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Brady Butler, Director
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Pittsburgh, July 23, 2008 The La Roche College Special Education Mentoring Course – a program now required for elementary education and special education students – began its third year in the Seneca Valley School District in Harmony, Pa., in spring 2008. It has been hailed a success by teachers and participating schools alike. Tracy Valenti, assistant superintendent for Seneca, said this was “one of the best programs I’ve ever experienced!”

The Special Education Mentoring Course is a mentoring and practicum program designed to help student teachers, pre-student teachers, and teachers seeking certification in special education/continuing education to have an applied “hands on” experience in the classroom.

Student teachers are required to create a portfolio, lesson plan, case study, and a weekly journal as part of a two-hour seminar every other week to help them improve their level of understanding and skills, with a realistic experiential comprehension of special education in the school setting. The professor meets with the students to discuss and guide the students regarding implementation and understanding of the various IEP and/or behavior interventions observed in the classrooms. The students must complete 8.5-hour sessions in the classroom with a Mentoring teacher. Upon completion, student teachers earn three credits for this class.

Ten La Roche student teachers participated in this program last semester in the Seneca Valley School District. Other schools and sites have been involved in the past; it varies each semester. Those schools include Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, North Allegheny in Wexford, and The Watson Institute in Sewickley.

One of the participants – Kristin Campbell, a La Roche elementary education major entering her junior year – was able to expand on her hands-on involvement. “I had a wonderful experience. I got to see firsthand what special education classrooms involve. The teachers and students at Seneca Valley were so friendly. The teachers were so helpful in giving as much information as they could from their own personal experiences.”

Kristin and other student teachers tapped into their own personal experiences when they suggested to faculty at La Roche that a program be created to help them better prepare for student teaching. The La Roche program was implemented in part because some students noted they didn’t feel very comfortable about going into student teaching with minimal experience.

“Students need a stable beginning in student teaching, and they told us they weren’t feeling prepared and their nerves were getting the best of them. This course was designed to ease that worry and give students a solid start in their teaching careers,” said Sister Rita Adams, CDP, M.S., assistant director of Teacher Education and coordinator of Special Education at La Roche. “We believe this program is working because of positive experiences such as Kristin’s at Seneca Valley.”

For more information on this and other education programs, interested people may visit the La Roche College website:

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