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Professional Development Partnership benefits students at Irmo Elementary and the University of Sout

Irmo, SC – Teachers can come in many sizes. The Professional Development Partnership between the University of South Carolina College of Education and Irmo Elementary School brings together “tall teachers” and “small teachers” to learn from one another. USC students studying education are each paired with a second grade student at Irmo Elementary to work on guided reading strategies for the semester. The schools have had this partnership for two and a half years.

“It’s really impacting all of us, we’re all learning from each other,” explained Irmo Elementary School Principal Tina McCaskill. “It’s just a great partnership between the University of South Carolina and Irmo Elementary.”

As students from the University of South Carolina learn teaching strategies in class, they can actually implement them in the classroom at Irmo Elementary. This partnership gives future teachers the opportunity to see the impact they can have on students and to learn important skills for their careers. It also helps second grade students excel academically by receiving individualized tutoring from their mentors. They receive personalized lessons tailored to their needs and spend time with a positive role model each week.

“Being able to come here every week and spend an hour one on one with a student, and forming a relationship with them has just been one of the best parts of our week,” said USC senior Mary Kathryn Mazell. “We’ve learned from them. They exceed our expectations every week, they teach us new things all the time!”

As the semester draws to an end, Irmo Elementary School hosted an event celebrating all that the students have learned, and the friendships that have been made. Tall teachers and small teachers attended, as well as parents and staff and faculty from the University of South Carolina. Second graders decorated the cafeteria with posters showing what their tall teachers meant to them. They cut out life-size silhouettes and filled them with kind words of thanks.

“This is a prime example of the wonderful, wonderful relationships we have with the schools. We cherish these relationships,” said University of South Carolina College of Education Dean Jon Pedersen. “They are key and critical to who we are as a college and who our students become as teachers.”

As a group, the second graders enjoyed a book reading and advice from the USC students on how to be courageous. Then, the second grade students spent time with their tall teachers to receive a special surprise. Each college student wrote a personalized book for their small teacher to give to them as a gift. Ms. Mazell said her second grade partner told her he wanted to be President of the United States the first day they met, so she wrote a book for him called “If Kam’ron were President.”

Principal McCaskill added, “Relationships are critical in everything you do in education. Without a relationship, you can’t grow, you can’t learn. Our partnership with USC College of Education has built strong relationships at all levels. Irmo Elementary benefits, the USC College of Education benefits, our teachers and future teachers benefit, and most of all our students and future benefit.”


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