'Indispensable' experience led grad to fulfilling career
If Joel Escarpita could tell current Wichita State students one thing, it would be to take action for their future.
It’s what he did. Within two weeks of starting as a freshman art education major at WSU, Escarpita was already exploring his options for internships and other experience-based learning opportunities to increase his odds of getting a job upon graduation.
Through the Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program, Escarpita was able to work as a paraprofessional educator in three different Wichita schools – all while still a college student.
Escarpita, 24, graduated in May 2011 and now works at John Marshall Middle School as an art teacher, cross country coach, and track and field coach.
In just his first year, he has already been nominated for a Good Apple Award by the school’s principal.
“My first year was a tremendous success,” Escarpita said. “I definitely do not think I would have been able to fulfill my career responsibilities with ease if I had not spent three years enhancing my skills and building my repertoire as an educator through my diverse co-op experiences.”
Escarpita was born in Los Angeles, moving to Chicago at age 9. He moved to Wichita to attend Wichita State.
“I considered myself one of the lucky college students because I knew exactly what career I wanted to pursue well before graduating high school,” he said.
Escarpita was an intern for three years at Washington Elementary, Hadley Middle School and Blackbear Bosin Academy.
He worked with students on an individual level, worked with small groups, co-taught, developed his own lessons and taught some classes entirely on his own.
He had the opportunity to work as a Spanish interpreter for parent-teacher conferences and also volunteered to help with some after-school activities.
Through those internships, Escarpita got a good feel for how to teach a variety of disciplines and how to be an integral part of the educational team.
“My internships played a vital role in preparing me for my current career by providing me with things that my university classes alone could not have given me,” he said. “They gave me the adequate interactive experience I needed to become a competent teacher.”
After his internships, Escarpita student taught at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet and North High School. He was beyond prepared for the transition.
“When the time to begin my student teaching did come I felt truly ready to take on that challenge,” he said. “I felt very confident and well prepared for working with large groups of students. Everything I needed to do for my student teaching I had already done at least once.”
Escarpita calls WSU’s co-op program one of the most indispensable services available to students.
“To this day I recommend my friends in college take a visit to the co-op office so they can take action and be a part of something that will surely benefit them in the future.