North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central alumni, students hone skills as they lead and teach at summer camp

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Eighth-grade scholars solve math problem during Math Olympics
Eighth-grade scholars solve math problem during Math Olympics

July 21, 2011—For the first time, North Central alumnae served as co-directors of the Junior/Senior Scholars summer camp, a college readiness program that partners with high-need elementary and secondary schools in Aurora and Chicago. Program Coordinator Jan Fitzsimmons recruited Cherrelle Blevins ’09 and Jill Bushman ’10 to serve as co-directors, along with four North Central alumni as coaches and 17 students as interns for the 2011 five-week summer program.

Both Blevins and Bushman were involved with Junior/Senior Scholars early on as freshmen. A music education major, Blevins was introduced to the program as part of a course requirement, but stayed involved with the after-school tutoring program and became a team leader and mentor of other student teachers. She taught general music for three summer camps then served as an alumni coach, helping student interns with observations and advice on their lessons, before her current role as co-director.

“I was really excited to accept Jan’s offer to co-direct. I want to pursue administration in the education field and this is a great stepping stone in my development and administrative experience,” Blevins says.

Bushman (photo, left), who majored in elementary education with minors in reading and Spanish, also hopes to pursue administration in the future. “As a camp co-director, you’re involved with scheduling of activities, logistics and getting some 180 students across campus to swimming, classrooms, physical education, and to and from campus each day in buses. You also take care of situations in the classroom, any sickness or behavior issues, guiding the student interns in their teaching, and just making sure students are engaged and the camp is working well.”

Each summer, Fitzsimmons chooses a new theme or focus for students to learn mathematics, science, reading, writing and forensics skills. This summer’s theme—CSI: Wellness or College-bound Students Investigating Wellness—has guided activities and lessons on nutrition, fitness, infectious diseases, obesity and the important connection between wellness and learning.

During the school year, Blevins (photo, far right) teaches general music to students in grades K-8 and Corrective Reading to children in fourth through sixth grades at Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School in Chicago. Surprised she’s learning so much this summer, Blevins says, “I didn’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes to make everything run so smoothly, and I’m a part of making all that happen. I’ve discovered that I really like administration, and it’s given me a different perspective and insight on how I can better approach administrators in my school and keep open and honest communication.”

Bushman begins her second year of teaching at Oak Park Elementary School in Aurora, a Junior/Senior Scholars partner school, where she’ll speak Spanish all day, teaching a combined third- and fourth-grade bilingual class. Like Blevins, her experience as co-director this summer has been an eye-opener.

“Across the board, with all the student interns, I’ve been impressed with how well they are doing at this stage of their education,” says Bushman. “They’re engaging the students, managing their classrooms really well, being creative in their methods and using technologies to teach. As I observe them, I’m seeing new things I can do in my own classroom and ways I can be a better teacher. I’m learning from them!”

This is a key objective of Junior/Senior Scholars, says Fitzsimmons. “Our student interns and alumni collaborate, network and mentor each other. They test out theories of teaching and learning at the camp, creating concepts and gaining a sense of what works to help them build their own theories to meet needs. I hear feedback from principals where our student interns now teach and they see our graduates as some of their best teachers.”