OMAHA, Nebraska – During a time when teachers are so desperately needed, Omaha Public Schools has revealed they’ve already hired dozens of their student-teachers to be full-time employees for the upcoming year.
“I think, there’s never been a day where I question like, oh man, I don’t think I can do this anymore,” says Jessie Reyes, a UNO senior graduating this December. Reyes is currently a student-teacher at Buena Vista High School, helping teach English.
“It’s actually been really amazing, I’ve been talking to other teachers, they’ve been giving me insight, and there are so many different perspectives ‘cause everyone’s coming from other schools, middle school, high school, so that’s been really cool too,” Reyes says about her experience so far as a student-teacher.
This year, Omaha Public Schools has a higher-than-usual number of student teachers in the district, with just over 100.
Already, nearly 40 of those students have signed contracts to work with the district full-time for the upcoming year. Reyes is one of those students.
“Honestly I wasn’t expecting to like OPS so much, but yeah just the support here, and I just love bonding with the students and that type of stuff and it really just helped me decide that yeah, I could see myself here.”
The difficulty of teaching has been exacerbated by COVID over the last few years, and other OPS educators say with so many teachers leaving the industry, the student-teachers like Reyes bring back a sense of hope.
“I think it helps remind everybody what our ‘why’ is, the reason we’re in this is for our kids, and when we can get those student teachers in the building, they can be working with students, they can develop those relationships, it takes them back to their why and really empowers them to stay in the profession,” says Carrie Carr, Principal of Buena Vista High School.
The experience of student teaching isn’t just for the student, either. It’s also for the teachers they’re paired with.
“It’s a lot of pressure not going to lie, but it’s also very rewarding,” says Melissa Foley, the English teacher Reyes is working with this year. “Being in it for 10 years, sometimes you need fresh ideas coming in, sometimes you need a younger generation to come in as well, so I learn new things from her just as much, and for me it’s about wanting to grow as a teacher, being able to have a student teacher in there, makes me very aware of what I’m doing and how I’m teaching and how that affects not only the students but her as well.”
Reyes says the $9,000 student teaching stipend was an added bonus to the job which she enjoys so much.
“It has definitely made the experience so much better knowing that I can just focus on school and not have to worry about financial issues.”
District officials are hopeful that more student teachers will commit to working with the district as the school year continues.