As a principal, I valued all my staff who supported the students and kept the school running smoothly. The backbones of many classrooms, however, I came to realize, were the educational assistants. Required to have an associate degree, many are just shy of their educational goals and are in the assistant role because they love the students and have an unfulfilled desire to be a teacher.
Leading small groups, providing interventions and supporting students with one-on-one tutoring, educational assistants have received on the job training that most yearlong student teachers have not received, but the financial reality of an assistant’s wage prevents most from pursuing the end goal of ever leading their own classroom.
I recently saw Carol Wolfe endorse a program called Grow Your Own. Much like E.F. Hutton, when Carol speaks, you should listen, because my respect for Carol runs years longer than a lot of my own memories. Carol’s experience as an educator is unrivaled by many as she has served schools in both the suburban and urban environment, still meeting with her educator friends weekly. She has worked as teacher and literacy coach, serving students and teachers her entire career. “I always loved the students. I love teachers and helping them was my goal. In turn, they would help their students.” Carol retired early to spend remaining years with husband, Hugh, before his recent passing.
I know it seems to be a problem that none of us stay retired but each motivation is unique, so I asked Carol what brought her out of retirement to venture into working with this program she was so excited about.
She said her friend Stephen Wright was working at LMU in a leadership role and told her about a job supervising interns. She said, “I was nervous, because one of the reasons I was happy to retire early was the fact that they had turned my job as “teacher helper” into more of an administrative position. As it turned out, I was able to use this new position to encourage new teachers and give them ideas and materials to enhance their teaching.”
The part I love about this program is the fact that it takes the financial burden of becoming a teacher off the adult student. Carol says, “The Grow Your Own program is just a great chance for some people who are already working in their county. They get their tuition, books, etc. through a grant. I am so very impressed with all these students that I’ve visited during this year. They work at a full-time job for their schools, and then have to schedule 6 evaluations with me. Plus, many of them are parents, and I know they are pulled in many directions, but they want to teach.” The students are paid assistants in their respective schools.
I was able to connect with Joel Bailey, one of Carol’s interns. He said, “My time at Lincoln Memorial University has been special! Great professors that hold you accountable, and are there for you along the way. Tough but purposeful course work that has challenged me to think outside the box to be not only a great educator but a person of substance and character as well. This Grow Your Own program has challenged me to find ways to get the absolute best out of the future students I will encounter. I’ve been blessed with a great cohort group that has stuck together through this process, and a field supervisor in Carol Wolfe that has been so supportive and understanding.”
It is good to know that when Carol continues to speak, there are many who are still getting to listen to her wise advice.
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