Papillion-La Vista High School senior Kylie Kiser assists in a seventh-grade English class at La Vista Middle School as part of her internship for the Education Academy program.

Papillion La Vista Community Schools students are getting a glimpse into the future through Education Academy.

From learning how to create lesson plans to understanding the mechanics of curriculum writing, students who are interested in a career in education are getting hands on experience in the field.

Education Academy is part of the Nebraska Educators Rising, a program created to help combat the declining number of teachers.

Through the two-year program, which is open to juniors and seniors at Papillion-La Vista High School and Papillion-La Vista South High School, students learn the basics of teaching and gain experience in a classroom.

During the first year of the program, participants learn the fundamentals of the profession. The second year is the internship portion where students are sent to an elementary or middle school in the district to work alongside a teacher. Scott Curry, health sciences and Education Academy teacher at PLV, said the program is designed to give students real-world experience.

“It’s a way to get kids in the career mentalities and thinking about what they want to do in the future,” Curry said. “We give them some skills, we give them some training, get them in front of kids and see them blossom and get better.”

Every day for about two hours during the second year of the program, students report to their designated classroom were they teach lessons and work with students.

A few times a week, Curry checks in on the students and even records a few minutes of their lessons.

“It gives them a snapshot of what their teaching style is,” he said. “They work with it, they move on and get better.”

It also gives students a chance to see if teaching is the right path for them.

“They find out that it’s a lot of work and if it’s work they like doing,” Curry said. “It’s good to know now rather than going to college and spending thousands of dollars and not wanting to do it after.”

Participants can also earn college credit at the University of Nebraska at Omaha through the Education Academy, Curry said.

Tony Gentile, a 2010 Education Academy graduate, went through the program at PLV and said it provided him with a solid foundation.

“It’s a real-life experience I would never take for granted,” Gentile said. “You can really commit to learning what teaching is all about before even taking your first college class.”

During his senior year, Gentile interned for a sixth grade class at G. Stanley Hall Elementary.

“I learned how to be genuine with the kids,” he said. “More than anything else, I learned how to build a relationship with a kid. I got a lot of opportunities to work with kids from all different backgrounds.”

Now, Gentile is a fifth grade teacher at La Vista West Elementary.

Seeing students flourish throughout the program, Curry said, is satisfying.

“I want them to have a love for education — building relationships with students and truly caring about what the student wants to do and learn,” he said. “I see huge growth, and that’s what’s rewarding for me.”

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