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The student news site of Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas

WINGSPAN

Under his wing, teacher trains student teacher

Student+at+the+University+of+Texas+at+Dallas%2C+Umama+Suriya%2C+is+learning+under+English+teacher+David+Volkmar+as+a+student+teacher.+Volkmar+has+mentored+many+student+teachers+during+his+time+on+campus%2C+and+Suriya+is+looking+forward+to+getting+more+experience+in+the+classroom.
Christina Huang
Student at the University of Texas at Dallas, Umama Suriya, is learning under English teacher David Volkmar as a student teacher. Volkmar has mentored many student teachers during his time on campus, and Suriya is looking forward to getting more experience in the classroom.

With schedule changes, students may be meeting new classmates, but students in English teacher David Volkmar’s classes have gotten a different kind of addition to their classroom experience: student teacher Umama Suriya. 

“I’m a student at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and through that, I am getting a degree in literature, but I’m getting a concentration teacher’s certification,” Suriya said. “I’m super blessed for this opportunity, because I’ve always been super passionate about literature and English in general so I’m excited to be able to work with someone who is even more passionate about literature, English, and teaching and to get that experience to come alongside him and watch him teach.”

I’m super blessed for this opportunity, because I’ve always been super passionate about literature and English in general so I’m excited to be able to work with someone who is even more passionate about literature, English, and teaching and to get that experience to come alongside him and watch him teach,

— student teacher Umama Suriya

Having mentored several student teachers over the course of his teaching career, Volkmar is well-versed in the process of being a student teacher despite never being a student teacher himself.

“When I started teaching, I went through an alternative certification academy in Dallas and through Dallas ISD, I started my career in Dallas,” Volkmar said. “So I actually didn’t complete a teaching program at a university or anything, and I was never a student teacher. ”

Ashley Harrison had her experience as a student teacher in the very same hall she now teaches in, incorporating the things she learned. She was one of Volkmar’s past student teachers and despite only being in Volkmar’s classes for four months, found the experience invaluable.

“One of the best things ever that [Volkmar] did was answer all my questions [without judgment],” Harrison said. “[It’s] really cool that I was able to get that relationship from Mr. Volkmar because it helped me in preparing for job interviews after that, it helped me get my job here today (because I didn’t start off here). But having that good relationship with him did help. For that connection, I wanted to come back to Liberty and all so I would just say that honestly, he was one of my biggest cheerleaders along the way so that was the greatest thing.”

Diverging from the norm, Suriya’s program keeps her in Volkmar’s classes for an entire year, ending in the middle of the 2024–25 school year. 

One of the best things ever that [Volkmar] did was answer all my questions [without judgment],

— Ashley Harrison

“For a couple months at least, I’ll just be watching Mr. Volkmar teach,” Suriya said. “Then I’ll start teaching a little bit, helping him out with all his planning and stuff like that. So this semester, I’ll start by teaching a couple classes instead of a couple periods. But next semester is when I’ll take over a complete period or something like that. For now, I’ll just be helping out if needed.”

But like her mentor, English wasn’t Suriya’s focus when she entered college, changing her major when she entered UTD from her community college.

“I was going to go into marketing, so I took an accounting class and a business class and then asked myself ‘what am I doing? This is not me, this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” Suriya said. “And so this realization showed me that I love literature and I love people and children, so I might as well become an English teacher.”

Freshman Vivian Wang, a student in Amanda Peters’ AP Human Geography class which has its own student teacher, believes a student teacher can add a nice dynamic to the classroom.  

“I think it’s a nice experience having two different teachers and having both inputs or having both of them to help us,” Wang said. “I think [the student teacher is] doing pretty good for just starting, and I think it’s also more enjoyable having a young teacher that can relate to us more. He also went to a Frisco school so he kind of already went through all the same subjects, so he can give us some stuff that is related to the schoolwork more than the curriculum [might provide].”

Like Wang, Harrison agrees that co-teaching can greatly benefit students by introducing them to different teaching styles that might benefit individual students more. 

“I think it’s also really cool that they get to see the dynamic of two teachers working together,” Harrison said. “Because right now I co-teach and I think that’s a really cool dynamic that a lot of kids don’t get to see—when two people work together to ultimately produce the best possible lesson for the students, because that’s the end goal.”

Not that every district is identical, or every campus is identical, but at least you have an idea of what the job is on a daily basis and you have an idea of whether it’s something that you’re suited for,

— English teacher David Volkmar

Ultimately, both the current mentor and mentee agree that becoming a student teacher is the opportunity to get a better understanding of what it means to be a teacher. 

“Without having the background of having been a student teacher in a classroom, it’s difficult to gauge what teaching will be like,” Volkmar said. “Not that every district is identical, or every campus is identical, but at least you have an idea of what the job is on a daily basis and you have an idea of whether it’s something that you’re suited for.”

In terms of advice Harrison could give to Suriya or any other student teacher, it would be to let go of any worries they may have.

“Everything will be okay,” Harrison said. “As long as you’re yourself and they see that you’re here for them, [the students are] going to like you and they’re going to warm up to you. So just be yourself, be genuine, because they really do want to get to know who you are, and they care that you’re teaching but they want to know who you are behind the teaching because I think that relationship really does play a big part in it.”

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About the Contributor
Christina Huang
Christina Huang, Staff Reporter/Interactive Media Editor
Christina Huang is a sophomore in her first year officially with Wingspan. She enjoys reading, writing, playing the piano and viola, and finding/creating wallpapers for her phone which she will likely never use. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to better her writing and find the good in scorned books this year through her book blog: Every Book Has a Silver Lining. Contact Christina: christina.huang.862@k12.friscoisd.org

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