BPHS senior Noah Ellingsworth recently worked with a group of Chatfield Elementary School students on improving reading skills. He is one of several BPHS students who help teachers at Belle Plaine’s two public elementary schools.
BPHS senior Noah Ellingsworth recently worked with a group of Chatfield Elementary School students on improving reading skills. He is one of several BPHS students who help teachers at Belle Plaine’s two public elementary schools.
They won’t be around for the start of the Belle Plaine School District’s teacher cadet program. But that doesn’t diminish the satisfaction and enjoyment BPHS seniors Elizabeth Johnson, Maxwell Ponath and Noah Ellingsworth get working with children and their teachers.
The three seniors are among the high-schoolers who work as teachers’ assistants in the district’s two elementary schools. They help students with schoolwork and teachers with tasks that would otherwise take the teachers from work helping children learn.
“It’s something new, not just the same thing every day,” Johnson said. “I really enjoy helping kids.”
Ponath enjoys talking and working with the youngsters. He’s learned how to deal with them on a level that helps the younger children maintain and build confidence in themselves. He enjoys the satisfaction of helping children learn. Ponath won’t show them the answers until they have figured out how to solve a challenge.
“It’s cool to build that trust,” he said.
Ellingsworth uses his understanding of communicating with elementary students. His little sister is in first grade. He’s had to grow accustomed to childrens’ energy levels. Being a teacher’s assistant has taught him plenty about working with children.
“The hardest part is explaining things on their level,” he said.
But them something clicks. Johnson recalls the ah-ha moment. She was a fourth-grader and her classroom teacher, Angela Kalal, made the days lessons clear. Eight years later, she watches her former teacher at work.
“It’s so cool watching her with her kids,” she said. “She’s just great with them.”
The proposed teacher cadet program is a more formal undertaking than working as a teachers’ assistant. Students can earn academic credit for the work.
The school board has discussed the proposal at its recent workshop and business meeting.

Teacher Cadets
New next year, the teacher cadet program is intended to be for juniors or seniors who are considering the education or human services career field. It will not replace any of the students’ core classes. It is intended “to provide a real-world, internship-like experience for students while here with us at Belle Plaine Public Schools,” said Margot Hansen, the Belle Plaine School District’s director of curriculum and assessment.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, fewer people are entering the teaching profession. The Learning Policy Institute cites a 30 percent decrease in the number of people planning to be a teacher. More than 25 percent are leaving the profession after three years.
“This is providing opportunity for students who may otherwise have chosen a study hall, a teacher assistant role, or perhaps another elective that may not have been relevant to their future interests,” she said. “Although we certainly have felt the impact of the teacher shortage, this cadet program’s intention has more to do with the real-world opportunities we can and should provide for our students.”
Students accepted to the program will be working directly with a classroom teacher. They will also be attending seminar sessions led by district leaders, with support and resources from surrounding colleges as well. They will also be given some time to shadow other people in our schools to observe careers outside of a general education classroom teacher, like a speech pathologist, instructional tech teacher or some other staff member.
“Some of the seminar topics covered will be student learning styles, classroom management, instructional practices, tech implementation in planning, and of course, a close look at what other careers, and degrees would be available to them in college in the education or human services field,” Hansen said.
Students in the program will attend the seminar sessions, reflect and journal throughout, and develop a simple lesson that can be implemented for the benefit of their students. Cadets in the program will also be sharing their experience with a building principals, school counselor, and Hansen.
“If highly successful, this program will provide our high school students with an authentic understanding and experience in the world of an educator. We believe this experience will provide a jump-start on necessary skills when in college courses and in the real-world,” she said.
The district expects the interaction and support our high school students can provide for classroom teachers will benefit the younger students in these classrooms. High school students will be able to provide support for students by helping facilitate a small group or individuals after a teacher presents a lesson or during an activity.
“Our goal in education is to provide as much of a personalized learning experience as we can and we believe the program benefits both the cadet and the students in their cooperating classrooms in that way,” she said.