The Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools' Teaching Professions Academy satellite program at Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' Clark Hall is guiding students into programs of study for their future careers.

The program's students, representing their home schools of Gahanna Lincoln, Reynoldsburg and Groveport Madison high schools, finished in the top 10 in the nation at the Educators Rising National Conference June 22-25 in Dallas.

Under the theme, "There's power in student voice," students and their teacher leaders spent four days learning, competing and leading sessions, said Tresa Durkin, Eastland-Fairfield's director of student services and public relations.

Eastland-Fairfield students led four sessions: Mindfulness Matters, Dare to be Diverse, Find Your Voice/Use your Voice and Assembling Your Dream Team.

During the conference, Dajsha Williams, a Reynoldsburg High School graduate, was elected as the 2019-20 Educators Rising national student president.

Williams, who plans to study middle childhood education at Ohio State University, will engage in critical education conversations at the national level to provide a student perspective; serve as a representative at local, state and national functions; and ensure that Educators Rising students have a voice in program development.

Eastland-Fairfield students placing in the top 10 in competitions and their home schools are:

* First -- Lesson Plan Career and Technical Education, Tyler Howard (Gahanna Lincoln)

* Second -- Exploring Education Administration Careers, Dajsha Williams (Reynoldsburg)

* Second -- Exploring Support Services Careers, Abigail Alatsis (Gahanna Lincoln)

* Fifth -- Lesson Plan Arts, Janaya Davis (Groveport Madison)

* Sixth -- Lesson Plan STEM, Chloe Callihan (Groveport Madison)

* Seventh -- Impromptu Speaking, Alyson Adam (Gahanna Lincoln)

* Eighth -- Lesson Plan STEM, Kayla Ferguson (Reynoldsburg)

* Eighth -- Inside Our Schools presentation, Williams (Reynoldsburg) and Alatsis (Gahanna Lincoln)

* 10th -- Creative Lecture, Brandon Karl (Gahanna Lincoln)

Alatsis, who will attend Ohio State this fall to major in health sciences on a pre-physical therapy track, said the Eastland-Fairfield Teaching Professions program imparted many valuable lessons, not only about teaching but also life in general.

She said Robyn Hilderbrand, a Teaching Professions instructor, focuses on such skills as lesson planning, creating a curriculum to fit multiple abilities and maintaining a culturally inclusive and least-restrictive learning environment.

"Along with these topics, we also learn about concepts, such as rapport and social-emotional learning, which help us become better teachers, students and peers," Alatsis said.

She said a large part of Teaching Professions consists of classroom observations.

"We are given the chance to observe teachers throughout the GJPS school district, which gives us experience being in the classroom and a more realistic view of education today," she said.

Ironically, Alatsis said, the class made her realize she didn't want to become a traditional classroom teacher.

"My first year in the program, junior year, I entered with the idea I was going to become a special-education teacher," she said. "While special education is still something I am very passionate about, this class helped me discover how I want pursue this passion."

Alatsis said her goal is to become a licensed physical therapist and work in a school district, ideally with students who have disabilities.

This year, Alatsis said, she explored occupational therapy in preparing for the Exploring Support Services Careers contest category, placing second in the nation.

"For this competition, I had the chance to shadow Angie Danner, one of the GJPS district's occupational therapist, as she worked with students at many different schools," she said. "I observed her on and off weekly for over the course of two months, and then conducted an interview with her to learn more about the occupational therapy profession."

Alatsis said her next step was to create a presentation outlining her experience and then practice presenting it to classmates and teachers in preparation for the state competition. At the state level, she placed third, advancing to the national level in Dallas.

Through her two-year participation at Eastland-Fairfield in Teaching Professions, Williams said, she was able to observe classrooms ranging from kindergarten to high school level with honors pre-calculus.

She said it helped her understand the importance of building rapport with students, peers and other future and current educators.

"While I was an Eastland-Fairfield student, I was also a member of Educators Rising at the state and national level and competed at each over my two years as a member," she said.

At last month's conference, Williams said, students from across the nation competed in activities related to lesson planning, exploring careers and children's literature.

"We also had two amazing keynote speakers -- author and math teacher Jose Vilson and 2019 Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson -- (who) encouraged us," she said.

As a result of being selected by fellow Educators Rising members to be the 2019-20 national student president, Williams said, she will represent the organization positively, aid in planning the 2020 national conference that will be held in Washington, D.C., and be a strong voice for future educators.

Educators Rising, supported by Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional organization for educators, is a career-technical student organization dedicated to transforming how America develops aspiring teachers, according to Durkin.

Starting with high school students, she said, the organization provides hands-on teaching experience, sustains their interest in the profession and helps them cultivate the skills they need to be successful.

Visit eastlandfairfield.com for details about the Teaching Professions satellite program or call 614-836-4530.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla