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Work-based learning programs are one way we’re preparing students for their future. There are several ways to engage in work-based learning, including participating in APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience) Programs

The long-standing Introduction to Education program is among the dozens of APEX courses. It offers classes with dual college credit for students interested in becoming a teacher. Instructor Amanda Gaul says it’s a rewarding experience. 

“Our students are excited to learn,” Gaul says. “They are energetic. They see the challenges in their classrooms, and we process through that. But it doesn’t deter them. They are true gems. It’s a privilege to work alongside them and learn alongside them as we continue to try to grow our own and help enable them to do what they want to do — fulfill their dreams if they decide to go into education.”

Participants complete two practicum experiences — one placement of their choice, the other outside their preferred area. These classroom exposures give our students an advantage once they go to college.

Student Cody Holcomb’s first practicum experience this year was in RaeAnn Strack’s first grade at Woodland Hills Elementary. Strack sees the value of hosting high school students in her classroom.

“The true learning happens after you’ve connected with kiddos, and they trust you,” Strack says. “Those are the things they don’t teach in a college classroom. It’s those things you have to learn from being with kids and interacting with them. I think this program is important for them to be able to do that before they go to college and decide that’s what they want to do with the rest of their lives.”

Holcomb says he doesn’t think first grade is his calling, but he is considering a role in a secondary school.

“In the future, I want to be a speech and theatre teacher, and that’s because I’m a person who has loved doing speech and theatre,” Holcomb says. “A lot of my speech and theatre teachers have been the most amazing teachers who’ve made such a big impact in my life. I want to carry that on with students in the future.”    

The program also creates an open door for students to come back and teach in Waukee once they finish their education. About a dozen teachers who took Intro to Education are currently serving as teachers for the district.

The future is bright in Waukee, and we’re excited to watch student career dreams become reality!