NEW PALESTINE — Imagine being a high school student making the decision to become a teacher and already having a place to do your student teaching, get a letter of recommendation and possibly a teaching job once college courses are completed.
That’s the opportunity now facing all New Palestine High School students who are planning to go into the field of education.
Officials with New Palestine High School recently held a special “Teacher Signing Day” for those students who are already committed to becoming a classroom educator. All 11 of the NPHS seniors met in the school’s gym for a letter-of-intent-type signing day.
“Seeing all those athletic signings happening all the time on social media is really cool, so we thought let’s do something like that for our students going into education,” Principal Jim Voelz said. “We’re committed to our future educators and really wanted to show that.”
Each of the 11 future teachers received a photo with Southern Hancock superintendent Lisa Lantrip, NPHS principal Jim Voelz, social studies and econ teacher Nancy Workman, who is also the NPHS Classroom Teachers Association representative, as well as each student’s selection for their teacher of influence and the student’s family member.
Workman said the students who are planning to go into teaching know they have a large number of teachers they can call on for help and encouragement.
“What makes a program like this so valuable is that it encourages students in a profession that we know so much about and have dedicated our lives to,” she said. “This program continues to celebrate these students beyond these walls and campus.”
New Palestine officials have provided the foundation for students from kindergarten to high school, Workman noted. This type of continued support gives the students professional opportunities as well.
“We are working alongside these students, celebrating them and cheering them on in their decision to go into the educational profession,” Workman said.
The students, Barbara Baumgartner, Megan Bell, Kylie Ennis, Maya Hobbs, Taylor Kelley, Emma Mann, Lauren Myers, Emily Santelik, Caitlyn Urrutia, Luke Whitaker and Stephanie Wilson all took part in the signing day event.
Wilson plans to become an elementary school teacher, her mother Donna VanderWal Wilson said, maybe even become a kindergarten teacher.
“She’s so good with kids,” her mother said. “She will be a great teacher.”
Each student is guaranteed an opportunity to complete their student teaching or practicums in a Southern Hancock school, a job interview after they graduate, and a letter of recommendation from the district, public information director Wes Anderson said.
“We are working with colleges to create a graduation pathway through the Early College program for students to knock out some of their college courses here to get them back to us sooner,” Anderson said. “That process is still ongoing.”
Voelz came up with the idea of a “Teacher Signing Day” when discussing incentives for students with Lantrip. He wanted to find a way to show future educators that district officials are fully behind their decision to go into the field of education. The high school currently has at least 10 former NPHS graduates teaching at the school and would like to keep attracting more new teachers to fit in with their seasoned staff.
“Next year we have former student Nick Brickens coming in, so we already know we’ve got a former student who we know and respect coming back, and that’s what we want to do,” Voelz said.
Brickens is excited about coming back to NPHS, too. He sent out a tweet last week noting he’s been hired to teach Physical Education and coach for the Dragons next year.
The Teacher Signing Day was so much fun, school officials plan to develop these type of signing day events and celebrate those who are also going into the workforce right after high school graduation as an electrician or an apprentice in some other trade field.
“We want to branch this out to let our students know how proud we are of them,” Voelz said. “Athletics is always such a big thing in the media, and that’s a good thing, but why not do a shoutout in other areas too.”