Tech High grad places second in national vocational skills assessment

July 15, 2011|by TAYLOR ECKEL |
  • Veronica Morris earned a silver medal in the Preschool Teaching Assistant category at the SkillsUSA Championships, a national contest that assesses skills in specific vocational fields. Morris graduated from Washington County Technical High School this year.
Submitted photo

Veronica Morris has dreamed of being a teacher since her first-grade teacher told her she had a teacher's handwriting.

Morris' dream became one step closer when she won a silver medal in the Preschool Teaching Assistant category at the SkillsUSA Championships. SkillsUSA is a national organization for students in various occupational education programs. The contests assess skills necessary for an entry-level career in specific fields.

Morris, 18, is a 2011 graduate of Washington County Technical High School's Early Childhood Professions program. She said she qualified for the national championship after she won the Preschool Teaching Assistant category at the state level.

She said she also competed at the state competition in 2010 and won third place.

According to a SkillsUSA press release, the Preschool Teaching Assistant competition measures the contestants' "knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices and their ability to prepare and implement learning activities for children 3 to 5 years old."  

Morris said each contestant is judged based on a written test, a written lesson plan and the presentation of the lesson.

"We had to write a lesson plan and teach a three- to four-minute lesson to imaginary children," she said.

Contestants were assigned a curriculum area and given three hours to prepare the lesson plan and materials. The lesson plan had to include two learning objectives based on the Developmentally Appropriate Practices standards for 4-year-old children, Morris said.

This year's assigned curriculum area was language arts, and Morris said she used a puppet as a prop. Her learning objectives were to use the puppet to help children learn the sound made by the letter ‘h' and to have the children use critical thinking skills and team work to problem solve.

"I'm a big puppet person, and I like doing obstacle courses," Morris said. "I used a puppet named Maria, and she couldn't remember the sound of the letter 'h,' so we had to help her."

Morris said she and her imaginary students took the puppet through an obstacle course to help it remember the sound of the letter 'h.'

"After my presentation, I could tell I had done well by the looks on the judges' faces and the faces of the people watching," Morris said.

She added that she was not as confident about the written lesson plan she had submitted the day before.

"I ran out of time the first day when I was preparing my lesson plan," she said.

Morris said the last part of her lesson plan was hastily prepared, so she was not sure how it would fare under the judges' scrutiny.

"When the awards ceremony started, I knew I was going to place," Morris said. "The question was what place would it be."

Morris beat out 24 other competitors to take home the silver medal.

"We're very, very proud of her. Anytime you win second place in a national championship after winning first place in the state, that's impressive," said Tech High principal Jeffrey Stouffer. "I hope she goes on to have a wonderful life as a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, and I know she'll keep making us proud."

Morris said will attend Frostburg State University this fall to study early childhood and elementary education with the goal of becoming a first- or second-grade teacher.

"I think that's a phenomenal age, because that's when it all starts," she said. "Children need good teachers when they're young so that they can become good students when they are older."

She said she hopes to eventually follow the footsteps of her early-childhood-professions teacher Nicole Potter.

"I want to do what she does," Morris said. "She teaches older people how to teach (children)."

Morris said she would like to return to Tech High as a teacher to be a part of the place that shaped her education.

"My school really has inspired me," she said. "The teachers I had at Tech High pushed me and helped me succeed. They really do care about their students."

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