

I nearly fainted when I read the National Council on Teaching Quality’s “Ed school essentials: A review of Illinois teacher preparation.” My very own Illinois State University’s “review” was not very good. In fact, it was deplorable: F! I know from my own experiences as an ISU grad that the university has an outstanding professional development school (PDS program) and the proof is in the internship.

Provided a significant amount of time in a classrooms working with students in an urban environment

The PDS program provides essential classroom experiences for interns. This allows interns practice dealing with situations that arise when working with a group of urban children. The intern “takes over” the teaching responsibilities in a cooperating teacher’s classroom for thirty-two weeks. These responsibilities include: lesson planning, grading papers, behavior management, parent/teacher conferences, staff meetings, board meetings, and any other responsibility their cooperating teacher would have.

Great professors and mentors that know how to support and encourage new teachers

The PDS program changed my life and allowed me to do much more than I ever expected to during my first few years of teaching. What really made a difference for me during the internship was my professor. The instructors are the variables that the NCTQ’s study didn’t account for. What the instructors bring to the table is invaluable to the student teaching experience. Not only did my professor teach my group of interns our university courses, but he also taught us how to apply what we learned.

Opportunities to “team” with other interns

The opportunity to work in a “team” setting allows interns to expand their horizons. Interns are able to discuss what was happening in our classrooms, which allowed us to learn from each others’ mistakes and successes. Student teachers work together to improve the culture of the school. Teams of student teachers can achieve more together than they can independently.

It is not clear from NCTQ’s study what was evaluated to determine that ISU student teaching program was a failure. I do know that I was prepared for my first year of urban teaching. I would not give my experience an F. In fact, I would recommend that all student teachers be required to complete a thirty-two week internship. So if NCTQ’s evaluation of ISU’s program is incorrect, I wonder what other programs were incorrectly evaluated also?

Here is the link to see ISU’s video about the PDS program. Check out Bill Ferriter’s The Tempered Radical post to read more about NCTQ’s Study. Also on the subject of alternative student teaching experiences, take a look at Dan Brown’s Get in the Fracas post.


Lana Gundy teaches fourth grade in a primary school in Peoria, IL. She is a member of the Universal Leadership Team and is the Gifted Coordinator at her school. She is also a member of CTQ’s virtual community, which is aimed to cultivate accomplished, early-career teachers as leaders of practical, effective teaching policy innovations at the state and district levels.

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