"We Teach" program provides experience for future teachers

SPARKS, Nev (KOLO) -- Sparks High School students interested in an education career are getting a head start.

Early afternoon, students are usually getting out of school. But not all.

"We just go with the people that have the time," said Dr. Greg Nielsen, University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Instructor.

This semester, 12 Sparks High students are enrolled in the “We Teach” program. Students interested in going into an education field can earn dual-credit by taking this class.

"We have to be careful because a lot of them are so busy. We had to be very clear the first day that they had to commit to this," said Dr. Nielsen.

Students learn how to write a research paper, work with video and prepare and present a lesson plan.

"A lot of people think it's a college class, but I feel it's more helping me for college. It's preparing me in a lot of ways," said Mariela Martinez, Junior at Sparks High.

After finishing the class, students complete an internship program. Twice a week, they help kids read.

"I want kids to take the extra step that they need to take. I believe every child has the opportunity to succeed and I can be the solution," said Juan Ayala, Senior at Sparks High

The program is free to students and is funded by a private grant.

With a teacher shortage nationwide, the district hopes this program is a launching point for future educators.

"Some of our best teachers and staff members are people who attended schools here. It’s really a great way for them to relate to professionals and be able to connect with the adults in our buildings and maybe feel like one day, they can be professionals too. Hopefully work in our schools," said Adriana Publico, WCSD Staffing Coordinator.

The program is in its infancy, but it's already gaining in popularity.

"The word is starting to circulate. I’m hoping we can do it in the fall semester and we will start maxing out," said Dr. Nielsen.

Publico hopes the program grows at Sparks High School and the Washoe County School District wants to expand it to other campuses.