ST. FRANCISVILLE — When Amy Geiger began her career as a math teacher at a New York high school, training her students how to add, subtract, multiply and divide was relatively easy. The real education for Geiger was learning the complexities that confront inexperienced teachers.
For example, she had to deal with a ninth-grade student who already had a baby, a parent who came to a parent-teacher conference under the influence and the seniors, sensing her insecurity, who tried to make her life miserable. Those types of experiences, Geiger said, often drive many teachers from the profession within their first five years.
Geiger was among the speakers Tuesday at a presentation at West Feliciana High School to introduce LaTeach, a $120,500 grant awarded through the Louisiana Department of Education. This year, LaTeach partners West Feliciana and other high schools statewide and charter operators as part of a program designed to prepare teachers to become more effective in the classroom and to prepare students for the rigors of college. Students can earn up to 30 hours of Advanced Placement college credit while still in high school.
Through the “Believe and Prepare” program, West Feliciana is partnered with LSU on a one-year residency designed for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher candidates. Geiger, who is in her seventh year of teaching, has gone through intense training with LSU faculty members and is serving as a mentor to Sarah Noland, a first-year math teacher who works in her class. The teacher candidates learn how to teach in schools from experienced, LSU-trained teacher mentors through a four-day-per-week, yearlong residency while studying math, science and education theory as part of a master’s degree program.
Hollis Milton, superintendent of West Feliciana Schools, said the program is unique because it “prepares students for college, careers and life. Thanks to continuing support from LSU’s faculty, the innovation of this program will make West Feliciana High School the envy of the state and the nation.”
Other Louisiana school systems participating in the program are Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Bernard and Lincoln parishes as well as New Orleans College Prep and Collegiate Academies.
The state education department has invested more than $800,000 in the pilot programs designed to ensure districts and the college programs are creating a strong and balanced teacher workforce.
LSU Vice Provost T. Gilmore Reeves, speaking Tuesday to the audience of nearly 200, said LSU will likewise benefit from the dual enrollment aspect of the program because it will provide a feeder system for the Baton Rouge campus and, in the long run, could help increase graduation rates. Last year, LSU’s graduation rate was roughly 69 percent, putting LSU near peer institutions like the universities of Georgia and Florida.
The program, Reeves said, “will set the model for what we can develop throughout the state.”
First-year biology teacher Samantha Williams said the program has taught her to see biology “in a new light and to learn how the whole thing — science and math — come together.”
The one-year program began in April and will run through June 2015.
For more information, visit www.louisianabelieves.com/teaching/believe-and-prepare.