Undergraduate Teacher Education

High school students

Field Experience and Student Teaching

In the University of Southern Maine (USM) Undergraduate Teacher Education program, we provide classroom field experience earlier and more often than any other teacher preparation program in Maine. In addition to classroom field experience during your first, second, and third years, you’ll spend your final year in a student teaching internship where you’ll gain experience in two different schools or grade levels.

Our School Partnerships

We’ve built strong partnerships with regional school districts, which offer our students the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of urban, suburban, and rural school settings. The superintendents, principals, and teachers in our partner districts value their partnerships with the University, and our alumni have a strong job placement rate in the districts where they have completed student teaching internships.

You’ll have the opportunity to gain experience in one or more of the following school districts: Baxter Academy, Biddeford, Gorham, Hollis, Lewiston, Portland Public Schools, Raymond, Scarborough, South Portland, Wells, Westbrook, Windham, and York.

About Your Field Experience

Field experience is your first opportunity for classroom observation and hands-on activities in elementary, middle, or high school classrooms. During this preliminary practice, you’ll have time to explore what it means to be a teacher before you take on the responsibility of student teaching.

Nearly all of our teacher preparation courses integrate field experience into coursework, so you’ll begin this classroom practice during your first year and continue during your second and third years.

What You’ll Do During Your Field Experience

  • You’ll spend between 12-24 hours each semester observing and participating in the classroom.
  • Work one-on-one and with small groups of students.
  • Examine ways to support diverse learners.
  • Administer academic assessments with students.
  • Evaluate the elements of school organization and culture.
  • Supervise students on the playground or in the homeroom.
  • After several weeks of experience in observing and working with small student groups, you’ll have the opportunity to co-plan and lead lessons with the full classroom.

About Your Student Teaching Internship

During your final year of undergraduate study, you’ll complete your student teaching internship. During this culminating experience, you’ll transform the theoretical and practical knowledge you’re gaining from our teacher preparation courses into actual teaching scenarios.

Our Teacher Education program provides a full academic year of student teaching; many other teacher preparation programs provide only 15 weeks. Over the course of two semesters, you’ll gain experience in two different schools or grade levels. Through your student teaching, you’ll refine your teaching philosophy and style, and determine which grade level you’d most like to teach.

Progressing with Your Fellow Students

Our student teaching internships are organized in cohorts — this means that you’ll progress through your internship along with a group of fellow students. You’ll have opportunities to connect and discuss what you’re learning, along with any challenges you’re facing.

Preparing for Your Internship

Prior to the internship year, we’ll work with you to complete several tasks that are required by the Maine Department of Education:

  • Praxis Core and Praxis II Exams: You’ll take the Praxis Core Exam during your second year. This exam measures the academic skills and subject-specific content knowledge needed for teaching. Your Praxis II exam will be completed during your student teaching year and will be specific to your content and certification area. These exams are part of the teacher certification process required by the Maine Department of Education and many other states.
  • Candidacy: The candidacy process takes place in the spring semester of your third year. To be eligible for candidacy, students must be in good academic standing and have passed the Praxis Core Exam.

Support and Guidance

The internship year is a time of profound development — from a college student into a teacher. We’ll be right there with you providing support:

  • Establishing your student teaching internship: You’ll work with our Office of Educator Preparation to determine which school district best matches your career goals, your Teacher Education Pathway, and your geographic location.
  • Progressing through your internship: A faculty advisor within the Teacher Education program will provide guidance and help you to address any challenges.
  • Learning from professional teachers: During your final year internship, you’ll be mentored by an on-site teacher.

Your Time Commitment

Your internship year is a rigorous experience of full immersion in student teaching and teacher preparation courses. This concentrated timeframe provides your final preparation for the role of a professional teacher.

The fall semester:

  • You’ll dedicate 5 mornings each week to student teaching in one of our partner school districts.
  • This amounts to roughly 20-30 hours each week in the classroom.
  • In the afternoon, you’ll take teacher preparation courses that support what you’re learning during your internship.

The spring semester:

  • You’ll dedicate a full 5 days-per-week to student teaching in the same school district as the fall semester — either at a different level of school or in a different grade level than the fall semester.
  • This amounts to at least 30 hours-per-week in the classroom.
  • In the evening, you’ll take a full course load of teacher preparation courses.
  • During the spring semester, we encourage students to dedicate their full schedule to their student teaching and teacher preparation courses.

What You’ll Do During Your Internship

  • Work with teams of teachers to understand school support systems and how to meet students' needs.
  • Serve as a substitute teacher.
  • At the end of the fall semester, you’ll spend a full week lead-teaching.
  • During the spring semester, you’ll plan, teach, and assess a full two-week unit.
  • Gain experience in two different grade levels or schools:
    • Elementary Teacher Education Pathway students: You’ll gain experience in two different grade levels in the K-8 range, spending one full semester student teaching in each grade level.
      • The K-8 range is segmented into three levels: primary (K-2), upper elementary (3-5), and middle school (6-8).
    • Secondary Teacher Education Pathway students: You’ll gain experience in both middle school (7-8) and high school (9-12), spending one full semester student teaching in each level of school.