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MISD’s Ready, Set, Teach is a Raising Up the Next Generation of Educators, Six Students Qualify for National Competition

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
McKinney North High School senior Sarah Dressel talks with sixth grade students at Scott Johnson Middle School during a lesson she taught on persuasive writing. Sarah is a student in MISD's Ready, Set, Teach program which helps put students on a path to a career in education.

McKinney North High School senior Sarah Dressel talks with sixth grade students at Scott Johnson Middle School during a lesson she taught on persuasive writing. Sarah is a student in MISD's Ready, Set, Teach program which helps put students on a path to a career in education.

McKinney, Texas – As McKinney North High School senior Sarah Dressel moved quietly among the desks in Anita McNeill’s sixth grade classroom at Scott Johnson Middle School, she stopped here and there to check students’ progress on their persuasive writing topic—“Every Day Should be Pajama Day”— quietly asking questions and offering feedback before moving along to the next student.

Although still a student herself, Sarah was the teacher for this lesson, an opportunity to gain classroom teaching experience through the Ready, Set, Teach program at McKinney North. Ready, Set, Teach is a field-based internship offered at McKinney Boyd, McKinney High School and North that gives students background knowledge of child and adolescent development principles as well as principles of effective teaching practices in MISD classrooms.

When Amy Fecci took over the Ready, Set, Teach class at North four years ago, there were four students enrolled. This year, there are 19, and their career interests represent a variety of roles in the field of education.

“I would say that, probably 95 percent of the students that come into the program are interested in pursuing a career in education, whether it be teaching or an area such as speech pathology or child counseling,” said Fecci.

However, participants in Ready, Set, Teach aren’t limited to careers in education, and Fecci makes it clear to students that those who have career interests outside of a school setting can benefit from the program as well.

“Ready, Set, Teach is about getting experience working with kids for someone who, for example, may be interested in a career such as child psychology. One year I had a student that wanted to be a pediatrician who wanted experience working with kids,” Fecci said.

Sarah and Lexi standing with bulletin board

McKinney North seniors Sarah Dressel (left) and Lexi Terracio with their national qualifying bulletin board entry in this year’s TAFE competition. Sarah and Lexi are one of three pairs of students from North who qualified for national competition this summer in Washington, D.C.

Regardless of the the role they are interested in, Fecci’s students have proved to be top notch. In March, six of them spring-boarded from the Texas Association of Future Educators’ (TAFE) state competition in March to qualifying for the national finals that will take place this summer in Washington, D.C.:

  • Sarah Dressel and Lexi Terracio (Interactive Bulletin Board Elementary)
  • Brielle Leeth and Gianna Murphy (Interactive Bulletin Board Middle School)
  • Rylee Claas and Madelyn Smith (Interactive Bulletin Board Middle School)

Like many educators who have gone before her, Sarah Dressel—whose mother is a teacher in McKinney ISD— has always known that her path would lead to education, and today her goal is to become a counselor working in schools. “[As a child,] when I would play with dolls, I was always playing teacher. It was, ‘My stuffed animals are going to learn today… my sister’s going to learn today…my cat’s going to learn today.’ There’s always been an emphasis on education.”

“It’s generational,” Sarah mused. “My grandma was a kindergarten teacher for awhile. My mom went into education, and so I think it’s something like ‘teachers breed teachers.’”

The same seems to hold true for North senior Madelyn Smith, who has worked alongside Vega Elementary third grade teacher Paula Clements this year. Educators are sprinkled throughout Madelyn’s family as well. “My mom and my grandma are both teachers, and so ever since I was little, I wanted to be a teacher.”

On a recent Friday morning in Clements’ classroom, the duo of Clements and Madelyn had the class operating like a finely tuned engine. A small group of students formed a semi-circle around Madelyn as she guided them through a reading selection. Meanwhile, Clements circulated through the room working with students individually.

Madelyn at small table with students

McKinney North senior Madelyn Smith works with students in a reading group in Paula Clements’ class at Vega Elementary.

