Teaming Up as Partners for the Future

The teacher shortage fueled by pandemic burnout has lingered, creating challenges for both k-12 schools seeking classroom faculty, and colleges seeking students pursuing education degrees. 

Foundation Academy and The College of New Jersey recently teamed up to tackle this challenge together – in a unique program benefitting both FA scholars and TCNJ. 

This spring, 18 TCNJ juniors aspiring to be classroom teachers began a 10-week practicum, teaching – and learning – alongside veteran FA elementary school faculty. 

Noting that several FA seniors choose to attend TCNJ each year, FA Dean of Special Projects John Paxton Jr. reached out to TCNJ about welcoming their education students to our campus. 

Working with Dr. Rachel Townley, Performance Assessment & Placement Coordinator in the TCNJ Office of Support for Teacher Education, and Associate Professor Dr. Alex Pan, they developed a new pipeline from college to classroom. 

“We strongly believe that once these future teachers come to FA, they will fall in love with our scholars and our community – and they will return as classroom teachers in the near future,” Mr. Paxton said.

Likewise, Dr. Pan has welcomed several FA scholars into the School of Education over the years after they were inspired to make a difference as a teacher. He looks forward to continuing this partnership, which he describes as “important and mutually beneficial.” 

Siani Crowell, FA Class of 2016, graduated from TCNJ and teaches math in FA Elementary School. She now is mentoring two TCNJ teaching interns.

"It's a major full circle moment," Ms. Crowell said. "Being a bridge between both of my alma maters is a very fulfilling experience... I want to give back to a community and school that taught me so much."  

Dr. Pan looks forward to continuing this partnership, which he describes as “important and mutually beneficial ." The experience is helping prepare college juniors for student teaching in their senior year, he explained. 

Spending time in a classroom, guided by an experienced teacher, enables TCNJ teaching interns to become proficient in necessary skills such as lesson planning, instruction, managing a class and working well in a new environment. “Then when they graduate,” he said, “They are all set to have their own classroom.”

After teaching more than 40 years, Dr. Pan says the most important trait for a teacher is passion – something abundant in FA classrooms.

“On our first visit, my students were moved and impressed because they felt the passion from the FA teachers and the energy from their classrooms,” Dr. Pan said. “Our students got so excited…they couldn’t wait to come back!”

Jackson Tencza, a TCNJ student teaching intern, called his time at FA “a genuinely awesome experience.” 

“I can feel myself becoming more accustomed to, and able to operate within the classroom more each day that I spend at Foundation.”

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Michelle Ruess