The Bhaktivedanta Academy in Alachua, Florida, a thriving spiritually-centered Pre-K through 10th grade Montessori and International Baccalaureate school, is seeking applicants for its new internship program for Pre-K and Elementary teachers.
An informal internship program has already been running for some time; however, with the school now looking to double its capacity over the next several years, a formalized program is being launched to prepare for future growth. Beyond buildings and facilities, according to Head of School Visvambhara Dasa, the most important factor of the expansion is “making sure we have qualified people ready to take on the responsibility of teaching in our classrooms” and that “in expansion, we maintain consistent experience for students regardless of which classroom they’re in.”
Candidates should hold a BA or BS degree, or be currently completing coursework toward attaining one, and should have knowledge of or interest in the Montessori educational methodology. Most importantly, they should have an interest in education and in working with children, as well as an ability to work collaboratively and “a willingness to think beyond themselves.”
The Bhaktivedanta Academy program will open up opportunities for such people who are pursuing a career in education or already have teaching experience. The paid internship will place them into a multi-year career track under the guidance of a highly-qualified classroom instructor. There will be both full-time and part-time positions, allowing interns the flexibility to get classroom experience while they’re still studying for their degree.
The hybrid training program, which includes in-person experience at Bhaktivedanta Academy and online instruction via the Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS), ultimately leads to interns becoming certified Montessori teachers at either the Pre-K or Elementary level. This process usually takes about two years, depending on what stage the intern is at in their education. All training and certification costs will be covered by Bhaktivedanta Academy.
The internship will give candidates a broad experience of working in a Montessori classroom environment within a Krishna conscious education context.
“Initially, they’ll be supporting teachers in the classroom,” says Visvambhara. “And then gradually, as their experience and knowledge increases, they'll be given more and more responsibility at a teaching level, ultimately preparing them to be full-fledged teachers in a classroom.”
This gradual acclimatization is extremely helpful for building confidence and skill in new teachers.
“If you talk to any teacher who’s in their first year of teaching right out of school, it's exceptionally hard,” Visvambhara says. “One of the shortcomings of traditional educational programs is that teachers get a lot of knowledge, but they don't get a lot of opportunity to actually practice. You come out of school and boom, you're thrown into a classroom. It’s a sink or swim kind of situation. And it's really hard. That's why you see such a high turn rate of first year teachers. A lot of them don't make it. So what we're offering is a gradual increase of responsibility. So that when someone is ultimately in that role of a full-fledged teacher in a classroom, they've already had significant experience and extensive mentorship that fully prepares them for what it takes to do it.”
Chandrika Coyle, who is currently an assistant teacher with Vrindavanesvari Devi Dasi, Bhaktivedanta Academy’s Pre-K director and lead teacher, in the Bhakti Bhavan primary school classroom, is one of those who thrived from such an experience. Getting her Bachelor’s degree in education in England, she moved to Alachua in 2017, and began working in the Bhakti Bhavan classroom.
“I’ve been there for four years, and each year my role has grown, and I’ve gained a deeper understanding of Montessori education,” she says. “My first year, I was working part-time as an assistant, with more of a background role. After two years, I took on more teaching. I also did a ten-week introduction to Montessori from the CGMS. Gradually, each year, my responsibilities grew, my confidence grew, and I could handle different things within the classroom dynamic, because I was more familiar.”
Bhaktivedanta Academy also encouraged and supported Chandrika in completing her full Montessori teaching certification, which she will have in August 2021. In the coming school year, she’ll serve as co-teacher with Vrinda, and will be fully equipped to be a lead teacher for her own classroom when the school’s expansion requires her to be.
“I felt very supported according to my skills and comfort level,” Chandrika says. “And it felt like Visvambhara and Vrinda were giving me healthy pushes towards becoming more confident and feeling more competent in my role.” She adds: “It’s a life-changing process. It changes your perspective on what education looks like, and can be like. I think that Bhaktivedanta Academy is so good at balancing spiritual values and top quality education.”
For anyone interested in education, Montessori, and doing an important service for the future of ISKCON, Chandrika feels that taking an internship at Bhaktivedanta Academy “is the perfect way to meld all of those things together.”
“I feel changed in such a positive way by having done this training, and by working at the school,” she says. “I would recommend it to anyone who wants to work in education. Because at this school, they care about you and about the kids – it’s a great project to be a part of, helping the future devotees of ISKCON and preparing them for the real world.”
“We can offer an opportunity for people who have a heart to be teachers to actually have a career,” Visvambhara concludes. “A career within an environment that really cares about them. We have teachers who have been with us for close to fifteen years. And I think if you were to talk to anybody who's with us, they would tell you it's a highly supportive environment. We’re highly committed to the professional development of our teaching teams – we really value the commitments our teachers make, and we try to take care of them as best we can.”
For more information on requirements, and to send in your application, visit: www.bhaktischool.org/careers[ alachua ] [ bhaktivedanta-academy ] [ teaching ]