Brenna Cooke, a rising junior at UW-La Crosse, is SHARP Literacy’s first intern with a teaching practicum and curriculum development focus. With generous support from the R. A. Stevens Family Foundation, SHARP Literacy can offer this 8-week internship to Brenna and receive the benefits of connecting more closely with the strong School of Education at UW-La Crosse as well as learning from a talented young educator.
Dr. Marcie Wycoff-Horn, Dean of the School of Education at UW-La Crosse brought the idea of the internship to SHARP. Of the internship itself, Dr. Wycoff-Horn says, “After recently being introduced to SHARP Literacy and the organization’s mission I thought it would be a great internship site for future teachers who are interested in working with children in an urban setting and have a passion for literacy and the integration of arts and sciences. SHARP Literacy team members support future teachers by providing them with opportunities to engage in curriculum development and instruction. It’s a win-win partnership!” Of her decision to recommend Brenna for the position, Dr. Wycoff-Horn recalls, “Brenna was recommended to me by program faculty members. When I called to ask her about her interest in a Milwaukee-based internship, Brenna was excited about the possibilities. I shared the projects and flexibility laid out by SHARP and it just seemed like a great fit for everyone. Brenna is a strong student who is committed to urban education.”
Brenna joined SHARP after participating in a month-long opportunity offered by UW-La Crosse at St. Marcus School called the Milwaukee Urban Experience. Brenna was part of a cohort of 7 UW-La Crosse students, and worked in K4 and K5 classrooms assisting struggling readers. A native of Cedarburg, Brenna describes her decision to work in a Milwaukee school as “the best move of my college career,” and speaks passionately about her focus on social and emotional learning in early childhood. She is considering the option of urban education as a possible calling.
At SHARP, Brenna is in the field at two sites, Neighborhood House and COA Riverwest, co-teaching alongside certified teachers who are employed as SHARP Literacy educators for the Summer Learning Gain Initiative. She is also working with Daryl Johnson, SHARP’s Director of Arts Integration, on developing curriculum to be used by classroom teachers in nearly 40 schools during the 2018-19 school year. Brenna has taken the lead on creating arts-integrated extension lessons to support the greenhouse revitalization project SHARP has in partnership with Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, MPS and Browning Elementary School, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Johnson Controls.
A highlight of Brenna’s internship so far was her role in the Ryan Braun Summer Learning Kick-Off event at Silver Spring Neighborhood Center on June 26. She escorted him to gymnasium where he spoke to over 100 elementary school students. Then, she was responsible for photographing him interacting with them. What Brenna noticed about Ryan Braun says a lot about her heart as an educator. She was impressed by how down to earth he was and how much attention he focused on the students. “He’s a good guy. He tied a kid’s shoe! He stopped a press conference by saying, ‘Okay, I’m done. I’m going to play with the kids.’”
Brenna’s teaching goal for her summer internship is to feel increasingly comfortable co-teaching with diverse colleagues. She says that working collaboratively with other educators will help her later in her career when she team teaches. Her curriculum development goal this summer is to align lessons in a meaningful way with standards. She says it’s different when lessons have real world implications rather than just being turned in as school assignments. Since teachers will actually be using them, there is more at stake.
As far as Brenna’s future goes, she would like to teach at St. Marcus, in another urban school, or maybe even in her hometown. Working at SHARP is helping her expand her realm of possibility about the field of education. She is surprised by how engaged she is in curriculum development and realizes her education degree could take her many places. We at SHARP Literacy are grateful for all the energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas Brenna brings to our work. We can see the relationships she is building with students this summer and look forward to watching her lessons come alive in classrooms across the region in the fall. We know without a doubt that she will continue to be a gift to students and colleagues wherever she goes.