Teaching and Learning

Childhood nostalgia is a smile and wave from a librarian, the smell of an old classroom, a picnic table nestled in a playground.

Twice a week, these memories greet TPHS student teacher aids, who say goodbye to their current campus for one of their past.

The TPHS Teaching and Learning program, a class that introduces students to teaching through on-site experience at local elementary and middle schools, is a unique experience for all involved, from the TPHS teacher aids to the primary school students.

Sam Riddle (12) is a teacher aid in a third-grade class at Solana Highlands Elementary School, a campus she called home nearly a decade ago.

“It’s just so weird to go back and be like, ‘Oh, that’s not as long of a walk as I thought it was’ or ‘this teacher isn’t as scary as I thought,’” Riddle said.

While it may have been disorienting at first, a greeting from her old librarian reoriented her to the campus.

Visiting her classroom twice a week to spend a lesson, snack and recess with her students, Riddle is joined by Emmy Macrae (12), another teacher aid at Solana Highlands in a second-grade class.

Like Riddle, Macrae attended Solana Highlands herself, even working with a student aid from a local high school when she was in third grade. Returning to the campus in her last year before graduating, the familiar smell of the campus marked this full-circle moment and brought reflections of her own childhood.

“It’s nice to work with kids one on one because … it’s a fresh perspective on life,” Macrae said. “It’s very optimistic to see the world that they’re going to go into and to see them grow up.”

Not only did Macrae return to her old campus, but she also works with her former elementary school teacher, Christine Murphy, who has partnered with local high schools in teaching programs for more than a decade.

“The positive energy that the high schoolers bring into the classroom and the excitement of the kids, it changes the tone of the classroom,” Murphy said. “It’s a little perk for everybody involved.”

With this warm welcome from their students, TPHS teacher aids are able to observe the classroom environment beyond academics.

“I think [the elementary school students] see a teenager as a … celebrity,” Murphy said.

For Macrae, this celebrity status has earned her the title of a math virtuoso. 

“‘What kind of math do you do?’” Macrae recounted the students asking. “‘Can you do two plus two?’ They think up ‘really crazy’ math questions, but they’re always something random.”

For Riddle, her celebrity status has attracted questions about high school.

“They’ll ask me how my school is going and what it’s like to be in high school and what homework is like,” Riddle said.

Between these questions, there is never an idle moment. The teacher aids lead games on the playground, guide students through worksheets, and grade for the teacher

“I have more appreciation for the thought that goes into every assignment,” Riddle said. 

Lynn Leahy, who teaches the Teaching and Learning class, said this behind-the-scenes look at education is a benefit of the course.

“The only experience that we have from school is when we were in school,” Leahy said. “I think [Teaching and Learning] teaches students a lot about the education system.”

Taking on this new role in the classroom, TPHS students in the Teaching and Learning class spend the beginning of the year familiarizing themselves with learning styles and child development.

“If you demand work from [younger students], they might do it once but they might not do it the next time,” Kameron Scott (12), who works with a third-grade class at Carmel Creek Elementary School, said. “You have to be nice with them and have patience.”

While TPHS students serve their elementary school counterparts, this time in the classroom also is mutually beneficial; multiple student teachers say they have adjusted their own learning patterns since observing how primary school students learn best. 

“I’ve tried to focus a lot more in class,” Macrae said. “I was always like ‘I can be a little off task and still get all my work done.’ But now I … just get to work.”

Most of all, the course provides students with career experience. 

“I have kids who take this class and say ‘I never even want to have kids’ and I have kids who take this class and say ‘This is what I want to do,’” Leahy said, noting that she has seen the course inspire careers in speech pathology and occupational therapy. 

Regardless of whether they plan to return to the classroom after graduation, TPHS teacher aids reflect on their year fondly.

“I could have taken another science class, but I’ve already sat at a desk for seven periods a day for three years,” Scott said. “I wanted to do something active and on my feet and get real-life skills. If you are looking for a unique class, take this class.”

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