“When Maddy came in, I knew right away…she was ready to go. She was jumping in with both feet,” Clements said. “The kids love her. She worked really hard on building those relationships with the kids, and they responded well to her. A teacher needs somebody who’s going to come in and not be afraid to jump in and just get started. And it’s all about making mistakes and getting better at things and moving forward and learning. Maddy was totally receptive to that. I can trust her. I can put her with a group and give her what it is that I want her to work on with a group, and she does it—and she does it well. I wish she could stay in my room longer.”

Not every Ready, Set, Teach student is following a family tradition, though. For Lexi Terracio, the path toward a career in education didn’t really begin until she walked into Fecci’s classroom last year. But, since then, her way forward has skewed decidedly toward the classroom.

“I want to be a kindergarten teacher,” Lexi said. “I wanted to be an art therapist when I came to the program, and then I went to the preschool, and I absolutely fell in love with the curriculum—teaching [the kids], seeing them learn, seeing them grow. So, that’s what drove me to want to be a kindergarten teacher.”

In addition to the preschool located at North, Fecci’s students are deployed in classrooms across several MISD campuses. “We have some at Press Elementary, Scott Johnson Middle School and at Vega Elementary,” Fecci said.

At the beginning of each school year, Fecci pairs students with a teacher who matches up with the student’s grade level interest.

At desk in front of student smiling

McKinney North senior Lexi Terracio works with students in the preschool at North. Through her involvement in the Ready, Set, Teach program, Lexi developed an interest in elementary education and plans to become a kindergarten teacher.

“They’re with me usually almost through October before they go off to their schools,” Fecci said. “What I promote is that you’re there to help the teacher. We don’t want to make their job harder; we want to make their job easier. So our students really act as a student-teacher a lot of the time. Sometimes they grade papers, sometimes they teach lessons and sometimes they’re with small groups,” Fecci said. “So, they are really getting insight into teaching.”

Clements echoed that sentiment. “I think having the Ready, Set, Teach students in the classroom, they get to see the day to day…what teaching is really going to be like. What are the challenges? How do I handle it when this or that happens? How do I work with a student who has these needs? And the realization that not every student is going to be on the same page.”

The mentor-student relationship between Madelyn and Clements represents an invaluable component of the Ready, Set, Teach program, the opportunity for a student to learn directly from a professional in the field about aspects of the job that may not spring from a textbook.

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for students to get into classrooms, first to decide, ‘Do I really like this?’” Clements said. “And, then to really begin to look and see, ‘What might I do in my own classroom?’ And, to have real conversations. [Maddy and I] have had many talks about everything from college…what you’re going to learn, what to expect, what you can do to prepare…to what they’re looking for when they’re hiring. [It provides the opportunity for] a lot of real conversations with real teachers.”

standing at door of classroom smiling

Mentor and student: Vega Elementary third grade teacher Paula Clements (left) and McKinney North Ready, Set, Teach student Madelyn Smith

As their senior year winds down, these three North students will soon take their next steps toward their careers.

Madelyn will attend Texas State University to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. (Clements said that she would be perfectly happy if Madelyn returned to MISD to teach.)

Lexi was recruited to work next year in the preschool that is housed at North, while she attends college. “I don’t think I would have been given the opportunity to work so closely with kids [right out] of high school if I hadn’t taken [Ready, Set, Teach]” she said.

Sarah will head to the University of North Texas in the fall, but she said that she and Lexi look forward to wrapping up some unfinished business this summer at the TAFE national event in Washington, D.C.

“After graduation, we’re coming back [for nationals], and we get to represent the district one last time,” Sarah said. “I’ve been in this district 13 years, and it’s really given me so many opportunities, and it’s like I get one last opportunity to come back to say, ‘Thank you, McKinney ISD. Thank you for giving me all these opportunities.’ And, so here’s my parting gift. It’s going to be kicking butt and winning nationals—bringing it back to MISD.”

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