Primary Education Major Zachary Bentley Graduates From School He Attended – UMSL Daily

Zachary Bentley graduated with honors with a degree in elementary education and accepted a position at Premier Charter School, the same school he attended as a child. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Zachary Bentley always found it a bit surreal each time he entered Premier Charter School throughout the fall semester.

Bentley, an elementary education major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, walked through hallways he recognized from his youth and passed teachers he once had when the school on Fyler Avenue in South St. Louis was known as St. Louis Charter School. He vividly recalled moments from his time in elementary school, such as when one of his teachers read a poem to his class, and even spotted one of his old works of art hanging in one. classrooms.

But rather than get caught up in a time warp, Bentley was taking a big step toward his future, fulfilling the internship requirement to graduate while working in a fourth-grade class at school.

“It was pretty crazy to come back in a teaching role,” said Bentley, who graduated with honors and competed early Saturday night at the Mark Twain Athletic Center. “The kids loved hearing that story about how I was there, and the staff always knew me. It was really great to be with them as part of the team teaching.

It was at Premier that Bentley first had the idea of ​​going into education planted in his head by teachers who left an indelible mark on him. They saw that he was studious and accommodating to his classmates and thought this might be a career for him.

“I was always that kid who wanted to help kids — not copy, you can’t take my answers — but I’ll help you figure it out,” he said. “I’ve always loved helping friends, and even though I didn’t know the kid, I was like, ‘Hey, I can help you with your homework. I’m just not going to do it for you. Middle schoolers rush to do their business and just copy. I’m like, ‘No, but I’ll help you.’ »

Becoming a teacher remained something on his mind when he graduated from high school and enrolled at St. Louis Community College – Meramec to meet his GED requirements and get his associate degree so he could be transferred to a four-year institution.

He still wasn’t ready to choose education as his major, but he watched his older sister, Allie, study to become a school psychologist as the first member of their family to attend college. He heard about his shadowing experiences in a school setting, and he decided it sounded appealing and worthy of more serious consideration.

He took a course in Meramec which led him to observe teaching at different school levels – middle school, primary and high school. He also taught fourth graders for Junior Achievement.

“It was so much fun,” Bentley said. “My mom was like, ‘You have to do this. You seem so happy with this. That was probably the biggest reveal.

Bentley got his associate’s degree and decided to continue his elementary education, choosing UMSL’s College of Education because, again, he had heard good things from Allie, who had transferred there after having started at Webster University. He also believed that the university offered the best value for money for a high quality degree.

He received the Chancellor’s Transfer Scholarship when he enrolled at UMSL amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and although it made for a strange introduction, he found everything he was looking for in the program.

“I had a great time at UMSL and met some great teachers,” Bentley said. “They were helpful.”

He particularly appreciated Amber Candela for teaching math and Martille Elias for the lessons she taught on literacy, including how to teach phonics to children.

“Jerie Rhode has been an incredible clinical advisor to the teaching program,” said Bentley. “She was super helpful and just a really good teacher.”

Rhode couldn’t help but notice Bentley’s enthusiasm to be in class.

“Zach’s love for teaching shines in his eyes,” she says. “He is never without a smile.”

Bentley’s first internship experience was last spring at Premier Charter School, teaching a special education class, but the class size was small, which he attributed in part to the pandemic.

He was happy to experience a general education class this fall.

“It’s a bit nerve-wracking at times,” he said. “I have to remind myself, being within these walls, I was a kid, like, ‘I’m not a kid anymore. I’m teaching. I have to constantly tell myself as I’m learning from my clinical educator, I also have to help the children to learn. Some days are hard, but everything is a learning experience, and I received lots of great feedback from other school staff, tips and tricks and things to help me when I am a first grade teacher.

Bentley’s schedule also allowed him to work as a substitute teacher on Fridays, which gave him a taste of being alone in a classroom.

Now that he’s graduated, he’s had the option of continuing as a full-time substitute at Premier Charter School in the spring semester, with hopes he can move into his own class next fall. .

“I really feel like I learned a lot about teaching,” he says. “I have so much to take away. I can’t imagine how much more I’m going to learn just by doing it and being there full time. I’m really excited to get started.

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