Two area schools have agreed to combine their efforts to produce better elementary school teachers.
After years of having an informal relationship, Chicopee Woods Elementary School and Gainesville State College have formed a Professional Development School Partnership.
Chicopee Principal Hank Ramey said he's excited about taking the schools' relationship to the next level.
"Several years ago we found the folks from Gainesville State College and we had similar philosophical ideas about how teachers should be prepared," Ramey said. "It just naturally led to an informal partnership that has now become a formal agreement."
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education developed the partnership program. The signed agreement lays out specific responsibilities the schools must fulfill.
Gainesville State will provide development workshops for the faculty and staff at the elementary school as well as access to the fitness center and classroom space.
Among other responsibilities, Chicopee will provide a dedicated classroom for student teachers, aid in their professional development and provide feedback on candidates.
"So the trade off is that we're going have these future educators actually working in the classroom with these kids," Ramey said.
The partnership will ultimately develop better ways of preparing teacher candidates for their careers.
"Basically, a Professional Development School is very much like a teaching hospital," Maryellen Cosgrove, Dean of the School of Business, Health, Education and Wellness at Gainesville State, said.
The teaching students will be able to take college courses in a specified classroom at the elementary school, while gaining field experience by teaching in classrooms.
Cosgrove said Gainesville State is known for producing "very well prepared" teachers, and every education course taught at the college is tied to a school. The college has several other informal agreements with schools in surrounding counties, with many students gaining experience at Chicopee.
The partnership, which will begin next school year, will benefit both types of students.
The teaching students will be able to spend more time on the elementary school campus.
They will become more familiar with the day-to-day requirements of teaching and get to know the students and other teachers.
"The bottom line is the children and to prepare the best teachers for the children," Cosgrove sad. "It's a perfect alignment for what really goes on in schools and what we prepare our students to do."
More teachers in the classroom will also benefit the elementary students by providing more opportunities for one-on-one interaction.
"Our students will have the opportunity to work with these teachers and that will allow us to create more opportunities for small groups... and also enrichment opportunities for those that are our most gifted and talented students," Ramey said.