UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Name: Jean-Paul "JP" Frederick
Company: Health and Physical Education Teacher, Hopkins North Jr. High
Hometown: Trinidad and Tobago
Major: Health and Physical Education, Adapted Physical Education minor
"Field experience. Without question," he says. "It's really important. It gets you to think on your feet right away, you learn what you have to tweak. I realized you learn new things. If this lesson doesn't work, how can you change it, how do you switch it up to teach another class? That's what the field experience brings."
Here at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, JP, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was thrown into field experience right away.
"From freshman year, they get you to doing even 10-15 hours. Right away they throw you into the fire," he continues. "Even though you're not prepared, they want you to interact with kids right away. It's really important because it lets you know if this is really what you want to do. Some people get scared but you find out right away if it is the right fit. You don't want to get three years in and finally go into a field experience and find out that no, you don't want to do this, you don't want to work with kids."
JP, however, has known for many years that this was his intended path and his choice has only been reaffirmed while at UW-River Falls.
"When I was in high school, my P.E. teacher motivated me. He really made me love phy. ed. He started that fire in me," he explains. "When I got here [UWRF], James Gostomski [former director of P.E. at UWRF] added fuel to that fire. He made me see how much fun it is. Now, every day of student teaching, I really love it."
JP is currently finishing his student teaching and will head to Hopkins North Junior High at the start of the new school year. His love of teaching children is evident when he talks about his field.
"Some classes are good, some are bad. For example, one day, most of my classes were bad, then my last class – which I thought really wasn't going to be good – surprised me and they made me smile. That's what I do it for. My whole goal of being a teacher is to motivate students and make them feel the way my P.E. teacher made me feel. That's my whole goal," he says.
While it has played a crucial role, as a health and physical education major, field experience isn't the only part of JP's education at UW-River Falls that he will carry with him into the teaching field. He speaks highly of the teacher education curriculum at the university and lauds the way it has prepared him for his own classroom.
"I think they cover all aspects of it. In one class, we cover administration. Another class is multicultural education. They teach you about how to teach to a diverse population. We have classes about higher order thinking, how to get the kids to think more or even how to use different learning styles. We learn how to teach visual learners," he says. "We've covered all parts of being good teachers and how to teach different students. It's been very comprehensive."
UW-River Falls hasn't just prepared him for teaching and interacting with students, though. JP says he will take away plenty of life skills that he has picked up along the way.
"My major classes have taught me about P.E. and all about how kids relate to teachers but one of my favorite classes was a class about organization and administration," he explains. "That opened my eyes because throughout my years here, I've learned about teaching kids. This one showed me how to get hired for a job, how to do an interview, how principals will look at you, stuff like that. It taught me how to speak and who to speak to."
"It's not just been the classroom part of the education that will be such a takeaway," he continues. "I've learned how to network. I've gone to over 30 professional development conferences. They taught me so many different lessons to teach kids, but they've also been so important because the people who run those sessions are P.E. teachers. Networking with them and hearing their experiences was probably the biggest take for me. I will keep doing that throughout my life."
Being so far from home hasn't always been easy, but JP has developed a love for UW-River Falls and the surrounding community and that has made the journey worth it.
"I like the small town feel. I feel safe. I have made some good relationships here. Although in winter I miss the year-round 90 degree days in Trinidad," he says with a smile. "But I had a good experience. I know the whole reason I got a job right away and the whole reason I'm a good teacher is because of the River Falls teacher ed program."