UCS receives grant to encourage students to explore careers in teaching

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published April 9, 2021

 Henry Ford II High School senior Trezeta Halaq works with a  Graebner Elementary School kindergarten student in the  Future Educator program.

Henry Ford II High School senior Trezeta Halaq works with a Graebner Elementary School kindergarten student in the Future Educator program.

Photo provided by Tim McAvoy

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UTICA/SHELBY TOWNSHIP/STERLING HEIGHTS — The Utica Community Schools district recently received a Future Proud Michigan Explore grant from the Michigan Department of Education to help encourage students who are interested in teaching careers to explore teaching further.

The $10,000 grant will allow the district to expand its Future Educator program in ways such as expanding education career information at the junior high level. The Life Skills program at that level can have more than its current 60 students and specifically concentrate on cultivating interest in secondary education, special education and programs that support English language learners.

Graebner Elementary School teacher Nicole Terenzi has seen the Future Educators program create teachers, including a former student, Ebeling Elementary School fifth grade teacher Caitlin Duffey.

“It really gives students a hands-on experience in what it takes to be a successful teacher,” she said in a press release.

The grant will help students including Henry Ford II High School junior Jacob Wojciechowski, who was inspired by his past teachers, to reach their goals of becoming teachers.

“I have been so inspired by my teachers, and I want to do the same for others in the future. I want to make a difference,” Wojciechowski said in a press release.

Wojciechowski is already taking steps toward becoming a teacher through the Future Educator program.

“The program receiving the grant is absolutely great. Teaching is one of the most important job fields so preparing those at a younger age who want to teach is an awesome step for the next set of educators,” he said in an email interview.

Wojciechowski hopes to become an American history teacher in a high school classroom one day.

“History is my favorite subject and I understand it so well, to the point where I can teach it and make other students enjoy it as much as I do,” he said.

Wojciechowski said he would like to be able to make an impact on others just like his teachers had such a huge impact on him, and this program will help make it possible.

“Having seen how much my past teachers changed my life. I’ve had some of the greatest teachers I feel in the entire country. Each one has had an insane impact on my life, and knowing that one day I can do that for students makes me excited for the future,” he said.

Interim Superintendent Robert Monroe said UCS has many great teachers and this program will help make it possible for the district to continue to help the next generation of students reach their goals of becoming teachers themselves.

“Our district is a shining example of how skilled and dedicated teachers can shape the very future of a community. Through this grant, we want to build that next generation of educators who will inspire and positively impact the lives of students through the power of education,” Monroe stated in the press release.

The expanded Future Educator program also addresses a critical issue in Michigan, where a U.S. Department of Education report in 2019 anticipated a shortfall of 600 teachers by the 2022-23 school year.

Henry Ford II High School senior Trezeta Halaq will enroll next year in Oakland University’s elementary education program, and may help to fill that predicted 600-teacher shortfall.

“Teachers are the ones that teach to be prepared for our future,” she said in the press release.

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