Abilene High School’s chapter of the Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE) had quite a successful 2021-22 school year with 31 of 45 students qualifying for state competition in March. From that group, eight students advanced to the national competition in Washington, D.C., late June.

Students who qualified for the national competition were seniors Makaila Koslan, Christopher Taylor, Molly Mercer, Koran Mason, Kate Brown, and Macy Wallace, and juniors Riley Reese and Ava Walters. The Eagles had five qualifiers for the national competition in 2021, but it was held virtually because of COVID, so this year’s competition was much different for everyone.

Mason, who made nationals for the second time, competed in Impromptu Lesson in D.C. The other qualifiers competed in Bulletin Board (Koslan and Christopher), Creative Lecture (Mercer), Exploring Careers Serve (Reese), Impromptu Lesson (Walters and Mason), and Teacher-Created Material for Elementary (Brown and Wallace).

Sponsor Shea Roberson said she hopes those that qualified for nationals – as well as those that qualified for the state competition – walk away from the competitions with a better sense of what they can accomplish, despite difficult circumstances.

“I want them to gain confidence and know they are capable of doing hard things,” she said. “I want them to walk away with a sense of pride and accomplishment even if they didn’t place or qualify for nationals. I want them to see that by putting the work in and putting their mind to it that they can do things to change the world in which we live.”

The TAFE program is designed to give students a sense of what they’ll face in the classroom if they go on to become teachers, something Roberson said is vital in today’s climate.

“We’re teaching soft skills, leadership, teacher responsibilities, and ethics,” she said. “We want them to have real-life scenarios of what it means to be a teacher. They are learning real-life skills, and by doing these competitions they’re learning to plan, create, present, and follow through with a project. They are preparing to handle changes that might happen by gaining critical thinking skills, and they’re learning to solve problems as they arise. Finally, they’re learning how to communicate, compromise, and make hard decisions on the spot.”