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Brittany Bowen, 17, stands in front of her Calvert High School classmates presenting a lesson plan she developed for her first-grade classroom.

The lesson includes illustrating describing words and understanding place values in numbers. Each activity physically involves her classmates as they describe M&Ms and use markers to demonstrate place value.

Bowen is part of a new program for high school students interested in majoring in education in college and becoming teachers.

Students in Calvert County Public Schools interested in becoming teachers when they grow up are getting a head start with the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program. The four-course program, part of the Career and Technology Academy, features classes that begin in a student’s sophomore year and ends with an internship in a county elementary or middle school during senior year, according to Mark Wilding, director of the CTA. This year’s graduating seniors will be the first group to complete the program.

“It is an awesome opportunity for students to get a feel for what it is like to have a career,” said Denise Miles, the TAM instructor at Northern High School. “Regardless of whether they go into education, they can put this on their resume and know they really accomplished something and made a difference while in high school.”

The program consists of about 40 students, 10 from each high school. Almost all are female — there are two male students in the program.

“[The program] gives [students] a multi-faceted look at the field, from a psychological perspective, a current events perspective and hot-button issues perspective and hands-on application of the internship,” Wrenn Heisler, the TAM instructor at Patuxent High, said. “By the time they go off to college, they are certain it is a field they are interested in because they have a taste of every aspect of what it takes to be a teacher.”

In addition to the internship, students take preparatory classes as electives in high school to better prepare them for the field. Courses include human growth and development, teaching as a profession and foundations of curriculum and instruction, Wilding said.

The program also features an opportunity for students to earn scholarship money and free credits for college. With the completion of all courses with a “B” average or higher and acceptance into the education program at Towson University, Coppin State University, Stevenson University or Salisbury University, students may qualify for college credits and/or scholarship money. Towson University offers three credits and a $1,000 per year scholarship. Coppin State University offers three credits and a monetary scholarship. Stevenson and Salisbury offer three college credits for program completion.

For Bowen and her classmates, this provides another incentive to participate in the program. Seniors Katie Wilding and Lindsey Kilpatrick both plan on attending Towson University in the fall and taking advantage of the credit and scholarship opportunity. All students will begin their first student teaching class this Thursday and the class at Calvert High is excited to begin.

“I want to teach music, so I’m going to teach [the class] a song,” Katie Wilding said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that grow and turn into something I did.”

“You are the reason why the kid understands something,” Brooke Bailey, 17, said. “Knowing you are the reason is pretty cool.”

As the class explained why they are looking forward to working with their internship classes, their instructor, Deanna Cwalina, smiled and said she felt the same way about her students.

“I have known most of them since they were sophomores, and I have watched them grow up and mature and I have watched a lot of them figure out what they want to teach,” Cwalina said.

Cwalina said another beneficial aspect to the program is the support the students receive from the instructors and each other.

“We are a tight-knit group of people and we have been really close over the past three years, and I have seen us all grow,” Rebecca Forrester, a senior at Huntingtown, said. “It is like a mini family where we can bounce ideas off each other and we are comfortable with each other to offer criticism.”

For Andrew Bott, 16, a junior at Patuxent High School, his experience in the program has been “life changing.”

“I’ve seen what you have to do to become a teacher, and if you want to be a teacher, you have to love your job because you are going to be spending the rest of your life caring for kids that are not your own,” Bott said.

Bott sees teaching as more of a lifestyle than a job. After growing up without a strong father figure, he said he is thinking about teaching elementary school children because he believes “all kids deserve a father figure” in their lives. After having multiple teachers affect his life in a positive way, Bott said he is looking forward to being that for someone else.

“They have this responsibility and feel like they are part of something big,” Miles said of her students. “I think that is rare for high school students.”

snewman@somdnews.com