New Collaboration Brings Teacher Training Program Back to HBS

For the majority of its 125 year history, the Henry Barnard School had been a teaching school, where education students from Rhode Island College (RIC) could spend time in the classroom — learning from current teachers and gaining firsthand experience with students. But that program ended more than a decade ago. It was only in the last few years that talks of restoring it began.
“During conversations about the PCD/HBS merger, PCD committed to restoring the historic teacher training program at HBS,” said Associate Head of School Mark McLaughlin. “In 2022 we began talks with the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein College of Education about a potential partnership between URI and PCD/HBS.”

The partnership was finalized in the summer of 2023, and for the 2023-2024 school year the HBS Lower School at Providence Country Day is hosting six URI education school juniors in first, second, and fourth grade classrooms for their year-long practicum placement. In addition to the URI students, HBS also has a student intern from the Community College of Rhode Island in the kindergarten classroom, one intern student from Roger Williams University, and a work study student from RIC.

Head of Lower School Meg Adair taught at HBS during the collaboration with RIC and is excited to have interns and practicum students in the classrooms again. “As a veteran teacher the return of this program is a win-win for everyone that has the pleasure to take part. My teachers are both providing and receiving their own professional development each week, while also staying up on the latest and best practices that education has to offer,” she said. “I personally felt the benefits of this program in my daily teaching and will forever be grateful for the experience it gave me. I credit it with helping me become the teacher and leader I am.”

First grade teacher Eileen Wolf is mentoring two practicum students this year—giving them opportunities to do lesson observations, work with small groups of HBS students, learn best practices, and teach lessons on their own. She said her students love having additional teachers in their classroom.

“My class has made a strong connection with both of my practicum students and feels comfortable working and playing with them. My students know their schedules and will write letters to them in anticipation of their weekly visit. It is also a great opportunity for my class to get more direct instruction.” She adds that the program has also changed her as a teacher,  saying, “It has made me more reflective as an educator as I go through lessons with the practicum students.”

Brynn Wilbur, a URI junior majoring in Elementary Education, is one of Mrs. Wolf’s practicum students. “She is a great mentor. Anything that I have questions about, she’s always quick to give me answers. She’s given me so many different activities and ideas and helped me work with the curriculum. She shows me just everything she does. It’s so valuable for my own personal preparation for when I’m a teacher.”

Gabby Matos, another URI Elementary Education student working with Mrs. Wolf, said being able to work hands-on with the students is extremely rewarding. “I absolutely love seeing children’s curiosities and just watching them grow, and when they finally figure something out, I love how their faces just light up,” she said, adding, “I love when they finally get the hang of something.”

For the students, the extra teachers in the classroom are a bonus. When asked about Miss Brynn and Miss Gabby, as they are known in the classroom, first graders described them as fun, helpful, cheerful, great people to talk to, and easy to work with.

“The presence of practicum students and student interns in our Lower School classrooms has been a wonderful addition this year,” said Head of School Kevin Folan. “It’s a great return to the roots of HBS and the incredible role it played in shaping so many Rhode Island teachers, and we look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.”