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Student WEA Gives Future Educators 'a Leg Up'

By Ryan Hurley
WEAC PR/Communications summer intern

"Student WEA really gives you a more realistic look at schools," said Amy Mangan, a first-year math teacher at South Milwaukee Middle School. "I learned more than just the terminology; I learned how to run a classroom."

Mangan, who was the UW-Green Bay chapter president before she graduated in 2002, credits Student WEA for building relationships that she says she can still rely on if she needs help in the classroom.

Amy Mangan
A.J. Heroux

Student WEA provides experiences and information that give an advantage to college students studying to become teachers. Student WEA provides college students with a view of teaching in public schools that extends past the college classroom and into the professional field.

Being able to network with people in the profession gives students an opportunity to build relationships and learn the ins and outs of the job. Student WEA is also an opportunity to build relationships with almost 2,000 student members who have the same interests in teaching and could be future colleagues.

"I've met so many people from across the state who have given me so many great ideas – not only for Student WEA activities, but ideas that I will be able to use once I get into the classroom," said A.J. Heroux, Student WEA president. "By being involved, it has really given me and the rest of the members in Student WEA a leg up."

Heroux is going into his fourth year at UW-Whitewater. He is majoring in secondary education for math and physics, and minoring in computer science. Heroux is a member of the WEAC Board of Directors and serves as the spokesperson for Student WEA. He plans to teach math and/or computer science and coaching track at a high school.

"Student WEA gets you thinking about the whole career and whole profession of public education as opposed to just the methods that you learn in the classroom," said Nancy Clark, WEAC's state coordinator for the Student WEA program.

The Student WEA has 26 chapters in Wisconsin at both four- and two-year colleges. Each chapter plans its own activities to help members learn more about the profession. The UW-Whitewater chapter plans activities such as Campus Connection, which is when the members of Student WEA bring middle school students to the university to watch movies, eat pizza and play in the gym when they have a half-day of school. The UW-Stevens Point chapter has a latchkey program in which members visit the schools every day and organize after-school crafts and activities for the kids until their parents pick them up.

All 26 chapters come together in a collective program each year called Outreach To Teach. The goal of this program is to improve the quality of at least one school a year and to help inform the members of the negative impacts that revenue controls have on public schools. "It is a good way for the members of Student WEA to see the importance of community and how great schools and communities can come together," Clark said.

The sixth annual Outreach To Teach program was held in Wittenberg-Birnamwood in April 2004 and was expanded into surrounding community schools. Community members joined Student WEA to help with activities at four buildings. They painted a map of the U.S. on the playground, built and installed sandboxes, and painted lockers and classrooms. Retired technical education teachers helped build and rebuild shelves for kindergarten students. "The students really saw the value of being phenomenal lifetime educators," Clark said.

Every fall, Student WEA holds a professional development seminar, where members hear inspiring accounts of the important role teachers play in the lives of children and participate in a variety of workshops that further their knowledge in different areas of the teaching profession. There is also an informational session that teaches students about things such as licensing, contracting and how laws like the QEO will affect them in their future profession.

"Most education students don't know about things that are going to be directly impacting them," said Heroux. Learning about topics such as the ESEA, IDEA, and QEO really gives students a better understanding of the profession as a whole, he said.

Other benefits of Student WEA are membership travel opportunities, WEAC's publications, OnWEAC Savers' Club cards, and liability insurance.

Each NEA state affiliate has a student program like Student WEA. Student WEA has won national awards the last two years and is recognized as the best student program in the nation.

"We are really lucky because WEAC really values that these are future members and we are allowed money in the budget to really develop the program," Clark said.

For more information or to sign up online for Student WEA, visit www.student-wea.org.

Posted June 11, 2004

Education News