Nearly 40 students from a nearby college will be traversing the halls of local campuses this school year in an effort to improve early childhood education for both students and teachers.
North Georgia College & State University will send 24 juniors and 17 seniors to the four Dawson County elementary schools, according to former Kilough Elementary Principal Lois Zangara.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our school system," said Zangara, who is serving as a liaison between the district and Dahlonega college.
In addition to adding the student-teachers to the faculties of the schools, the university will also be sending several early childhood education professors.
The educators will observe classes taught by the student interns and instruct them when they are not teaching the elementary school children.
"This will provide professors an opportunity to see the direct application of the methods they are teaching to the future elementary school teachers," said Dr. Bob Michael, dean of the school of education at NGCSU.
"They will be able to observe the students that they are teaching, and then provide direct feedback to those students concerning their teaching methods."
He added that it will also "allow those professors an opportunity to see which parts of their instruction can be modified to better benefit the student-teachers and the elementary schools students."
"It should really create a great methodology for improving education across the board," he said.
According to Michael, the arrangement will allow the college to better prepare future teachers for their careers, while at the same time improving education for elementary school students.
"We hope that this works out as well as we believe it will and that it will pave the way to have the same type of partnership at the middle and high school level," he said.
While not the first time the two educational entities have worked together, Dawson County Superintendent Keith Porter believes this year marks an important step in advancing the active learning for both.
"We envision each of our elementary schools being in essence learning laboratories," Porter said. "The synergy created by having university faculty, system teachers and college students working with our students is something that we are looking to with great anticipation.
"It should be a wonderful learning experience for the student interns, while providing our students with needed instructional support."
Nicky Gilleland, former Dawson County superintendent who is also serving as a liaison between the college and school district, has helped coordinate the effort.
"This is a great opportunity to develop future teachers, but will also benefit the students of Dawson County," Gilleland said. "The interns, under the supervision of a master teacher, will work daily in elementary classrooms."
Those interns will also take part in the same professional development activities as their supervising teachers, according to Gilleland, and will help with intervention activities within the school.
"It should allow the student-teachers a real chance for full immersion into the life of an elementary school teacher," Michael said. "And that should be of benefit to both student-teacher and elementary student alike."