WORTHINGTON - Teenagers Andy Garcia and Jessica Ventura say they’ve had some great teachers throughout their student careers.

Their former teachers’ apparent enthusiasm toward education has inspired the students to consider staying in the classroom much beyond their graduation from high school, but from a different perspective.

Garcia and Ventura are two of approximately 40 Worthington High School students that have expressed interest in a potential career in education and are beginning to think of themselves as “future teachers of America.” The new club, which kicked off earlier this fall, is open to students who want to learn more about being a future teacher and discover their potential.

FTA co-advisor Patrick Mahoney said it has been exciting to see many students expressing an interest in the teaching profession.

“What’s been really fun is seeing those ninth- and 10th-grade students that are thinking education would potentially be something they’re interested in,” he said.

A unique club that doesn’t belong to a national charter organization, WHS Principal Josh Noble said it’s been a bit odd developing a club from scratch without a blueprint. Advisors, though, are taking things in stride, with one primary objective at the forefront.

“Our main goal is to get a fairly large group of kids in a scenario where they can work with other kids and at least give them a taste of (teaching) and get excited about it,” he said.

What that “taste” is like is still being explored, but Noble and Mahoney envision club members visiting and interacting with students at Prairie Elementary and Worthington Middle School and lending a hand with other community organizations, which may also include summer programs, Noble said.

“We’re trying to do more service delivery in the community,” Noble said of a goal shared between other WHS clubs.

For Ventura and Garcia, being in the club means gaining experience from current teachers and surrounding themselves with peers who share similar goals.

“You’ll learn better from people who have already experienced it or are experiencing it with you,” said Garcia, a junior who hopes to one day teach history or physical education to students in upper-grade levels.

Noble is excited that Perla Banegas is also an FTA co-advisor, as she epitomizes the district’s goal of addressing a statewide teacher shortage - particularly among non-whites - with a combination of its new club and the addition of an education course pathway with Minnesota West Community and Technical College. Eventually, Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall will take part.

“She was a student here, then became a para(professional) and continued to work for a teacher’s license,” Noble said of Banegas, now an ELL teacher at WHS.

Banegas said as an advisor, she hopes to foster a strong bond between students and the education field.

“I hope this club will become a long-term place where students have the opportunity to connect with teachers and have the opportunity to ask (questions) and experience teaching from a different perspective,” she said.

When looking at his students, Mahoney envisions what they could one day do for their community.

“I have kids of my own and want to see them have the best teachers, and some of these students could be part of that solution,” he said. “I tell them, ‘I’d love to consider you a co-worker in four years.’ That would be amazing.”

Community organizations with volunteer opportunities to provide FTA students experience working with younger children may contact Mahoney via email at patrick.mahoney@isd518.net.