Teacher Cadet Students Rise as the Teachers of Tomorrow

Established at Rock Ridge in 2014, Teacher Cadet was created for upperclassmen to explore the teaching career. Senior Danielle Knick says that the program helped her find her passion for history education.


Danielle Knick

Addressing history teacher Alison O’Leary’s class, senior Danielle Knick teaches her lesson to the eighth grade class at Stone Hill Middle School. “Teacher Cadet is a really fun experience. I have enjoyed it, and I hope it will help me in the future,” senior Danielle Knick said.

Previously called “Teachers of Tomorrow,” Teacher Cadet is a national program, established at Rock Ridge in 2014 to prepare students to enter the education field and help them build basic life skills including organization, confidence, and people skills. The program focuses on providing tools helpful to a future teacher and allows these students to teach lessons to other elementary, middle, and high school students. 

Teacher Cadet is a course offered at two levels: Teacher Cadet I for juniors and Teacher Cadet II for seniors. In Teacher Cadet I, students learn the basics needed to become a teacher such as lesson and curriculum planning, licensing, types of teaching philosophy, and the history of education. Students attend a 40 hour field experience in the springtime at a local school. 

In Teacher Cadet II, seniors apply all of the bookwork that they have completed over the previous year and rotate between teaching at an elementary, middle, and high school —  Rosa Lee Carter Elementary School, Stone Hill Middle School, and Rock Ridge High School respectively. 

Teacher Cadet II students are required to teach two formal and one informal lesson to the students at each school, which allows for them to work with a wide variety of students. “They’re getting the whole experience in all different types of educational settings to see if they want to go into education on a college level,” Early Childhood Education and Teacher Cadet teacher Lisa Catello said. 

Students are graded based on their ability to properly execute the lesson by both Catello and their cooperating teachers at the various schools. Additionally, the cadets complete a portfolio at the end of each rotation in which they reflect on their experience and performance by reviewing areas for improvement.

While Teacher Cadet is aimed to equip the future teachers with necessary skills, many lessons are often applicable to future pediatricians, social workers, psychologists, and even parents. “[The students] have what they need to think about as a parent, [such as] ‘what type of environment or educational setting do I want to have my children in someday?’” Catello said. 

Additionally, Teacher Cadet helps students learn about themselves and their personal interests and become what type of learner they are. “They need to really know themselves before they can teach others; they have to be confident and comfortable in their own abilities and it’s okay to…come into an environment and not be perfect,” Catello said. 

Senior Danielle Knick is an aspiring teacher currently in Teacher Cadet II. “Teacher Cadet II is all field experience, [based on] using what I learned in teacher Cadet I and building on that in [the] actual field experience,” senior Danielle Knick said. 

Knick was able to foster her love of history through her elementary school teacher. “I chose to participate [in Teacher Cadet] because when I was in fifth grade, I had a teacher named Ms. Leech; she just engaged all of her students and made us all feel like family, and she also fostered her love for history in me as well,” Knick said. “She made her lessons come to life, and I knew I loved history from then on and I knew I wanted to teach history; she really inspired me to become a teacher.” 

Catello has also noticed great progress and growth in Knick’s teaching skills. “I think the biggest thing about Danielle’s growth in the program is that she was a very quiet individual, and she was very much not comfortable with speaking,” Catello said. “I think now [through] taking this class and learning more about herself and what her strengths and weaknesses are, [and] also getting up in front of a class and being in these different educational settings, has given her the confidence she needs to take her knowledge of history and impart it on her students.” 

This support from Catello over the past two years has made a real impact on Knick, especially with the amount of work being a Teacher Cadet and participating in different teaching experiences takes. “The teachers give me everything that I need to do for these lessons and I basically just stand up and teach it. I do a lot of practice and sometimes I create lessons as well.” Knick said. 

For Knick, stepping into the role of teacher in local schools this year has been an encouraging experience. She was particularly proud of a lesson she taught in high school. “All of the students got 100% on their assessments that they did,” she said. “I was able to teach that, and they actually understood the concept, which was really nice.” Knick said. 

The opportunities Knick has gained from Teacher Cadet and the mentorship from Catello have not only prepared Knick for her future as an educator, but brought her newfound confidence, setting Knick on the path to a successful career.