Many Harvard seniors consider graduation to mark the end of their classroom days--at least for a while.
But a small group of students sees Commencement as a transition from student to classroom teacher and, they hope, as the beginning of a long career.
This June, eight graduating seniors will not only obtain a bachelor's degree, but will also have finished the requirements needed to become middle and secondary public school teachers throughout the nation through Harvard's Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP).
"It's been the most challenging part of my college career," says Kristen L. Brunner '94. "But at the same time it's been the best experience I've had at Harvard."
Since UTEP was established at Harvard in 1985 approximately 150 students have become certified teachers after completing the program, which is run through the Graduate School of Education.
In addition to finishing all their concentration requirements for an undergraduate degree, Brunner and other students in UTEP, took two classes at the Graduate School of Education. They also spent 60 hours working with a mentor teacher at an area high school.
The students then spent 12 weeks this semester student-teaching at area high schools, assuming full teaching responsibilities for three high school classes. They prepared their own lesson plans, grading scales and weekly tests.
Brunner, a biology concentrator, taught science classes at Lexington High School. She calls UTEP "the experience of a lifetime."
UTEP students say one of the most challenging parts of the program is finding time to study their Harvard courses and also prepare materials and plans for classes they teach at their local high schools.
Chris M. Andre '94 says he spent about 10 hours each day preparing lesson plans and student-teaching at South Boston High School.
"It's difficult. It's like having a fulltime job and being a full-time student," Andre says.
Ramesh R. Gajraj '94 taught at Fenway High School, an urban school near Charlestown with a mainly low-income student body. He says his UTEP experience changed his perceptions about American public education.
"They do a tremendous job."
Unlike the legal or medical fields, where jobcandidates receive years of classroom preparation,aspiring young teachers develop their ownprofessional style through observation andexperience, says Rob W. Traver, UTEP programadministrator.