Education majors at Northwestern spend their final semester switching roles from student to teacher. Student teaching gives them experience in the classroom and is the culmination of the previous three and a half years of their education.
A handful of NW student teachers gave insight as to what motivates them, shared favorite moments — some good and others not so good — and offered an inside look at what goes on in and out of the classroom.
Amanda Schuld is a secondary education major concentrating in Spanish.
She has taught exploratory Spanish to middle school students; Spanish 1 to freshmen; and Spanish 2, 3 and 4 to high school upperclassmen.
Schuld describes her experience as “Crazy busy, a lot of learning … exhausting but rewarding.”
“I wake up in the morning, and my brain doesn’t shut off until I go to bed,” Schuld said.
Schuld’s day starts when she arrives at school at 7:30 a.m. and begins preparing to teach. From then on, she is in the classroom leading lectures; facilitating discussions; and instructing students in grammar, reading, writing and speaking Spanish.
“Sometimes, all of the students are working diligently to come up with creative ways to use the material; sometimes it feels like I’m a zoo keeper and all the animals have escaped and are wreaking havoc,” Schuld said.
Despite the occasional and inevitable chaos that accompanies a middle school classroom, Schuld maintains a positive attitude about her work.
Schuld said, “Whether or not I’m helping them learn Spanish specifically, I’m helping them pursue better study habits, their passions. It may not be tied down to my subject matter, but I’m helping them learn overall.”
Ethan Raysby is a history major who has spent his student-teaching semester at MOC-Floyd Valley High School, where he teaches world and American history.
Raysby said his experience has taken him through a lot of ups and downs. Because he has made a decision to pursue a postgraduate degree after school instead of full-time teaching, focusing on his everyday duties can be difficult at times.
Raysby said, “Most days I’m improving, learning how to deal with classroom management, classroom behaviors; the simple things you don’t really know before student teaching.”
For Raysby, he learned first hand that managing a classroom full of high school students can be a bit rough.
“I had to break up a fight,” Raysby said. “I got punched in the face. (The student) was swinging for the fences and I got in the way.”
Even though his education at NW prepared him well, Raysby said that there are things you will never learn unless you are teaching in the classroom. He said that someone can know enough to teach others, but things like classroom management and involvement come only from time in the classroom.
He emphasized how important getting to know the students beyond the classroom setting is. Raysby’s role as assistant coach to the boy’s soccer team gives him an additional opportunity to connect with some of his students. Raysby encouraged others who are going into student teaching to be sure to get involved in some other way besides teaching.
KIERSTEN VAN WYHE
Kiersten Van Wyhe is an elementary education major concentrating in reading and English; she has taught first through third graders at Le Mars Elementary, second grade at Orange City Elementary and sixth grade at MOC-Floyd Valley Middle School.
Her favorite experience has been with the second- graders at Orange City Elementary.
“They need Band-Aids almost every hour, and they make sure they don’t leave without giving you a hug and saying goodbye,” Van Wyhe said. “They have a different view of things; they’re funny … I think that’s one of my favorite things about them.”
Van Wyhe begins teaching at 8 a.m. when her students arrive. She spends practically the entire day with her students, whether that means teaching them, eating lunch with them, escorting them back and forth to the restroom or preparing them for recess. Van Wyhe said during the winter months getting the kids ready for recess took longer than they were actually able to spend outside.
One of Van Wyhe’s most memorable and stressful moments came when her cooperating teacher got influenza and missed school for a week. She was forced to take over the classroom during the school’s standardized testing week. Van Wyhe admitted that it was difficult; she said the experience forced her to learn things she didn’t know how to do before. However, being pushed into the role of full-time teacher for a week made her appreciate the job more.
Van Wyhe said the smiles, the hugs and the affirmation from the kids that she is making a difference in their lives make the work worthwhile.
Although there could be many words to describe her experince, Van Wyhe said that ‘meaningful’ would be the best single word.
Layce Johnson is also an elementary education major. Her concentrations are special education and reading. She has student taught in Opelousas, La. and in Hospers and Le Mars.
Although she has taught in different places, Johnson said she couldn’t name a single favorite. “They’re all my favorite in different ways, but Louisiana was a different experience; that was fun.”
Currently Johnson works with special-education students in Le Mars. She arrives at school at 7:45 a.m. and stays well into the evening. She works with two students with autism, two with behavioral disorders and others with general learning disabilities. Throughout the day, she spends time with these students individually and also assists and observes them in the classroom. She also accompanies her students to their lunch period, which Johnson said gives her a chance to get to know the students better.
Johnson has had many memorable experiences, some of them less than pleasant. “My first day in Le Mars, one of my kids puked on me,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of funny now, but at the time, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what am I getting myself into?’”
Being vomited upon would be an awful experience in any situation, but Johnson is not so easily deterred. Unpleasant bodily functions aside, her job regularly offers moments that inspire her.
“We were talking about saving endangered animals,” Johnson said. “I was telling them how all animals were equal, needed to be respected, treated equally and given equal opportunities. One of my kids said ‘Oh, just like how God made us.’ It was touching; it showed how students can see God’s work through the lessons we’re teaching.”
Long hours, puking students and a half-hour commute are all worth it for Johnson. She gets satisfaction in seeing her students grow, seeing their hard work and seeing how much they put forth.
It takes a special kind of person to be a teacher. They get up early and go to bed late. Much of the work they do goes unseen and unheralded by others. It is stressful and at times even a bit messy. However, the effort they put into the lives of students is incredible, and the reward they gain from seeing those efforts is what makes it all worth it.