By Margaret Cox
When asked about his job, it’s difficult for Tim Coleman ’11 to contain his enthusiasm. A well-known teacher in the halls of Gage Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota, Coleman holds a master’s in education and a big place in his heart for students.
“This is where it’s at!” exclaims Coleman. “While the students are here, we make the eight hours count.”
A Rochester native, Coleman grew up playing and coaching basketball and baseball but never considered teaching as a profession. While studying at Rochester Community and Technical College, he learned about the 2+2 Program, which allows students who have completed two years of technical college to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Winona State University.
Drawing on the positive experiences he had as a coach, Coleman decided to major in education. He applied for the program and, once accepted, focused his efforts on learning how to teach in an elementary school setting.
During his senior year, Coleman did an extensive field placement at Riverside Elementary and Friedell Middle School, experiences that solidified his career choice as a teacher. “I built a lot of strong relationships with the staff and the students,” says Coleman. “It was clear I was on the right path.”
To further build on his knowledge and skills, Coleman applied for the Graduate Induction Program, an intensive program of coursework and field components designed for licensed educators to earn a master’s degree in education within a year. “The Graduate Induction Program was a great opportunity and really opened the door for me,” says Coleman. “All I had to do was walk through it.”
The Graduate Induction Program combines full-time placement in a school setting, mentoring by a clinical supervisor, and weekly seminar courses to position the participant for a MS degree. Participants are paid a small stipend and tuition is waived for 32 graduate credits.
In Coleman’s case, Kris Guy served as a constant source of support by answering his questions, offering advice on lesson plans, and providing positive feedback on his daily classroom activities. In addition, seminars led by Nancy Eckerson and Maggie Hoody, education professors at WSU-Rochester, helped Coleman understand important techniques, such as teaching to diverse learners and creating culturally relevant lessons.
Each of the twelve participants who entered the program with Coleman was hired for full-time teaching positions. “It’s kind of like a job interview that lasts an entire year,” explains Coleman.
“The chances of getting hired full-time after the program are overwhelmingly in your favor. The school knows exactly who you are, and you know exactly what you’re getting into.”
Today, Coleman feels fully prepared to teach the diverse student population at Gage Elementary. He enjoys getting to know individual students and their families, and finds that each one has a unique background and set of abilities that they bring to the classroom.
For Coleman, it is especially rewarding to build on these relationships and make a positive, long-lasting impact on the lives of his students. “The job isn’t 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” says Coleman.
“We’re here for the students, to provide them with a safe and welcoming environment that’s jam-packed with learning. My goal every day is to provide first-class education so these kids can be successful in life.”
Occasionally, Coleman returns to Winona State and its Rochester campus to encourage undergraduates to explore teaching as a career. “I like to tell students that I was sitting in their spot one or two years ago,” he says with a chuckle.
“It’s true, the program pushes you, but the end result is there if you work hard. I’m a direct example of that. Look where I am now!”
Coleman is quick to acknowledge the support of instructors, supervisors, family, and friends who helped him achieve his goal. “The door was opened by Winona State University, and I was able to walk through it with the support and guidance of a great group of people.”