On Campus: Teacher Scholars Academy
17 Apr 2023
The Q&A below originally appeard on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medium blog.
The university’s Teacher Scholars Program is growing the next generation of educators that will lead the way for educational change. Through the program’s hands-on education opportunities, networking and mentorship, Spanish major Jordan Brandt is preparing to make an impact on students in the state and to be the backbone of school transformation.
How would you explain Teacher Scholars Academy to someone that’s never heard of it?
The Teacher Scholars Academy (or as we call it, TSA) was created by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in partnership with generous donors, to address the teacher shortage and create strong, diverse teacher candidates. The scholarship was announced in late 2018, and since then, the number of teachers leaving the profession has obviously risen well beyond what we thought in 2018. The Teacher Scholars Academy’s primary goal is to create highly desirable and well-developed teachers by providing them with unique experiences in a cohort setting. In my cohort, we started with 40 members, and we have taken classes together, lived together, and had amazing experiences building relationships with one another. The Teacher Scholars Academy really exemplifies a statewide commitment to quality education here in Nebraska.
Talk about why you decided to apply to Nebraska, and what drew you to your major.
I’m actually from Lincoln, so applying to UNL was a no-brainer. However, I did not think attending UNL would be a feasible option for my family financially. An important advantage of TSA was that my education has been paid for, which I am extremely grateful for. It made something possible for me when I wasn’t sure it would be.
I’ve known I wanted to be an educator my whole life because of the experiences I had in K-12 education as a student. Building relationships with students now in my student teaching has solidified my belief in the power of this career. As a Secondary Education-Spanish major, I really started to love Spanish in high school, but I truly believe in the idea that learning another language inspires you to communicate with new people, travel to new places and experience the world with a whole new lens.
Talk about some things you have done as a member of the Teacher Scholars Academy. Any favorite parts?
My favorite thing I have done in the Teacher Scholars Academy was attend sessions from Jen McNally, the Director of Mental Health & Wellness at ESU 5. I am personally interested in learning about mental health but also believe we are seeing a paradigm shift on the conversation of mental health. As we tightly integrate mental wellness into our schools, I have gained lots of fabulous ideas from Jen and her experience.
I was chosen alongside my friend Ally Wemhoff (El Ed/Special Education major) to be interviewed by I Love Public Schools at the beginning of the pandemic to talk about our experiences in TSA and what students needed at this crucial time of the pandemic.
I have been able to meet, live with and attend classes with some amazing individuals that I could have only met through the Teacher Scholars Academy. This organization has given me countless memories and friendships and for that, I am so thankful. As we are ending our senior year, I am going to miss these individuals so much.
What impact do you hope to make on your future students’ lives?
I hope to create a classroom rooted in respect. Most importantly, I want students to know that they are never alone. I want students to be able to come to class every day and feel like they belong here. That they matter here. Learning a new language is not easy, and it’s natural for students to have anxiety when learning Spanish, or any language. I want students to feel that even though something was hard, they trust me enough to give it a shot anyways and to trust their peers as well to show respect.
How will your involvement in this program help you as a future teacher?
My involvement in this program, right away, has given me 100+ connections to education majors who will become teachers, and I will have a strong network of people to reach out to when I feel stuck, need help, or have really great ideas to share.
The cohort has given all of us opportunities to discuss important issues in education—racial literacy, mental health, student engagement, lesson quality and more. These experiences and trainings make me feel more prepared to be a well-rounded, quality teacher.
What or who inspires/motivates you?
I am most inspired by my family, as I am the first to get a degree from a 4-year institution. During my student teaching, I’ve been inspired so much by my students every day. I think about them in everything I plan for us as a class!
Who has impacted your time at Nebraska?
- Yoanna Greenwood — my first Spanish professor I had as a freshman. She pushed me to use Spanish a lot, and truly cared about her students. She treated me like I was basically her own kid and always made me feel welcome.
- Braden Foreman — the TSA coordinator. He has been a good role model and asked us hard questions that really made me think about my perspective on things.
- Theresa Catalano — my methods professor. She is not only super smart, but so warm and caring and demonstrates language-learning activities that are just awesome.
- Everyone in my cohort!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my cooperating teacher at Lincoln Southeast, Kate Sims. I have learned so much from her so far this semester and we’re only halfway done! She’s been an excellent leader, a fantastic teacher and never makes me feel bad even when I’m hard on myself. She really encourages me to think critically.
What is one piece of advice you would give an incoming Husker on finding ways to get involved with your major outside the classroom?
Reach out to your advisor or keep up with your department’s social media. There are events all over campus to keep you connected with your major, and experiences to be hands-on. Specifically for education majors, there are a ton of opportunities to volunteer or work in an education setting in Lincoln!
What’s something that’s made your time at Nebraska remarkable?
I’ve really enjoyed connecting with my professors from each department. Every instructor I’ve had has always made me feel capable and treated me with respect. I love the size of the campus, as well. You see someone you know everywhere you go and that makes Nebraska a fun place to be.
Is there anything you’ve learned that will stick with you after you graduate?
The most important thing I’ve learned that will stick with me after graduation is the key to teacher success is building relationships with students. I’ve found that this is my favorite part of teaching! There are lots of theories and ideas that will stick with me. My favorite life lesson though: find who you need where you are. As we grow, sometimes we need to shift to find the people around us who will make us successful. Like Dr. Moeller says, find your marigolds.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I hope to get back to my roots in Lincoln Public Schools and teach Spanish in a high school setting!
College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education