A Family Affair

11/20/2012 02:49 PM

BATON ROUGE – For one Baton Rouge father and daughter, the LSU Secondary Holmes Program is a family affair. When Mark Arsenault graduated from the program in 2010, he was unaware that his daughter, Chelsea, would follow in his footsteps just two years later.

A native of Massachusetts, Arsenault moved to Baton Rouge in 1989 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in chemistry. He accepted a job teaching math and science in a private school, but by 2009 he was ready to move into the public school system. Although he had years of teaching experience, Arsenault lacked the teaching certification necessary to teach in the Louisiana public school system, so a friend suggested the LSU Secondary Holmes program.

The Secondary Holmes Program, a rigorous 12-month graduate program offered by the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education’s School of Education, leads to the Master of Arts in Teaching and a Louisiana teaching certificate in a grades 6-12 content area. Established in 1991, this program prepares teachers at the graduate level in secondary English, mathematics, social studies, biology, chemistry and physics.

Students take much of their course work in intimate subject area cohorts. A first summer of study is followed by two semesters of course work, including fall and spring practicum experiences in carefully selected schools and completion of a teacher research project.

“The Holmes Program made me more reflective, and my approach is much more constructive,” said Arsenault. “Looking back at how I used to teach, I just did not have the tools and knowledge about how to be an effective, constructive teacher. Also, I am now constantly doing my own action research about my teaching and my classes. I am not afraid to research topics or ways to teach.  The program gave me these skills.”

Since completing the program, Arsenault has been teaching chemistry and physics at Zachary High School in the Zachary Community School District. Following his graduation, 24-year-old daughter Chelsea decided to join the program as well.

“I chose the Holmes program for several reasons: I wanted to pursue a career in education, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible before I began to teach,” said Chelsea Arsenault. “My father, a consummate educator, had just gone through the program. His example planted the seed for my decision.”

Chelsea, who received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from LSU in 2009, graduated from the Holmes Program in May 2012.

“The internship part of the Holmes Program was the most helpful aspect for gaining valuable experience and know-how in an actual classroom,” she said. “I did my student teaching at Sherwood Middle Magnet School in EBR, and after graduation I hoped to teach in a high-risk middle school in Louisiana.”

According to Chelsea, the one-year master’s preparation helped her land a position teaching American history at McKinley Middle Magnet School in East Baton Rouge Parish Schools.  

“I feel confident in saying I was hired based the qualifications earned while in the Holmes Program,” she said. “Not only was I sufficiently prepared for the hiring process, I also had more to bring to the interview than other candidates. During interviews I was able to talk about actual classroom experiences, which helped in connecting with the administration and teachers charged with hiring. The rigor of the program produced a confidence in my skill as an educator and I think interviewers could see that and it made a good impression. Also, the program has such a reputation that I simply had to mention ‘Holmes Program’ and ears would instantly perk up.”

In regards to sharing the program experience with his daughter, Mark was ecstatic.

“I think it is great,” he said. “It has given us many opportunities to discuss education, learning, research, students, pedagogy, etc … We have had some great talks. I can tell she will be a top notch teacher. She cares.”

More than 10 Holmes Program scholarships are available for the 2013-14 academic year.  Prospective students must pass the PRAXIS exam to enter the Holmes Program. For information on the PRAXIS exam, scholarships admissions requirements or to make an appointment with a counselor, visit the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education’s Office of Student Services at http://lsu.edu/chse/student_services.  

To learn more about the LSU School of Education, visit www.lsu.edu/education.

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012