McPHERSON – This year marks a time in public education like no other, Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent of Lawrence schools, told high school students attending McPherson College’s EdChat, a day-long seminar to encourage and support students who want to become teachers.
According to Kemble, this year marks the first time that half of the students in elementary schools are members of Generation Alpha, children of Millennials born between 2010 and 2014. Generation Alpha is the first generation to grow up never knowing a time before smartphones or artificial intelligence such as Alexa or Suri.
“This is a generation that has always had technology,” she said. “Many of them knew how to use an iPad even before they were potty-trained. Growing up in a generation with lots of technology brings amazing opportunities but there are also many challenges like artificial intelligence, work-force shifts, environmental issues, and social inequalities. Teachers are going to need to teach differently and empower this generation to solve problems. It will be a monumental task for teachers.”
Although the challenges are great, the rewards of being a teacher are even greater, Kemble said in her keynote address to the students. In her current role, Kemble oversees educational programs and technology for USD 497. She spoke to the students about many times over her 30-year career she was able to make a difference in the lives of students. As a principal and superintendent of a small rural school district in 2007, she created the Kansas Online Learning Program. Because of her innovation, the White House invited her to take part in a meeting on technology and virtual learning.
“This generation of high school and college students are passionate about making a difference,” Kemble said. “Programs like EdChat are so important to help students make a decision about becoming a teacher and to see that it really is an exciting time to teach especially with all the technology that can help teachers connect with each other and with experts who can push us to the next level.”
Kemble was among several educators that led workshops throughout the day for the students. High school students gained perspective on topics such as equity centered design teaching, cooperative learning, and special education. Educators taking part in the workshops included Erica Shook, McPherson High School; Jericho Johnson, Heusner Elementary in Salina; Kristi Weiss and Lynette Cross from the KICA Special Education Program. Current McPherson College students also talked about what it is like being a student teacher.
“Events like EdChat are important because students get a real perspective on what it is like to be an educator,” Johnson, a third grade teacher said. “I tell them it is a wild but amazing ride. No one else can say they get to teach the future of our world.”
The McPherson College Department of Teacher Education has hosted more than 100 students from high schools across the state at its EdChat events over the past three years.