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Traverse City – Success stories hang staggered along the walls of the south corridor at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District’s Career-Tech Center.

Among them are framed photos of Daryl Dimon, Andrea Podsaid, Danielle Setter and Darcy White among many others – all graduates of the CTC’s Teacher Academy who have gone away only to come back and pay forward the lessons they learned as juniors and seniors in high school.

“It’s about building personal relationships with the students,” said Dimon, who was part of the first batch of students to go through the academy in 2002 and teaches English language arts at Kalkaska Middle School. “It introduces you to a lot of important topics in education and gives you a leg up when you’re actually in your college education classes.”

The Teacher Academy is in its 16th year and has provided that leg up to more than 1,200 students, a feat that garnered national recognition in April in Washington, D.C., where Advance CTE bestowed the Excellence in Action Award upon the program.

“It is a really nice acknowledgement of the quality of the program,” said Jason Jeffrey, superintendent of the intermediate school district. “It says a lot about the students in the program who are future professionals in the field. It says a lot about the staff behind the program and the staff in the schools that are part of what we’re trying to do.”

The Teacher Academy began in 2002 in response to an expected shortage in educators as an effort to build a career pathway for students interested in teaching.

“That’s the most rewarding part of this. We’ve come full circle,” Teacher Academy coordinator Susan O’Connor said. “They’ve come back to our region with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and then they’re giving back to Teacher Academy students by hosting them.”

The program brings in students from 26 area schools whose instruction is a mix of academic and technical education along with work-based learning.

Those in the program work with teachers and students in their home school, with a focus on elementary, secondary and special education. They complete more than 400 hours of field experience during the two-year program.

“It’s about building personal relationships with the students,” Dimon said. “You’re trying to work with different learning abilities. You’re trying to cover whether they’re auditory or visual or hands-on. You’re trying to put together an array of different lessons.”

All of the participants from the 2016-17 class graduated high school, and 92 percent enrolled in postsecondary education.

“What makes it successful is the content within the program, the pedagogy, the teaching about teaching,” Jeffrey said. “They actually do some teaching. This is not making copies or grading papers or being the official runner for the teacher. These students work into delivering instruction.”

Northwestern Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University and Baker College all partner with the program to offer several postsecondary options.

“They get to see and observe what a career in education looks like prior to making a decision about being in education,” CTC Principal Pat Lamb said. “They’re not going to go spend two, three years at a college thinking they want to be a teacher only to find out they don’t. I guarantee they know when they leave the program whether they’re going to be in education or choose not to be.”

The Teacher Academy also received the Michigan Excellence in Practice Award in 2013 from the Michigan Department of Education.

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