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UNLV's Rebel Academy preps new teachers, students for upcoming school year

Posted: 4:56 PM, Jun 30, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-03 17:41:20Z

Michele Kiraly has been a lawyer for two decades. But she is embarking on a new career path, one in which her current job has prepared her.

"The best part of my job as a lawyer is educating my clients," she said.

Kiraly is one of 26 teacher candidates at Rebel Academy this summer. It's a fast-tracked program through UNLV's Alternative Route to Licensure that enables the trainees to get conditional licenses and teach at Clark County schools in the fall.

The conditional license lasts for three years until teachers can get their permanent, standard license. Rebel Academy was first launched in 2015 to address CCSD's teacher shortage and has continued to grow in the following years.

The teachers come from wide variety of backgrounds, including the hospitality industry and the military.

"A passion to make a change is the thing that stands out the most," said Erica Reid, Rebel Academy program director. "So regardless of their entry point, they all share that they really want to make a difference in today's kids and they want to do something meaningful for their lives."

The four-week summer school program, held at Somerset Academy's Sky Pointe Campus, is free and open to all students heading into 7th, 8th and 9th grades with courses in social studies, math, science and English. 144 students from area public, charter and private schools are enrolled in this year's program, which ends July 6.

"We provide four weeks of fun where they can just enjoy education," Reid said.

The teacher candidates receive assistance from mentor teachers as they get experience developing lesson plans and instructing students, getting enough training to receive their conditional licensure.

While the program is fast tracked, Reid notes the focus is about quality and retaining teachers in the district.

"We grow quality teachers. What I mean by grow is we foster the notion even with the ARL program and the Rebel Academy program during the summertime, it's about the quality, which will then sustain them," she said. "The desire is not only about the teacher candidates, it's about providing a service to the community."

Now while most of the teacher candidates in this year's Rebel Academy will start teaching in CCSD this fall, Kiraly is continuing her work toward getting a master's degree and then transitioning out of her law career where she focuses on insurance defense.

"I am exhausted but also exhilarated by taking on this challenge and doing something that I absolutely love doing," she said. "I can't even explain how happy it makes me to know that I'm having an impact as small as it may be."

While Kiraly would like to teach law to aspiring secondary school students, she also would like to teach middle school English, partially thanks to her sons who are middle school age but also one of her middle school teachers who stood out. 

"I had a wonderful English teacher in middle school," Kiraly said. "... She impacted my life in ways you could not even imagine by her teaching."

She called the program has provided a foundation for her teaching career.

"The program has been incredibly awesome in providing the hands on experience of teaching," Kiraly said.