VDPS teacher cadet program back for second summer

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published August 5, 2022

 On Aug. 1, Lincoln High School senior Reginald Noble helps students in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class.

On Aug. 1, Lincoln High School senior Reginald Noble helps students in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The Van Dyke Public Schools teacher cadet program will run for six weeks this summer.

The Van Dyke Public Schools teacher cadet program will run for six weeks this summer.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


WARREN — While growing up, there were times in which Kylie MacDonald accompanied her mom to work at her teaching job in Van Dyke Public Schools.

The occasional experience of helping Mom in the classroom impacted her so much that MacDonald is on her way to becoming a teacher herself. The incoming Romeo High School senior is one of 11 students enrolled in a teacher cadet program this summer in Van Dyke Public Schools.

MacDonald would like to work with either kindergarten or special education students. She plans to either attend Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, or Michigan State University, in Lansing, to study education.

For the second straight year, the district has offered the teacher cadet program in which high schoolers work with K-5 elementary students attending the district’s summer school program.

The teacher cadet program, as well as the elementary school summer courses, started July 5. The program, housed at Lincoln Elementary School, runs six weeks from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. Most but not all of the teacher cadets are Lincoln High School students.

Under the direction of the summer school instructors, the cadets are learning several new skills while working with the elementary school students. The cadet program is a paid internship and is organized through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

“The goal of the program is hands-on experience for students with interests in becoming a teacher,” Teacher Cadet Coordinator Angela Rancilio said. “They work alongside the teacher as an aide. We do many evaluations, and they have guidelines they are supposed to follow.”

After greeting the students every morning, the cadets assist the teachers in a number of ways. That could include helping students sound out their letters, organizing mini lesson plans, taking students to recess, working in small groups and reading to the class.

Distributing breakfast and lunch are also tasks for the teacher cadets. There is one cadet per classroom. Something Rancilio has stressed to the cadets is the importance of building relationships with their students.

“Knowing and understanding your students is the most important thing,” Rancilio said. “They are learning how to respond to students. If you know a student’s general demeanor, it’s easy to tell when someone comes in and they’re not their normal self.”

The importance of professional behavior also is stressed, as is how to resolve problems and ask for help. Each day, Rancilio and the students set time aside to discuss various topics, including any incidents that may have come up during the day.

Some cadets attended the program in 2021 and returned for a second year. The cadets must apply to be accepted into the program and need a recommendation from a teacher or school counselor.

“I think it’s really great for our kids to see what jobs are out there and work alongside some of their favorite teachers,” Rancilio said. “I think the program will grow every year.”

Lutheran North High School 2022 graduate Grace Lauchlan is on her way to becoming a teacher. She will major in education this fall at Grand Valley State University and plans to teach at the lower elementary school level. Lauchlan’s biggest influence was Mrs. Bears, her first grade teacher at St. Anne Catholic Grade School, in Warren.

“She was very strict, but she was very nice,” said Lauchlan, who admitted she was a “very talkative” student in class. She added that Mrs. Bears keeps in touch with her former students.

While in the teacher cadet program, Lauchlan said she’s “learned to have a little more patience.”

“They’re definitely getting some pretty good experience,” Van Dyke Public Schools Superintendent Piper Bognar said.

While teaching can be very rewarding, teachers face many obstacles while in the classroom.

“You’re trying to meet the needs of your students every day,” Bognar said. “Teachers are so passionate about what they do. Teachers are very hard on themselves because they love what they do. We all love education. Every good teacher thinks they’re not doing enough.”

According to Bognar, having supportive parents will help a child succeed in school. With support from their students’ families, the teachers learn more about students’ needs and home environment.

Standardized testing to determine student success also has been an ongoing challenge for Michigan teachers. Because that’s not the only indicator of learning, other measures of student success sometimes get overlooked.

Despite the stresses, teachers continue to go into education.

“It can be exhausting but it’s worth it,” Bognar said.