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Project MOVEMOS highlights NMSU College of Education increase in internship hours

Movemos. In Spanish, it means "we move." At the New Mexico State University College of Education, it is "MOVing Elementary Methods On-Site."

NMSU Project Movemos student Haley Harper reads to students in Janette Garcia's second-grade class as part of her internship at Hermosa Heights Elementary School. (NMSU photo by Gabriella Ferrari)
Project Movemos student Haley harper reads to second grade students.
At the New Mexico State University College of Education, Project MOVEMOS it is "MOVing Elementary Methods On-Site," with a practicum-based program that places teacher candidates in the classroom full time and integrates traditional methods courses. (NMSU photo by Gabriella Ferrari)

The college's field-based pre-service teacher education program, Project MOVEMOS, replaces the two semesters prior to student teaching of traditional curriculum with a faculty-supervised internship and integrated content and education courses.

Four days a week, the undergraduate teacher candidates intern in an elementary classroom. They assist the teacher, observe the students and teach both small and large groups of students while a member of the NMSU faculty is on-site supervising. The students also attend teaching seminars for their methods courses taught by two NMSU faculty members, one of whom is at the internship site.

"What I think is unique about this program - because most teacher-ed programs place students in the field - is that on-site supervisors provide immediate support in case a lesson doesn't go well," said James O'Donnell, interim associate dean of the College of Education. "They're there to help support the intern."

He said the structure of this pre-student teaching practicum allows students to apply and discuss the relationship between the academic-based instruction and their real-world experiences. He said it also provides students with multiple sources of input and counsel in order to maximize their learning experiences each day they are in the classroom.

"You learn so much about how students learn that a textbook has a hard time describing," said Haley Harper, a Project MOVEMOS student who interns at Hermosa Heights Elementary School. "You can read about something all day long, but until you are in the classroom you have no idea what to expect."

For Prairey Walkling, a MOVEMOS graduate student, it has helped her to know what to expect, what responsibilities there are, understanding the workload, supporting students social and emotional learning and being aware of what's going on in the classroom.

"It's helpful in the fact that it's closer to a real teacher classroom," Abigail Blount, a MOVEMOS intern, said. "You see them as they grow and learn."

Project MOVEMOS began as a solution to over-enrollment in the elementary education program with Roberto Gallegos, then head of elementary education, leading the on-site instruction. Gallegos, now retired, still serves as an on-site supervisor.

In the past 11 years, more than 300 students have completed this program. O'Donnell said he has seen first-hand how much more prepared and successful the students are during their own student teaching because the interns already have a foundation of more than 300 classroom hours. It also allows them to "easily transition into their role as a student teacher, allowing them to take an independent and proactive role in the classroom."

"I love this program. It is such a beautiful opportunity that most are not given," Harper said.

"I don't think I would be prepared for my own teaching experience had I not been in this program," said Sabrina Verdoza, a MOVEMOS student going into bilingual elementary education.

Because of the success of MOVEMOS, the College of Education also has increased the number of practicum hours in the secondary education program and developed another on-site teacher education program in bilingual/TESOL education. The program has most recently been extended to students seeking dual licensure in elementary and special education. The on-site programs are coordinated through both the Las Cruces and Gadsden districts.

"Our national accreditation body recently called for more field-based programs because they, too, see the importance of teacher candidates having increased experience prior to joining the workforce," said Michael Morehead, dean of the College of Education. "We at New Mexico State are proud to have an established program that helps our students be more successful, not only during their student teaching but throughout their entire careers."

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the accrediting body for New Mexico State University, has supported the new initiative to "turn teacher education upside down by revamping programs to place clinical practice at the center of teacher preparation" after seeking the recommendation from an expert panel on improving the quality of teachers.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning said teacher performance should be a shared responsibility between P-12 schools and higher education.

"A clinically based approach to teacher education will give aspiring teachers the opportunity to integrate theory with practice, to develop and test classroom management and pedagogical skills, to hone their use of evidence in making professional decisions about practice, and to understand and integrate the standards of their professional community," the report said.

Aside from how it aids the development of undergraduates, Morehead said this practicum supports the education of children in the Las Cruces community.

"Our ongoing partnership with local school districts allows our students to act as additional eyes and ears in the classroom and enhance hands-on educational opportunities for the children," Morehead said.

"Mostly our children benefit," said Anne Smith, teacher at Hermosa Heights Elementary. "A lot of children have different needs, but they can always use extra attention, and people who truly care about them and want what's best for them."

Through the program, teachers also gain assistance in classroom management and the preparation of daily lesson plans. Morehead says it also gives them "an opportunity to discuss their own work, evaluate different educational methods and actively participate with the next generation of teachers, which in turn aids in their own professional development."

The College of Education also requires clinical hours as part of its other degree programs. For example, students pursuing their education specialist degree in school psychology work with children in the Las Cruces and Gadsden school districts. The master's in mental health and school counseling combines academics with a practicum, advanced practicum and an internship, with clinical hours on top of those three experiences. The kinesiology and athletic training programs include internships: the former at local rehabilitative clinics and the latter with NMSU and area athletes. And graduate students in the NMSU communications disorders program provide all the services at the Edgar R. Garret Speech and Hearing Center with faculty supervision.