Out-of-state teaching interns find home away from home at HISD

UNI interns Mitchel Dierickx and Kari Kahl pose in front of the Harvard ES marquee.

UNI interns Kari Kahl (left) and Mitchel Dierickx are interning at Harvard ES.

More than two dozen aspiring teachers from the Midwest are getting a taste of big-city education this week, and that experience may well lead them to careers in HISD.

Twenty-six seniors from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) are working with teachers and students at nine different HISD schools during the day and staying with district administrators at night. The program is coordinated by HISD Officer of Human Capital Jeff McCanna.

“This is a win-win for everybody involved,” said McCanna, who launched the program 10 years ago while working for Aldine ISD. “The interns get to find out about HISD, our students get another set of hands to work with them, and the district gets exposure to potential new hires. It’s a huge commercial for us, and kind of like an avalanche. It starts somewhat slowly, but over time, gets bigger and bigger.”

UNI interns Mitchel Dierickx and Kari Kahl have been working with Jennifer Escalante’s first-grade class and Graciela Uribe’s third-grade class, respectively, at Harvard Elementary School. They described their experiences there as “so fun” that they would definitely consider applying to HISD once they are certified.

“It’s a completely different experience from schools in Iowa,” Kahl said, “but they’ve made us feel so at home here. HISD has a great support system, and I like the inquiry-based learning. We ask the students questions, and instead of having blocks of time for different subjects, everything is integrated.”

As a UNI graduate himself, Chief Elementary Curriculum and Development Officer Lance Menster finds the intern program particularly meaningful. He is playing host to Kahl and Dierickx this week, and he also participated in the program last fall.

“It’s incredibly exciting to host students from a university that produces teachers with a track record of success in an environment that’s very different from the one they grew up in,” Menster said. “It gives them the opportunity to practice student teaching in an urban environment, experience culture and life in a big city, and work with master teachers who are accomplished in their craft and getting great results every single day. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to recruit potential teachers down the road. UNI is producing outstanding new teachers, and we can showcase all the great work that’s happening in HISD.”

Interns have also been working this week at DeChaumes, Kennedy, Memorial, Oak Forest, Sinclair, and Tijerina elementary schools, as well as Garden Oaks Montessori and the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan.