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Accountability, Accreditation and Assessments

Instructional assistant at the Kansas State School for the Blind set to become a Registered Teacher Apprentice

Instructional assistant at the Kansas State School for the Blind set to become a Registered Teacher Apprentice

A simple suggestion by his superintendent now has Rich Yamamoto in the Kansas Registered Teacher Apprenticeship (RTA) program. The 21-year-old instructional assistant and 2021 graduate of the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) in Kansas City, Kansas, said he started looking into the program after Jon Harding, KSSB’s superintendent, had a conversation with him about it.  

Yamamoto said he often feels like a teacher, given he’s been a substitute a few times already at KSSB and is an instructional assistant for the school’s high school students.  

“I feel like I’ve done a relatively good job in my first year of doing all this stuff,” he said. "I feel like I could be a good teacher and other people have told me I’d be a great teacher.”  

The Kansas Registered Teacher Apprenticeship (RTA) Model is a four-year competency-based teacher registered apprenticeship that offers a comprehensive approach to teacher training, combining on-the-job learning, related technical instruction, mentorship and a structured wage scale.  

The RTA model is designed to provide aspiring teachers, without a bachelor’s degree, the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the classroom and provide districts the opportunity to promote from within and play a significant role in training their future teachers. 

As a visually impaired instructional assistant, Yamamoto believes his conversational approach when explaining concepts makes him a natural for eventually becoming a certified teacher. 

“I put (things) in a phrasing that is understandable by the younger ages and also for our teenagers, too,” he said, adding he talks about concepts or events using certain slang words or phrases he knows the high school students can understand.   

“I try to use it in my explanations and methods to keep them engaged,” Yamamoto said. 

While knowing how to relate to high school students, he said that can be a deficit at times, given as close in age as he is to them. 

“They remember me as a student here,” he said. “They forget that I’m an adult that is potentially responsible for them at any given time. It’s both an advantage, in a sense, but also a disadvantage. But I can get to their level and understand them at their level.” 

But Yamamoto also has some experience that he draws upon when relating to the high school students, especially around real-world self-sufficiency when it comes to cooking, cleaning and generally being responsible for his daily activities as a visually-impaired person. 

“I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “My job is to drive the point home that not everything is going to be easy.” 

Yamamoto will graduate in May from Kansas City Kansas Community College with an associate’s degree in secondary education. He will then take online courses with Wichita State University while participating in the Registered Teacher Apprenticeship program at KSSB, working with the elementary students. 

Christian Puett, a 2011 graduate of KSSB and himself a visually impaired teacher at the school, is considered an unofficial mentor to Yamamoto. He said the relationship between the two is unique in that the younger Yamamoto was once Puett’s student.  

“I was his teacher not too many years ago,” Puett said. “It’s kind of flipping the script and letting him behind ‘backstage,’ so to speak.” 

As a certified teacher himself, Puett said he tries to lead by example. He said that includes providing constructive feedback and showing Yamamoto and others that teachers should acknowledge their limitations and not be afraid to make mistakes. 

“Our students need to see that we fail, too,” he said, “You know, that we’re not perfect.” 

Click here to find out more about the Kansas Registered Teacher Apprenticeship program. 

Posted: Apr 18, 2024,
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