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The Ed Rising club started at Okawville High School in January. Superintendent Keith Senior asked English teacher Rachel Fuhrman to start the club and Fuhrman will lead it. Ed Rising is a national program for prospective educators.
“I thank (Rachel) for doing this and taking this head-on. When I approached her, she was excited and I’m excited too,” he said.
Fuhrman said 13 students already signed up for the club as of January 25. She said some of the students who have already signed up aren’t necessarily thinking about going into teaching and she has one student who really wants to be a psychologist, but is not sure what grade level, so Furhman told the student this would be a great opportunity to see which grade level she works well with.
“It aims to help better prepare students who are considering a career in the educational field. That’s not just teaching. That’s if somebody is interested in being in an admin position and if somebody is interested in a special ed program, they can get help there. Even occupational therapists, speech pathologists and curriculum developers. There are a lot of opportunities with this. I’ve been trying to encourage other students who are considering going into other careers to join because it can help with communication skills and resume construction,” she said.
Senior said other districts started this club in January as well and found benefits to that so they could get out the wrinkles a little bit now and next August, it’ll be a full blown club. He said it’s not in the contract yet, but he plans on asking the union to add this as a stipend in the contract just like other club stipends such as the Spanish Club.
Fuhrman said she has already reached out to teachers who are doing this at their schools at Frankfort, Vienna and Mt. Vernon. She said she was told by these teachers that West Washington County School District is a step ahead because it’s a K-12 district.
“They’re jealous of us because we have so many opportunities to shadow teachers, create lesson plans and student teach those lesson plans in different classes,” she said.
Senior said last year the district graduated six teachers out of 42, which is a huge percentage for a small school district. He said being a unit district offers a very unique opportunity for kids to continually go down to the other end and work with the younger students.
“Tricia Schleifer’s student leadership team is phenomenal. She does an awesome job. They volunteer a lot of hours,” he said.
Fuhrman said because of an Illinois grant, the district is able to get the curriculum for free and already has a major resource that it could use when they develop this club even more and get together with meetings. She said they already have a $500 scholarship they can offer to a future teacher from the Egyptian Region of the Illinois Principals Association.
“(The student fee) $10-$20 but grants have really been helping. This year students would have been able to join for free,” she said.
Fuhrman said they have talked about getting guest speakers. She said one of her best friends is a speech pathologist and she offered to be a guest speaker. She said there are many resources from the teachers she has reached out to such as a list of other guest speakers, as well as a list of activities they could do.
Fuhrman said the club offers conferences and competitions on many levels: local, regional, state and national. She said conferences help connect and network with other people and there are going to be some keynote speakers at these conferences that students can learn more from.
“The competitions are performance-based and they’re used to demonstrate knowledge, skills and leadership in the educational field like creating lesson plans and constructing a resume. There are a bunch of competitions these students can be a part of when we get this going a little bit more,” she said. “It’s offered at different levels including dual credit. We can’t do that here as of now, so as of now it’s an extracurricular club.”
Fuhrman said they already have a possible field trip they could go to at SWIC because SWIC is having an educational day where students can learn more about their educational and early childhood programs in March.
“We’re thinking about going there and seeing what SWIC has to offer for them,” she said.
Senior said they’re going to pay for a bus to go to SWIC and they do that for the Spanish Club and Art Club. He said Spanish and Art Club have fundraisers, but Ed Rising will not most likely.
Senior said a fellow superintendent, Charley Cass, did a podcast called the Teacher Podcast where he and his daughter who is becoming a teacher walk through 10 episodes. He said she talks about when she was in high school and there was a club called Ed Rising.
“It’s to make sure that you’re getting your own kids to come back and be your teachers. There are a lot of people from Okawville teaching in Okawville. We have a major shortage in everything in education. The way to fix that shortage is things like this and getting kids hooked early. We’re fortunate here, but we’ve got this opportunity,” he said.
Senior said there’s a competition on how to interview and how to write a resume in both FFA and Ed Rising. He said the kids that aren’t getting captured by the FFA program could be getting captured by Furhman’s program.