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Mar 6, 2014

Senior Education Major Partners with Local Elementary School

Jesse Humphries, an elementary education major, began her impressive journey in educational leadership at JMU as a TEACH Ambassador for the College of Education (CoE). Part of her role as an ambassador involves assisting students through Praxis core tutoring, peer advising sessions, and answering questions about the CoE and the Teacher Education program application process. Like every senior TEACH ambassadors, Humphries is now completing an Education Leadership Project (ELP). She chose the JMU ROTE Program (Raising an Organization of Trained Educators).

ROTE, developed by CoE alumnae, Jen Bailey (’13), allows JMU students in the College of Education to have hands on experience at Smithland Elementary School in Harrisonburg. The program is headed by Humphries, her peers and Smithland Elementary School principal, and JMU alumnus, Gary Painter (’91). Painter teaches two sections of EDUC 401: Issues in Education, a one credit course designed specifically for ROTE participants, and Humphries is in charge of scheduling the 20 ROTE members placed at Smithland as well as helping conduct interviews into the program.      

When looking for for students who would really benefit from ROTE, Humphries seeks students who have a genuine passion for education, who perhaps have taken on leadership positions in the past, and who are flexible. “The point [of ROTE]” Humphries explains, “is to see how a school works, all together.  How the teachers work collaboratively: not just working within their own grade level, but working cohesively with all grade levels as a faculty.”

All JMU ROTE participants spend time in-class with a teacher for two hours a week, one month at a time. As Humphries explains, ROTE members “don’t see the same teachers until they’ve seen all the teachers. There is [also] a requirement to attend a minimum of four events outside of the class: PTO meetings, faculty meetings extracurricular activities, afterschool events; ROTE members do what the teachers do.” Humphries adds that the teachers at Smithland “are willing do to anything, bend over backwards, to better a student’s experience and shape them to have great character, intelligence and a firm belief in themselves.”

Through the program at Smithland and the EDUC 401, JMU students get to explore topics which interest them. “Last semester,” Humphries describes, “we talked about poverty in education, we had ESL teacher panels, we looked at the Smithland Newcomers program, and this semester we’re focusing on teacher evaluations.” She believes that the JMU ROTE program provides “a rare opportunity for pre-professional teacher candidates to actually get into classrooms their freshman year,” which is a great way for students to find out what really interests them in the field of education and perhaps what grade level they could teach in the future.

In traditional teacher licensure programs, students do not get into the classroom until their senior year during practicum placements. Through ROTE, Humphries says, this year’s freshmen class will really benefit from the program and will have already learned the basics by the time they enter student teaching as graduate students. Humphries expects JMU CoE students to be “hands-on student teachers” who are “able [to] understand what’s expected of teachers beyond the lesson plans and activities” and will have the experience to go into the classroom confidently.  As Humphries notes, JMU student teachers will be past the “observing-learning phase and they’ll be able to jump right in and get their hands dirty.”  

As she moves into the graduate program at JMU, Humphries hopes to stay at Smithland for practicum in the 2014-15 school year, but she knows she will be able to take what she learned so far and apply it to any school setting. “The leadership experience has been phenomenal.  It’s a TON of work,” Humphries mentions, “Time management is important” but she believes that “ROTE is going to change what type of teachers its members become, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

In addition to her involvement in ROTE program, Humphries is an honors student, a member of Kappa Delta Pi, Childhood Educators, TEACH Ambassadors, and she is also working on her senior thesis.  Her concentration is in math, science and technology and she is minoring in educational media.

Humphries has created and maintains both the ROTE website: and the ROTE  Facebook page:





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