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Education Majors Sound out Success with Experiential Learning

Published: November 22, 2010
 From working with film production crews to advocating for children's rights in the courtroom, the opportunity to put academics into action can mean the difference in professional success.

"It's true in any profession but especially in teaching," said Merrie Tankersley, clinical education director for UT's department of education . "Teaching is something you have to experience and learn first hand. Everyone is different, and you have to know how to adapt to each."

Tankersley said the 140 undergraduate students enrolled in the elementary and secondary education major at UT spend one day a week with students at DeSoto Elementary School in Tampa, which has a large non-English speaking population.

All Florida education graduates must be trained in teaching English to speakers of other languages. By spending time with the students at DeSoto, the UT students are refining their teaching abilities. But Dr. Tony Erben, chairman of the education department, said it goes deeper than that.

"It's transformative," Erben said. "Our students feel they are making a difference in these kids' lives."

The partnership with DeSoto has been ongoing for a decade and has included holiday parties where the UT students hand out donated gifts to each child. Since 2007, UT education majors have been paired with families through the Florida Center for Refugees and Survivors of Torture, which helps refugee families in their transition to American life. An annual international trip is offered for students to practice teaching English, and students work on literacy skills with homeless families at the nonprofit Metropolitan Ministries.

"It's about giving them all these experience so they know how to be inclusive in the classroom," Erben said.

Inspired by one of their own, the UT education department, in conjunction with education honor society Kappa Delta Pi and working with the Central Asia Institute , are raising $50,000 to build a school and fund a three-year teacher salary in the remote northern regions of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Mye'Lung Choy '11, an Army veteran who has served two tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, was redeployed to Afghanistan at the end of May. Erben said the effort to build this school was inspired by Choy's experiences while serving in the Army, and it's just one more way UT students are getting real-world experience.

To participate in the school-construction effort, contact Erben at (813) 257-3414 or .

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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