Two of Tomorrow’s Teachers


Camilla Walck

Izzie Grandela and Emma McCluskey after receiving their contracts.

Lydia Winstead, Staff Writer

Senior Izzie Grandela found her career in the most Gen-Z way possible: through an Instagram post. While in her freshman year at PA, Grandela was scrolling through Instagram when she saw a picture of a group of students that caught her eye. “They were dressed all professionally for something,” Grandela recalls. “They were wearing teacher tags too.” Later, Grandela spoke with an upperclassmen friend who was in the photo. They introduced her to a program that would secure Grandela’s future: Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow. 

Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow (VTFT), is a dual-enrollment class offered at PA along with Tidewater Community College for Juniors and Seniors and can be taken as a one or two year program. In the first year of the program, the first semester is “designed to learn about education and teaching and interact[ing] with students,” says science and VTFT teacher Camilla Walck. 

According to Walck, the in-class portion of the course specifically focuses on areas like self-esteem (both how to improve one’s own and in students), theories of behavior, and psychology. Because of the large amount of practical application in the class, much of the class is project based, and comes with little homework. “We become like a little family,” says Walck referring to those taking the class. “We get really close and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a great course.” 

After students secure their experience in class, they enter an internship at a middle or elementary school, usually leaving PA after lunch and staying in the classroom until 2:00-2:30. 

Once Grandela reached her junior year, she decided to spend her time at Thalia Elementary School in a fifth grade classroom, specifically with her previous fifth grade teacher. “I had a good time,” Grandela recalls. “But it was a little difficult. The first day I walked in I was a little nervous because it was a new environment and they didn’t know who I was.” 

While in the classroom, Grandela compares her time similar to that of a student teacher, helping her “co-teacher” with activities like grading papers and assisting in small-group work with students. Her experience was similar leading into her senior year, where she spent her time in a third grade classroom. 

Although a new student this year at PA, senior Emma McCluskey has continued her desire to be a teacher through VTFT. While previously living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, McCluskey was able to pursue her second year of VTFT at PA, after taking her first year at her previous high school. McCluskey shares that she has “always wanted to be a teacher”, and her experience babysitting led her to take the class.

During her two years of VTFT, McCluskey spent time in first and third grade classrooms, and believes that she gravitated more towards her first grade students because of the types of activities she was able to participate in with them. 

Both Grandela and McCluskey admit that working with younger students is a unique experience, specifically because of their blunt nature. “The thing about elementary school students is that they don’t have much of a filter,” says Grandela. “So they’ll kind of say or ask whatever. I’ve had a lot of weird questions thrown at me.” 

“Those kids are brutally honest,” McCluskey admits. “They will say anything. The first thing that comes into their head they will spit it out.” 

Despite this, Grandela believes that a strong connection formed between her and the students. “Some of my favorite memories of my third grade class this year was every time I would walk in because I got so close to them, they would always run up and hug me, it was the best thing ever.” 

The biggest lessons Grandela believes she has learned through the past two years of VTFT is “flexibility and patience.” Especially with her younger third grade students, Grandela describes one of her biggest problems she faced was ensuring her students were staying on task and not getting distracted. “You have to pivot your classroom management roles because sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they don’t and you have to roll with the punches.” 

A specific technique that Grandela learned from her hands-on experience of teaching was the way a teacher has to approach interactions with students. “Because I’m still technically a kid, I first interacted with them how I interact with my friends, which is definitely not the type of relationship that you want to have with one of your students because they will not listen.” 

Overall, Grandela believes that there were benefits in gaining classroom experience as a teacher, while still in high school. “It was a good opportunity for me to see what a classroom was already like and already get a feel, instead of going into college or going into a profession not knowing what it would be like.”  

“I’ve liked being able to change my perspective on things,” reflects McCluskey. “It’s really nice being able to help them come out of their shell and connect with other people and help their social skills.” 

After passing the end of class test and securing the hours needed from the in-class internship, students are able to be certified to be a substitute teacher after high school graduation, and work at any VBCPS grade level. 

Grandela and McCluskey will both receive this certification, but they both decided to reach for a little more, a contract with VBCPS. 

If interested, students with two years of experience in the program are able to apply (meeting certain qualifications like GPA) and go through an interview process that can lead to a guaranteed position as a teacher after college. 

After assembling their portfolios and going through the interview process, Grandela and McCluskey were selected to receive the contract from VBCPS. 

Witnessing much of the students’ process to receive the contract, Walck comments that they “both did amazing jobs” throughout their interviews. 

Both Grandela and McCluskey will be attending Virginia Wesleyan University here in Virginia Beach for Elementary Education, and because of their area of study, they will be going to college for virtually zero cost.

Acknowledging the hardships that come with being a teacher, Grandela still believes that she has made the right decision for her future. “I think that teaching is worth it, even though you don’t always get the most out of your finances.” 

Even without the possibility of a contract, McCluskey still encourages students to take VTFT. “I think it’s just a great learning experience. It helps you open up and definitely see different perspectives on how to handle things and work with little kids. Everybody’s going to have to be around a little kid someday…having a bunch of support behind you is way easier than jumping into things and having no clue what you’re doing. It definitely helps you in the long run even if you don’t want to be a teacher. I think it’s 100 percent worth it to take this class and get that experience.”