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'Inquiry fair' highlights teachers, candidates

On April 7, 115 teacher candidates, mentor teachers, faculty and administrators participated in the first Mentor Teacher Recognition and Teacher Inquiry Fair at the Athens Community Career Academy. More than 70 UGA teacher candidates in the early childhood and middle grades programs shared inquiry projects in a gallery walk format and talked with UGA faculty and mentor teachers and administrators from the Clarke, Morgan and Barrow County school systems.

MarTeisha Ashley and Hannah Attaway The Office of School Engagement and Professional Development School District sponsor annual receptions to honor and recognize the contributions of mentor teachers in the preparation of UGA teacher candidates. Since the Professional Development School District has been increasingly focused on developing shared inquiry through the partnership work, this year faculty decided to expand the recognition event by giving UGA students an opportunity to share inquiry projects they have been doing in local classrooms.

"The event provides an enriching experience for teacher candidates to present their inquiry poster projects with teachers, administrators, and faculty," said Bob Capuozzo, early childhood education program faculty member and one of the event organizers. To see all of the partners in the partnership interacting was in itself a success." During the program part of the event, Clarke County Superintendent Demond Means reflected on Martin Luther King Jr.'s death 50 years ago and encouraged teacher candidates to persist in becoming educators.

"You all are the keepers of the dream," he said. He also thanked mentor teachers for being "dream keepers," given all they do to help children succeed and to foster the growth of the next generation of teachers.

UGA College of Education dean Denise Spangler thanked teachers for opening their classrooms up to UGA students and mentoring UGA students in addition to the many demands put on them as teachers every day. Three teacher candidates also gave remarks thanking mentor teachers for inspiring them and supporting them through the ups and downs of student teaching and giving them the tools they need to become successful teachers.

Halona Chai and Monica Austin Early childhood education students displayed posters that represented inquiry investigations they had completed in pairs during their "Block 1" first semester of their program while spending two days a week in pre-K placements. Projects were wide-ranging, including "Musical instruments spark peer interactions," "Discovering dinosaurs," and "Our healthy bodies."

While in their early childhood education placement at the school district's Early Learning Center, Sarah Carter and Madison Clayborn investigated career play. They encouraged pre-K students to "try out" different careers each day by dressing up as fire fighters, dentists, etc. "Play prepares kids for adulthood," they said. "It was fun to see the kids get excited about potential future careers."

Middle grades student inquiry projects ranged from "Mass incarceration and its effect on young adolescents" to "How can we introduce math and science students to STEM careers?"

Taera OConnor's inquiry project centered on why it is important for teachers to include novels that represent students' minority groups in middle grades language arts classrooms. "I remembered that when I was an adolescent, I didn't want to read books where I couldn't see myself in the characters," she said. "So I created a resource guide that includes adolescent literature that reflects many different cultural backgrounds."

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