Mazama High School junior Will Hawkins holds up the plastic tube of colored liquid as he directs a class of fourth-graders to pour corn syrup into a bottle of water as part of a color density lab experiment.

The science lab lesson for Julie Dentinger’s class at Ferguson Elementary School was one of the final assignments for Hawkins’ intro to teaching class last semester.

“It was an experience, and it was hard to manage the class at first,” he said. “But as I kept going, I started to understand what to do and how I could teach it better next time.”

Down the hall, classmate Tehani Alcantar led Eugenea Campbell’s first-graders in a combination writing and art lesson about the four seasons. “You aren’t going to copy mine. You’re going to write your own thoughts,” she reminded the students as she walked around the classroom to check their progress.

Meanwhile, Mazama junior Ash Barlett taught a math lesson on fractions to Karyssa Cisneros’ third-graders. “What is the circle divided into?” she asked. “Raise your hand.” Several hands immediately flew up, the students eager to engage with Ms. Ash.

“It went really well,” Barlett said afterwards. “I brought cookies and we ended the lesson by dividing their cookies into four pieces and then determining the fractions.”

Barlett, Hawkins, and Alcantar are among 60 students enrolled in a new CTE (career and technical education) Education Pathway at Mazama and Henley high schools. Advisor and teacher Anna Monteil offers five dual credit pre-teaching courses as well as a parenting/independent living class as an elective to recruit students into the program.

The program is aligned with Klamath Community College and Southern Oregon University. Students get college credit for their courses. If they complete all five classes and take KCC’s 200-level Health and Fitness of Life course, they are eligible to graduate from KCC with an Education Paraeducator Career Pathway Certificate the same year they graduate high school. It also puts students on track to pursue an education degree through KCC and SOU’s satellite program.

“With the national shortage of teachers, our district wanted to be proactive and start to train and recruit teachers within our community and schools while also adding to our CTE program pathways for our high school students,” Monteil said. “Of the 60 students currently enrolled in the pathway program, more than half are committed to becoming educators after high school.”

Barlett is one of those students. “Last year, I had a different career plan,” she said. “Then I started the education pathway, and teaching just became a big thing for me.” She also enjoys algebra, and though she may start as an elementary teacher, her long-term goal is to teach secondary math.

Hawkins also wants to be a teacher and, along with Barlett, is on track for a KCC paraeducators certificate. He is a cadet teacher in a first-grade class at Peterson Elementary this semester and plans to apply the skills he learned while teaching the fourth-graders at Ferugson.

“I’m really grateful I have the chance to do this,” Hawkins. “Students in the past haven’t had this opportunity.”

The education pathway program started in September 2021 and one student was able to complete the pathway last year and graduate with the certificate from KCC. This year, five seniors – three from Henley and two from Mazama — are on track to graduate from KCC with their paraeducator pathway certificates, Monteil said.

Nine seniors in the program plan to attend KCC after high school graduation and are applying for a future teacher scholarship known as “Grow Your Own (Teachers),” Monteil said. The scholarship, which offers up to $4,000 a year, is renewable.

For Alcantar, who is still a junior, the program gave her a chance to experience being in front of a classroom and working directly with students. “I didn’t necessarily want to be a teacher. I just thought it might be an easy and fun class,” she admitted.

But one semester learning how to create and implement lesson plans changed that. Alcantar also took the program’s cadet teaching course last semester. “My mindset now is on being an elementary teacher,” she said. “I really like knowing I can help students and open their minds, and kids at this age just love to learn.”

For his intro to teaching final, Mazama senior Michael Sheldon created a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lesson for Jodi Beanland’s sixth-graders at Ferguson. Students designed and created cars they propelled down a ramp.

Sheldon started the class with no plans for a career in education. Now, he said he is “swaying towards teaching.”

Education pathway dual credit courses offered at Henley and Mazama include intro to teaching, human development, supporting child development, family and schools, and cadet teaching. The school district hopes to expand the program into its other high schools, said Jeff Bullock, KCSD school improvement and secondary programs director.

“We have a great opportunity to partner with KCC and SOU to grow teachers right here in Klamath County,” he said. “I’m thrilled to see students excelling in this program.”

Mazama High School junior Will Hawkins teaches a color density lab lesson to fourth-graders at Ferguson Elementary School as part of a new education pathway program.

Mazama High School junior Ash Barlett teaches a fractions lesson to third-graders at Ferguson Elementary School as part of a new education pathway program

Mazama’s Tehani Alcantar teaches a writing and art lesson to first-graders at Ferguson Elementary School as part of a new education pathway program

Mazama’s Tehani Alcantar teaches a writing and art lesson to first-graders at Ferguson Elementary School as part of a new education pathway program