Fifth-year internship preps C of I student-teachers

About 30 Caldwell High School freshmen listened intently as Josh Brookshire explained magnets and magnetic fields.

“What happens to a nail if I take it and rub a magnet over it?” Brookshire asked the class.

“It becomes a magnet,” a student replied.

Brookshire is part of The College of Idaho’s fifth-year teacher preparation program, the only one of its kind in the state of Idaho. During their first four years, C of I students are exposed to a broad liberal arts background. If a student plans to teach secondary school, their major and one minor become their first and second teaching fields. If the goal is elementary school, students will major in precertification/ interdisciplinary elementary education. They then spend a fifth year interning at a local school.

“It’s kind of like the medical model where you are doing a residency,” said Dr. Debra Yates, C of I professor of education.

During the fifth year program, students teach lessons every day. The aspiring teachers get a chance to teach different subjects and switch grade levels to experience a wide range of education. They also get an opportunity to put all of their learned strategies into action, and then come back to campus to meet and debrief. Together, the C of I teaching interns share ideas, problem solve and become better educators before venturing out on their own.

The opportunity to practice teaching methods has been nice, Brookshire said. He can enter the teaching laboratory to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t.

“All of those great ideas I thought I had, I get to test out,” he said.

Brookshire is in the unique position of also being paid to teach at Caldwell High School while interning. He has coached football at CHS for several years, and the Caldwell School District asked him to apply for a job opening through the “alternative routes method” while he worked toward his teaching license. The method gives school districts a chance to hire qualified personnel in areas that have shortages, such as STEM fields and English/Language Arts.  Brookshire was hired because of his Math/Physics degree he received at C of I.

But Brookshire didn’t always want to be a teacher. The Navy veteran studied mechanical engineering for a year at Boise State University before deciding to enroll at the C of I and pursue a career teaching math and science.

“My mom has been a teacher for 26 years and kind of always joked that I would end up here,” Brookshire said. “I fought it, but now I’m in the same school district, just down the road from my mom.”

Brookshire leans on his fellow teachers, especially his mentor and fellow freshman science teacher, Mel Hensman. Brookshire, a Caldwell native, once sat in Hensman’s eighth-grade science class as a student. Now, he bounces ideas off her to hone his craft.

He also leans on the community of student-teachers at C of I. The science-focused students get together once per week with C of I chemistry professor Chris Saunders to go over methods to implement in their classrooms. Brookshire recognizes the practice and support structure at C of I during his fifth year is helping prepare him to teach on his own next year.

“There are a lot of days where I’ll leave [Caldwell High] with a question and just drive down the road [to campus] to pop in and ask, ‘Hey, I tried this and it didn’t work,’ or ‘I have this kid that won’t engage, how do I get them to pick up?’” Brookshire said.

And it’s those little moments, when a student will engage, that are the biggest rewards of teaching. On that day teaching about magnets, a girl who’d been disinterested in Brookshire’s science class all year suddenly lit up when the topic shifted to ferrofluid, a fluid that contains metal and can become strongly magnetized.

“Maybe that will adjust her life path a little bit, if I can create that interest,” Brookshire said.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit