Makayla Kunkel fell in love with Owatonna Public Schools when she began her career a few years ago and she has stuck around, working through the various programs offered to future educators.
She began her journey in 2018 as a student teacher, making her way into a pilot internship program in the spring of 2019. The program is open to student teachers who have completed student teaching within the district and graduate in December. Interns act as a day-to-day substitute around the district for four days a week, with professional development time on the fifth day.
The Owatonna school district put together a program and Minnesota State University Mankato supported a three-credit graduate course for the intern to be able to leverage coursework through their day-to-day teaching assignments, said Katie Coudron, OPS language arts teacher and a member of the group which initiated the program.
As an intern, Kunkel worked in a variety of classroom settings from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. From there she moved into the district’s fellowship program in a fifth grade classroom at Wilson Elementary. Meanwhile, she was also finishing up her master’s degree.
The fellowship program is open to any newly licensed teachers. Fellows are in full time teaching positions and are mentored by the district mentorship coordinator, Jane Sorensen, as well as a site mentor. The fellow is also given a scholarship to help them pay for a portion of their master’s program.
Today, Kunkel is a full time distance learning teacher, housed at McKinley, with plans to return to Wilson Elementary next year. Her story is just one of many created through the district’s internship and fellowship programming.
On Monday, Kunkel was joined by Sorensen and Coudron to share their experience with the district’s programs with the Owatonna School Board.
“It’s a really great stepping stone into going into your own classroom,” Kunkel said about her time as an intern. “I had a whole collection of pictures of ‘I really like this and I really like this and I like what this teacher did for classroom management’ and so I went into my first year of fifth grade as a fellow feeling really confident.”
The programming also allowed Kunkel to gain a greater appreciation for all of the teachers in the school, because she had the opportunity to shadow teachers in multiple subjects and learn from their teaching methods. It allowed her to gain a greater understanding for what other teachers’ days look like.
According to Sorensen and Coudron, the programs have found success, expanding in recent years to offer more internship positions. This year Owatonna offered three internship positions and one teaching fellow position, with the aim of continuing to grow the program in the future.