By Jordan Beach

Toward the end of the Fall 2019 semester, 12 of Reinhardt’s Price School of Education students took an educational trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” to learn more about what it takes to become a teacher.

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Pictured: Carson Ivester, Dawson Mitchell, Catherine Lee, Amani Jones, Meg McCord, Ivey Gangi, Abbie Bearden, MaKayla Newell, Annese Blockley, Haleigh Pate, Alicia Mitchell, Allison Storm, Karen Hawley and Tami Smith.

Along with Assistant Professor of Education Karen Hawley and Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education Tami Smith, the education majors participated in the Youth Education Series (YES) program at Walt Disney World last December. The three-day trip, partially funded by the Student Government Association, consisted of
classes that bonded the students while teaching them important aspects of their future careers.

The first class, Techniques of Teamwork, was taught at Disney’s Epcot and focused on
teamwork and communication.

"A lot of the class had to do with working with a team, how you get the trust, how you get the support, and how you come up with different strategies to do that,” said Smith.

The course helped future educators understand the need for coming to an agreement as a team and the basic values of a team, the value of expressing encouragement and support of individual strengths and talents and discussing current challenges within their team. The group then developed a strategic plan to work on active listening within their team, communicating in a positive way with empathy in order to hear and acknowledge the perspectives of others.

“We’ve been talking about doing a strategic plan in Faculty Senate, and for my students to go and sit down and come up with our own strategic plan for our group was very interesting,” said Smith. “I think it will enable them to know how to do a strategic plan when they go into their schools.”

Early Childhood Education major MaKayla Newell ’20 hopes to work in a Title I school and teach high-risk students. This course enabled her to strengthen her knowledge on team dynamics.

“I learned about what strengths and challenges our team has, and also learned how to overcome those challenges,” said Newell.

The second class offered as part of the YES program took place at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, entitled “Culture of Excellence, the Disney Way.” In this course, the education students learned the advantages of a purposefully created culture, and how to use a more structured approach to analyze cultural elements in a team. They discussed ways to make Reinhardt excellent by addressing what they felt worked for the University and what needed improvement.

“A lot of things that they did and that they learned, they can transfer into their classrooms and their school settings: how to work with a team, being every grade level and school is a team, and maybe open their eyes to some things that they were struggling with that they didn’t know they were struggling with, to make them better educators,” said Smith.

The trip allowed for the diverse group of future educators to not only grow in their abilities to work together, but also share a fun, memorable experience to provide them with tools to take into their own classrooms.

“The trip helped us learn how to work as a team which further supplemented our understanding of how to work with a team of teachers,” said Newell.