POST FALLS, Idaho – In one area of the classroom, three elementary school-age boys sit at their desks ready to roll dice as the instructor explains the game. Across the room on the floor, another instructor works one-on-one with a girl, while at a round table, six girls work on a project together, also with an instructor. Nearly all the students are either laughing or smiling.
Part of what makes this unusual is these students are on summer vacation when going to school could be the last thing on their mind, especially if it means doing math.
Yet that is exactly what is going on in the Post Falls School District and it’s a win-win situation for both the students and the instructors who are from Lewis-Clark State College’s Pathways to Accelerated Certification and Endorsement (PACE) program at the LCSC-Coeur d’Alene campus.
The PACE program allows qualified individuals and non-traditional students who can’t attend a traditional campus program to earn their teaching certification through an accelerated program. There are certification programs for both elementary and secondary education.
Students must complete core and pre-professional courses before they can be accepted into the PACE program. Once accepted, the program takes approximately a year and a half to complete once students have completed core and pre-professional courses. Qualified individuals spend eight weeks for two consecutive summers in the classroom and learning sessions. In between the two summers, students take coursework online. After completing those requirements, the individuals spend a semester student teaching during the school year.
This summer at LCSC-Coeur d’Alene there are 35 elementary PACE students, including 16 in their first summer. Another 28 students are working on the core and pre-professional courses so they can start the program next summer or later.
The PACE program at LCSC-Coeur d’Alene is helping Post Falls elementary students with reading, math and science skills during the summer. The reading program is for six weeks, while the math program is held during the first three-week session and then is replace by the science program for the second three-week session. All of the sessions are held at River City Junior High.
What makes that program unique this year is that the PACE students normally work with children in grades 3-5 only during the summer. This year, grades 1-2 have been added, which has ballooned the participation numbers to almost 300 elementary students, double of what they normally work with. The first-year PACE students are able to work with the younger grades, under the direction of the Post Falls School District, to help with their beginning reading skills.
“I think parents understand the value of this program, especially if their students are having any problems with math or reading,” says Melinda Tompkins, Region 1 Director of LCSC’s PACE program. “More and more families are seeing how valuable this program is. And the schools encourage families to take advantage of this. We have a lot of students who come because it’s fun.”
The Post Falls School District provides bus transportation as well as meals for the students.
A typical day during this program has the LCSC PACE students arriving at school at 7:30 a.m. to prepare for the day and the elementary students arrive shortly thereafter. After some playtime in the gym, the elementary students eat breakfast and then go to their classroom around 8:30 a.m. where they have 90 minutes of math instruction. After a break, the students have small group instruction in both math and reading. The students then have lunch at 11:50 a.m. before being excused for the day.
The PACE program has nine instructors and three supervisors comprised of current and former teachers, adjunct faculty, and administrators, along with LCSC instructors. The instructors and supervisors provide feedback as well as classroom instruction.
The PACE students work with the elementary students during the morning and then have course work in the classroom during the afternoon. This summer, the first-year PACE students have had classes on phonemic awareness, technology, and classroom management and teaching strategies. The second summer PACE students have had classes on creative arts and language arts. The day wraps up around 5 p.m.
“This is about the 10th year we have been working with the school district but we typically have only had about 150 kids,” Tompkins said. “We’ve doubled the size this year, which has really taken a lot of organization to make things run smoothly.”
Tompkins said the summer is structured around literacy for the first-year cohorts. The topics covered for the PACE students include the basics of reading, how to teach reading, assessment reading, phonics, teaching strategies, technology, and classroom management. The second year students focus more on specific teaching strategies, especially with math and science, and issues in education.
Tomkins said one of the strengths of the program is the adjunct instructors for PACE are teachers during the school year
“They are bringing their knowledge, experience and passion into what they are teaching,” Tompkins said. “If you have someone on the front lines who is passionate about what they are doing, that brings freshness and gives more depth to the instruction.”
The goal of the PACE program, of course, is to produce high quality teachers.
“Our students work in the classroom so when they go out in the world, they are ready,” she said. “They are zapped up right away, including by the Post Falls School District. These are great teachers who have extensive hands-on experience.”
Tompkins said the LCSC-Coeur d’Alene PACE program has students mainly from northern Idaho, but also from Orofino, Cottonwood, and Montana this summer, for example. These students have to find housing for the summer and some of them are staying together to defray costs. She said she also has PACE students who commute more than an hour to Post Falls to participate.
Those who complete the elementary program receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in elementary education along with Idaho Standard Instructional Certification for K-8. Secondary PACE students receive a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and certification for grades 6-12. Both elementary and secondary PACE students will also earn an endorsement in a specialty area. Those areas include special education, literacy-reading specialist, middle school math, English as a new language, and instructional technologies.
For more information on the LCSC PACE program, visit the LCSC Division of Teacher Education at www.lcsc.edu/education/teacher-education. The website lists the requirements to gain entrance into the program and the application process.