Who are “teacher candidates,” and what do they do with IHECP? In this blog post, we talk about teacher candidates, aka field experience students, from MSU Denver’s School of Education. Their work with IHECP goes beyond fulfilling their own degree requirements to become teachers. This reciprocal relationship between IHECP and the School of Education provides value to us, to teacher candidates, to the university, and more.
Who our “teacher candidates” are
Teacher candidates are current students in the MSU Denver School of Education. They may be undergraduates or getting their masters, and they may be in the elementary or secondary education programs. No matter their program focus or level, these pre-service teachers gain actual field experience by working with IHECP students. This experience also gives teacher candidates a chance to see the lasting impact of the work they’ll do in their future careers.
What they do
Our teacher candidates act as mentors to IHECP students. Depending on the services they are supporting (assistive technology or transition), teacher candidates might assist IHECP students with organizational tools, finding assistive technology, or helping them find other resources they need to enjoy college independently. In turn, working with IHECP students gives teacher candidates hands-on learning outside of the classroom.
Each School of Education teacher candidate takes multiple hours of supervised field experience, and IHECP hosts up to 6 individuals per semester. During their semester, we ensure that they are meeting their School of Education requirements, but more importantly, that they’re getting the support they need to prepare for their future career.
Teacher candidate supervision with assistive technology
Assistive technology classes are required for every special education teacher candidate, no matter their program focus. Whether a teacher candidate is in early childhood education, elementary education, or secondary education, they must understand assistive technology in order to be prepared for their career.
Through our program, these teacher candidates learn to identify an IHECP student’s needs and meet them using an assistive technology solution. For example, a student with an intellectual disability may need text-to-speech training to read their textbook or syllabus for a class. Or a student who is physically disabled can benefit from a voice-to-text device to help them complete homework assignments. It’s up to the teacher candidates to assess their needs and find a solution with support from their supervising IHECP teacher.
Assistive technology supports go beyond the bare minimum, though. Technological solutions also encompass GPS apps or devices that make sure IHECP students are arriving and leaving campus safely. They also include tools that empower and support students with various disabilities; apps that set reminders or create to-do checklists for students are a few examples. Being aware of student needs and knowing which assistive technology is both age and need appropriate is an essential part of being a teacher, and it’s a skill we’re helping to cultivate during our supervision hours.
Teacher candidate supervision in transition classes
Special education teacher candidates are also required to participate in transition field experience. Transition field experience guides students through the process of planning for the transitional phase of leaving high school and entering adult life, which is a critical time frame for students with disabilities. Without proper transition support, a student may not know about available post-secondary supports for employment, community living, how to apply to college, or know what to do once they get there.
We want to change that, which is why we also supervise teacher candidates during their transition training. In these programs, teacher candidates help IHECP students figure out what they want to do after they graduate through vocational and adaptive skills assessments. Through shadowing and supervision, they learn how to research and write transition IEPs and provide transition support to students nearing the end of their K-12 careers.
Part of these teacher candidate’s jobs is to help students understand what changes to expect when they enter adulthood. We cover topics like the importance of self-advocacy, how to locate resources and supports you need, and how to communicate needs with the disability service center on campus and adult agency services.
Our relationship with the School of Education
In the last year alone, we’ve had the opportunity to work with nine teacher candidates. Over the last five years, we’ve worked with over 30. IHECP’s total number of hours spent supervising and training students, to date, is almost 900 hours! Our teacher candidates have helped many students transition from high school to higher education, and they have helped us support IHECP students as they navigate their coursework, classes, and capabilities.
IHECP’s work with the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Education isn’t just about mentoring students with disabilities. Nor is it about getting teacher candidates to fulfill their required field experience hours. It goes beyond both. Our work with teacher candidates gives them real, lasting experience in the field that will stick with them after they graduate and as they enter the workforce. Inclusive education starts early, and we're helping to supervise and train the next generation of teachers.