TAMPA — With pictures of bicycles, food and a diploma taped on the whiteboard, first graders learning the difference between needs and wants used fake money and considered what to buy.
Sheila Lopez, 14, floated around the classroom from student to student, helping them choose. It was her first time teaching a class, but when the students got too loud, her voice stayed upbeat and steady, and she quieted them with ease.
On Thursday students from Hillsborough High School's Urban Teaching Academy took command of their first classrooms, teaching kindergartners and first graders at Lockhart Elementary.
Those who complete the program will receive a college scholarship to a participating four-year university, and the promise of a teaching position at an urban school in Hillsborough County. The four-year program began last year with the goal of stimulating student interest in teaching as a career.
Around 100 students participate in the academy, which also includes students from Middleton and Blake high schools.
Kenyon Chesser, 16, wants to be a middle school math teacher. When students came up to the board with their cardboard dollars, he guided them toward the diploma instead of the puppy dog.
Before Chesser entered into the program, he says he was bullied throughout middle school. But he still remembers how his sixth grade earth science teacher was there for him.
"I had trouble in middle school, and I know there are other people that have experienced that too," Chesser said. "I want to have the same impact that my teacher had on me."
The program aims to teach students about lesson planning and classroom management through internships and in-class experience. Students must have good grades to apply for the program, and maintain them in order to qualify for the scholarship and a chance at a job.
"They have to be professional and prepared, speak properly, dress appropriately and still have personality," said Denise Stanforth, head of the Urban Teaching Academy at Hillsborough High.
"Since I joined the program I've learned it's pretty difficult to be a teacher, you have to learn to work with different personalities," Chesser said.
At the end of the day, the first graders ran up to Chesser for high fives and hugs, and Lopez breathed a sigh of relief. She had been nervous, but it hardly showed.
"Sometimes I get nervous because they look at you like you are their hero," Lopez said.
Their supervisor liked what she saw.
"Some of my students are just natural born teachers," Stanforth said.