The Interdisciplinary Educational Studies (IES) undergraduate program at California Lutheran University is now in a formal partnership with Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School (MATES).
This program is called the Community Collaboration School Partnership (CCS) and began in October 2018.
MATES is a charter school in Thousand Oaks that incorporates project-based and hands-on learning in the school’s curriculum.
The IES undergraduate program is offered to students looking to become elementary school teachers. The program requires that students complete 200 hours of field work, where students volunteer in classrooms as student teachers.
Michael McCambridge, an education professor and director of the IES program, said that field work is the “cornerstone” of the program.
“I believe that the way one learns how to teach is to be involved with students, being in classrooms,” McCambridge said. “The classes are great, but they’re only a kind of framework for what you need to do. We can read about it but you never know what it’s really like until you do it.”
One of the challenges that the IES major had with field study prior to the MATES partnership was finding elementary schools near campus with teachers willing to have college students volunteer for so many hours.
This partnership relieves some of that stress—students can now contact one person who then places them in a classroom.
That person is Kristen Walker. Walker is an adjunct professor of interdisciplinary education at Cal Lutheran and is in her fourth year as the MATES assistant director.
Walker said that students from Cal Lutheran have been coming to MATES to complete their classroom hours for a few years. Students have been teaching through MATES “informally” for so long that when the opportunity was presented, she said she wanted to formalize the partnership.
Cal Lutheran and MATES representatives created an agreement based on the belief that both schools “develop a professional learning community” for the purpose of “supporting both students and adults in becoming life-long partners.”
This agreement was signed Dec. 12, 2018 by representatives from both schools. This partnership will continue until July 2024. However, the agreement can be renewed “as long as we all feel good about what we are doing,” McCambridge said.
But it is not just Cal Lutheran students that are benefitting from the partnership. Teachers and elementary students at MATES are benefiting as well.
“It allows our teachers to provide more small group opportunity for instruction…More hands in the classroom to help out with the needs of the students,” Walker said. “It allows our teachers to share best practices with these teachers who are just learning the trade.”
Senior IES major Lindsay Holcomb is president of Club Teach on campus. She has volunteered at MATES since her first year at Cal Lutheran, working in a kindergarten classroom with teacher Julianne Roll.
McCambridge said the Cal Lutheran students are volunteer assistant teachers and often lead classrooms.
“From when I first started, I remember my kindergarten teacher just telling me, ‘You and I are equals, your time here is just as important as mine…you are such an asset to this classroom,’ and just kind of having that…encouragement, you know, makes you want to do better,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said she now works for MATES as a playground duty assistant and has completed over 400 hours of her field study. She has applied to the credential program at San Diego State University to continue her journey in becoming an elementary school teacher. Holcomb would prefer to stay in kindergarten but is open to teach any grade in primary school, she said.
“It’s been really positive on all sides,” Walker said.
As MATES gains more help in the classroom, Cal Lutheran students gain experience and the IES program continues to be unique, McCambridge said.
“I appreciate the fact that (MATES) volunteer to mentor our people and based on the history, our people are just better. Our students are just better because of this experience,” McCambridge said.