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Program Lets Teens Learn as They Teach : Education: A program at Cal State Dominguez Hills aims at attracting minority students to the field.

December 06, 1990|ANTHONY MILLICAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoang Bui learned something about teaching recently: First you have to get your students' attention.

Bui, a sophomore at Gardena High School, faced 10 fidgety grade-school pupils in a classroom at Cal State Dominguez Hills on a recent Saturday morning. His assignment was to quiz the students about their knowledge of the solar system, but the youngsters were more interested in talking to each other.

"OK, you guys," Bui finally said. "Pay attention."

The students settled down and Bui got them to answer questions such as how many planets are in the solar system and how far is the Earth from the sun.

Bui is one of 34 high school students who are getting a firsthand look at teaching careers through a program at Cal State Dominguez Hills that aims to attract minority students to the field.

The students, from five high schools, take their turns behind a teacher's lectern every Saturday and instruct area elementary schoolchildren in math and science.

Joe Aguerrebere, university coordinator of the program, dubbed the Future Teacher Institute, said the students' interest in teaching careers is stimulated by "whetting their appetite" with hands-on experience.

The students learn to plan lessons and are critiqued by three professional staff members. A central component of the 10-week program, Aguerrebere said, is the cooperative teaching approach. Teams of five future teachers are formed and each member is assigned a specific classroom role--such as observer, teacher or assistant--which is rotated. Each class is composed of 10 selected pupils, grades four through six.

The high school students receive a $20 stipend for each Saturday's work.

The institute is one of three programs the university runs as part of the Pool of Recruitable Teachers project. The project, which initially included five programs, was first funded in 1987 through a three-year, $270,000 grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York, said Judson Taylor, dean of the Dominguez Hills School of Education and one of the founders of the program. Earlier this year, Carnegie awarded the project $100,000 for each of the next two years to be divided among the institute and the two other programs still in existence.

"It's been very successful," Aguerrebere said of the institute, now in its fourth year.

Taylor said follow-up questionnaires of the program's participants now attending college showed that 50% still plan to become teachers. In its first three years, about 177 high school students completed the program.

Because California's ethnic student population has grown dramatically, Aguerrebere said, there is an urgent need to recruit minority group members into teaching careers.

"We have a teaching population that has not changed very much," Aguerrebere said.

Aida Barrera, president of Telemar Communications Inc., a Texas-based educational media company, called the Dominguez Hills program "fantastic."

Barrera observed the program in April, 1989, as part of a project with the National Education Assn. and Texas State Teachers Assn. to gather information to develop a similar program in San Antonio, Tex..

"There are other programs of cross-age tutoring in other subjects, but they (Dominguez Hills) are among the leaders in doing this in regard to actual teaching," Barrera said. "It gives the kids the hands-on experience to see what it is like to teach a subject. . . . I think it works very well."

The institute's participating high schools--Banning, Carson, Gardena, Dominguez in Compton and Jordan in Watts--recruit for the Cal State program by encouraging members of their future teacher clubs and college preparatory classes to apply. The students are chosen based on grade-point average in a particular area of teaching interest, an essay and the recommendation of a high school teacher.

Participation is not restricted to minority students. About 71% of the high school students in the program are Latino, 15% are Asian, 12% are African-American and 2% are Anglo, according to Aguerrebere.

Charlotte Dudley, who founded the institute along with Taylor and then-Dominguez Hills English teacher Jenny Bailey, said the program is extremely popular with the grade-school students and parents.

"The little ones, I'll ask them how they are doing and they'll say 'I'm fine. I'm going to college today,' " Dudley said, adding that the program is a source of pride for the youngsters.

The high school students, she said, are extremely motivated.

"When you think about it, these are high school kids giving up a Saturday to come here," said Dudley, who is a teacher at Gardena High School. "For high school kids, it's a real sacrifice."

Principals in participating elementary schools neighboring the campus--Annalee, Leapwood, Ambler, Amestoy and Broadacres--assist in the selection of the grade-school pupils. Typically, there are more than 400 applications for the 60 to 75 positions available to elementary school students each semester, according to Taylor. Selection is based on the students' academic need.

Parents of the children enrolled in the program are offered a class in parenting through the institute.

Genet Clemmons, whose daughter Nesanet is one of the elementary school students, said she signed up for the parenting course because of the valuable information provided.

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