Students Give Teaching A Try

Future teachers encourage reading with books like ‘Llama Llama Red Pajama’

Posted: October 7, 2011 – 12:03am

Potential teachers were at rug level with St. Johns County kindergarten and elementary school students on Thursday morning to take part in a national Read for the Record effort.

“They have not been in the classroom before” as teachers, said Joan Salzberg, who is career specialist for the St. Johns County Academy of Future Teachers, housed at St. Augustine High School. “They’re so nervous.”

If the academy students were nervous, they were doing a fair job of hiding their anxiety as they taught in classes at Osceola and Crookshank elementary schools.

Manny Mara, who is in his first year in the academy, read the book “Llama Llama Red Pajama” to a group of first graders in Lynn Gibson’s class at Osceola. Three other classmates — Jeannie Nyberg, Belle McGuire and Grace Looney — took over from him, working with the students on various related activities.

“Normally I’m a little shy around kids, but that was a lot of fun,” Mara, 14 and a freshman, said after the read. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”

Although Mara has two younger brothers, he doesn’t usually see other little kids so he was pleased “seeing that they had a good time and I actually taught them something.”

Among the juice-and-crayon set, Llama Llama is a pretty big deal. Author and illustrator Anna Dewdney “has a whole set of books featuring Llama Llama,” said Osceola literacy coach Janet Rioux.

Pearson Foundation and Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Campaign sponsored the one-day reading celebration to bring children and kids together to read the same book. The Early Learning Coalition of Putnam and St. Johns Counties and the RSVP program of St. Johns County paid for books to go to area child care centers plus school districts’ pre-K and kindergarten classes and a few at the first grade level.

“The idea is to promote reading,” said Joan Whitson, early literacy coordinator for the Early Learning Coalition.

About 2,700 students in the two counties got to hear about the baby llama and his mama as organizers tried to get two million readers nationwide and top last year’s Read.

Salzberg doesn’t remember the title of last year’s book, only that it was “something about a snowy day. I just remember all the cotton balls.”

Those cotton balls were part of what last year’s student teachers used for teaching aids. This year’s students brought cut outs, prints and a bingo-style game.

Students have been working on student activity plans and practicing on each other for a couple of weeks prior to taking their show on the road Thursday to the elementary schools. After arriving by bus, students broke off into teams, headed into classrooms to introduce themselves and then got down to the serious business of making learning fun.

“It’s very different between knowing about (teaching) and doing it,” said first grade teacher Jennifer Twine as she watched the student teachers in her classroom. “I wish there had been a program in high school like this when I was there.”