Judy Hills may be gearing up for her first fall semester with the Kansas University School of Education, but she's already familiar with many of its students.
Joining the school in March as the new coordinator of field experiences, her work began long before the school's student teachers, interns and students in the graduate certification program gather for an orientation meeting next week before beginning their field experiences in schools. Their fall placements already have been made.
"I've waded through most of the paperwork," she said. "When fall comes around, I feel confident about the students that we've placed."
She credits Allison McFarland, who served as interim coordinator before Hills took over the job, with helping create a smooth transition.
THIS FALL, approximately 200 KU students will be going into the schools, she said. Student teachers have six-week field experiences, while internships last 14 to 16 weeks. Student teaching is the student's first extended experience in the classroom, where they are in control of the class on a full-time basis. Internships are the students' second extended field experience in control of a classroom.
Students in the graduate certification program usually spend 16 weeks at a school. Each year, the School of Education produces about 150 new teachers, ready to move to the other side of a classroom desk.
The number of students who have completed the teacher certification program has risen steadily for the past few years, she said. Because of growing enrollment, caps have been put in place for the English, social studies and elementary programs, beginning for the 1990-91 class of freshmen, Hills said. Students are admitted into the School of Education when they are juniors.
Hills said those who complete the five-year program are already proving their dedication to the profession. And it's showing in the quality of teachers KU is producing.
"THE QUALITY of our students is really high," Hills said. "So when they hit their fifth year, they're ready."
That extra year gives them more classroom experience, which in turn allows them more time to try out their own teaching style and philosophy, she said.
Students complete their field experiences at schools around the area, including schools in the Lawrence and Topeka districts. Other districts that give KU students experience include Tonganoxie, Ottawa, Eudora, Baldwin, Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley in Overland Park, Olathe, Kansas City, Kan., and Turner. Last spring, approximately 25 different school districts were used by KU for field experiences, she said.
"Most students go to the big three (Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley and Olathe)," Hills said.
In an effort to meet the needs of its students, the school has also accommodated field experiences in other locales including Wichita, Fort Riley and Chicago, she said.
"WHEN STUDENTS have special needs, we really try to accommodate them," she said.
Hills said when she first took over the position, she had to leap into the work of preparing for this fall's field experiences. As coordinator of field experiences, she immediately started pairing school districts and cooperating teachers with students in their appropriate fields. With a slower pace of students this summer, she's had time to do more organizational work around her office on the first floor of Bailey Hall and finish some paperwork.
Her job focuses primarly on linking students and schools, and much of her work requires a computer to see that the students planning to student teach or serve internships meet the requirements before going out for the field experiences.
Before each group of students goes out, it takes five to six weeks to process their field experience request. The process includes, among other things, checking that required courses have been successfully completed, determining the grade-point average in the student's major and minor fields, and determining if appropriate methods courses have been taken, she said.
THE REQUEST is then forwarded to the appropriate district. Then it is up to the district to approve the request.
"Most of the districts are very good, very cooperative," she said.
She spends much of her time in her office, troubleshooting and looking ahead to the next semester and the next batch of student teachers heading out.
"Mostly I work out of my office," she said. "I do work with the schools and the coordinators in the district. They're vital to the success of the program."
She also plans to meet initially with cooperating teachers and will go out into the districts periodically, especially if any snags should arise in any student's field experience.
For most students, the program runs on a cycle. They are student teachers in the fall and serve internships in the following spring, she said. So once spring rolls around, Hills will mostly be working with the same students, setting up more field experiences for them.
AND HILLS knows what they're going through. She received an undergraduate degree in English education at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. While working on a master of arts degree in English at Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, she set up a training program for graduate assistants. She taught as an adjunct instructor at CMSU for four years before joining the KU School of Education.