April 30th was more than just a regular day of school at Arbor Ridge Elementary; for more than 25 grade school students it was also the celebration and wrap-up of their semester-long tutoring and writing project with UCF teacher candidates.

The UCF “Knights Write!” program, completing its 17th year at Arbor Ridge, sees UCF education majors spend a semester learning on-site at the elementary school while working one-on-one with an Arbor Ridge student to develop their reading, writing, and storytelling skills. At the end of the semester they present their finished poems and books to the rest of the class and celebrate the terrific progress they have made.

The “Knights Write!” program is another example of a partnership that offers extensive benefits for everyone involved. Arbor Ridge students get an opportunity to advance their writing skills and develop a mentor relationship with UCF students, UCF faculty including Dr. Roberts get to remain connected to schools and the needs of elementary students, and UCF teacher candidates get on-site experience in their future work environment as well as opportunities to work with students at different levels of competency and achievement.

“I think it is so rewarding for me to actually see our UCF students in action; they learn so much working with little buddies every week!” said >Dr. Sherron Roberts, professor of Language Arts and Literacy, and coordinator of the program. “Just to meet in a classroom adds a level of reality to their experience, and it raises their investment in themselves and their personal and professional growth. And there are so many layers of positive outcomes: the pre-service teachers love it, the (Arbor Ridge) teachers love it, the little buddies come in each week with a smile on their face, and the principal has hired many of our Knights Write big buddies, so she loves it. That makes it all worth whatever extra energy is expended. It’s a great experience for everyone.”

“It is an absolutely wonderful, educational program both for the young writing buddies and for us big writing buddies,” Ashley Manser, one of the UCF teacher candidates, told us. “During our classroom meetings we discuss different strategies and techniques to use when teaching writing to children, and then we apply and develop those techniques with our buddies. Not only did it allow us to practice our writing instruction, but we were able to see what works with our teaching style and what doesn’t. We had support from our professors when needed, and we were able to experience the joy of teaching. Each week before class, someone would share an ‘ah ha!’ moment with the class – moments when we saw the light bulb appear with our writing buddies. This was the most rewarding experience of all and reminded me every week why I am here doing what I am doing.”

The “Knights Write!” program is just one of the opportunities that CEDHP programs offer to give teacher candidates experience working directly in area schools with students.