In its first year, CAPS program opening doors

The CAPS program is a class that takes three periods of the day and is helping students in fields such as tech and engineering; communication and design; and education.

Students get to help others and themselves and in return gain experience in fields they’re looking at turning into lifelong skills. On top of the experience being given to the students, they can potentially even land jobs in fields they’re pursuing through the CAPS class as well.

Students taking the class are sacrificing a large chunk of their school day to be a part of this newly made program run through the University of Northern Iowa.

The woman in charge of the education department for the CAPS program working with the high schoolers is Megan Droste. She’s lighting the way for the first year of this part of the program’s success. The program being in it’s infancy is perceived by many to be a little daunting, but students taking the class seem to be unfazed and are paving the way for something that has the potential to be very special to many new students willing to be a part of the CAPS program for years to come.

Tristan Snell, a senior in the education portion of the CAPS program, said he is enjoying the class and described it as, “A great thing to help you figure out what you want to do. It allows me to explore a career in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise if I wasn’t involved in CAPS.”

Even so early in the school year, Snell said he has benefitted greatly from the program. After socializing at a CAPS social event at UNI, he made some friends in high places. Among many of the higher ups in the education section of UNI that Snell met and talked to, he ended up meeting the Dean of Education at UNI and even the President of the University of Northern Iowa, Mark A. Nook. Tristan even managed to get in a picture of the event on the president’s Twitter profile from the gathering.

The connections he made and the opportunities for Tristan didn’t stop at the social event, though. They followed him back to his classroom. Shortly after the social event at UNI, Snell was told that he was offered a job at UNI if he decided to take his academic studies there after high school.

Prior to signing up and taking this class, Snell had been on the fence about what he wanted to do. He wanted to go into a medical and science field after high school.

Making up his mind and thinking that he wanted to get out of Cedar Falls and go somewhere else for college, he said, “I don’t want to be stuck in this small town forever. There’s not a lot here for me.”

But now through CAPS, he has been given hands on experience in teaching children and learning exactly what teachers have to go through to be successful in their profession. It’s changed his whole mind set on what he wants to do with his life and what he’s going to do outside of Cedar Falls High School. CAPS has given Snell a way to excel in his studies, and it  has even given a way to prosper outside of them.

As he starts to prepare for his second location for teaching — co-teaching seventh grade science at Peet Junior High — he’ll learn exactly what a teacher has to go through.

Creating, maintaining and updating a blog and portfolio are all parts of what he does in the class. Creating lesson plans and staying prepared and focused for teaching classes is also part of the criteria students taking the class must finish and execute. Finding activities, making worksheets, keeping kids engaged — these are all things students in the education section of CAPS must be good at to make use of the opportunity they’re being given.

Working with kids has seemed to definitely catch the attention of Snell, and he’s become very passionate and into what he does with the children. His first teaching scenario was with a group of second graders, and he said he loved it. Using candy and games, he was able to capture the attention and minds of the young kids and get a glimpse of what he could be doing in the future. It’s become clear to him that this is something he’s very interested in pursuing.

Commenting on CAPS as a whole, Snell couldn’t say enough great things. He’s met inspiring people, gotten to work with his friends and gained useful teaching skills that he hopes will go toward a future in teaching. He said the connections he’s already made can’t amount to what his future in the CAPS program holds for him.

Snell said the challenging work he’s discovering is worth it.

“It’s a lot. Keeping kids engaged and staying on the curriculum is hard, but it’s worth it. Teaching there, it’s like a really intense job shadow. You have to teach full lessons and activities, run a blog and portfolio, create lesson plans. You have to be prepared. It’s a lot of learning and figuring out what you’re going to do, and the whole thing about losing three periods is fine. It’s totally worth it. The CAPS program is a really cool thing to be a part of. Honestly, I wouldn’t really call it a class. It’s an experience.”

Droste encouraged other students to consider registering for CAPS next year, and said counselors can assist in making this possible.

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