George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Denny Heyrman: Teacher Preparation Through Project Promise

September 1, 2001

Denny Heyrman, a former meat cutter, describes his quest to become a teacher.

1. What were you doing before you joined the Project Promise program?

Before I got into teaching a year or so ago, I was a meat cutter for over thirty years. I started when I was in high school and it's been something that's been my mainstay all along. I've never really been able to get away from it. My goal in life originally was to become a geologist, work for ten, fifteen, twenty years and then get into teaching after I had some hands-on experience at that type of profession.

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2. What led you to the Project Promise program?

I approached several people at the school district here for somebody who was in their late forties with the possibilities for a teacher now at my age. They said, "Never been better --we want people who have real-life experience, who have your kind of background, who are excited about getting into it." And I thought, "Well, this is the time then." So they mentioned a program called Project Promise up at CSU.

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3. How did you like Project Promise?

It was a tremendous experience for me because it was built for people like me who have been out in the working world for a while and want to get into teaching and want to take those tools that we've acquired over the years and put them to use and give the benefit of our knowledge and experience to the kids. It's a real hands-on program, and so that's the way I've always worked -- with my hands. Everything just fit in perfectly. We were a perfect match. And last May I graduated with fifteen others, and now I am at Loveland High School in Loveland, Colorado, teaching Earth science and having a ball.

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4. What is unique about the Project Promise program?

What is really unique about the course, first of all, is that we have only two instructors. And those instructors work with us eight hours a day, five days a week pretty much -- even when we're student teaching. So what they're doing, along with presenting material to us about things we need to know for our teacher certification, is setting the example, and they're actually doing it for us. Not only teaching it, they're leading by example. That's the best way I could put it. So, they're getting up, they're demonstrating how to do group projects, how to get involved with the kids, how to do lesson plans, and they actually have modeled it for us.

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5. Can you give a picture of your middle school experience with veteran teachers?

We spend a week with them before school starts learning how to set up a classroom, finding out just what the teacher needs to do to make sure everything is happening. Then we go every week -- one day a week -- just to experience and kind of get our feet wet in the teaching. Then from that, we jump full blast into it, and we're teaching from that point on until Christmas break.

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6. What were your rural and urban school experiences like?

We do go to a rural experience right before we do our middle school. We go to a rural school here where the high school, the middle school, and elementary school were basically all on the same campus. It was a tremendous thing to experience, and we actually taught. I taught kindergartners all the way up to seniors for one week. And we had to do our lesson plans. We were just thrown into the fire and went for it. And then we went into the middle school.

Now, after we got back from Christmas break, we rehashed everything. We made sure we understood and gained a little more knowledge before we went and tried to make that transition to the high school. Then we went down to an urban experience down in Denver, and we saw what it's like in the big schools. You know, 3- to 4,000 kids and a real diverse group of individuals, and had some tremendous experiences there. Then we came back for a week, transitioned into going into the high school, and then we finished out until May in the high school experience.

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