Students are not the only ones learning in the classroom, according to three of Wittenberg’s 2013 Education program graduates.
Having just graduated in May, first-year teachers Elyse Cooke, Katherine Keidash, and Madison Baker state that in spite of the first year adjustment difficulties, they feel incredibly fortunate to be pursuing their passion in such a trying job market.
“We have our share of challenging days, but there is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love every day. I honestly never wake up and feel like I’m going to work. I just feel like this is what I do and I love it!” said Baker.
Each alumni followed her dream teaching job to a different school—Cooke to Pinar Elementary in Orlando, Fla. to teach second grade, Keidash to Zenith Academy in Columbus, Ohio to teach first grade, and Baker to Paramount School in Indianapolis, Ind. to teach fourth grade. Even though the three teach in different states, all claim to have learned something about their students, their students’ culture, or even themselves.
Two of the graduates, Cooke and Keidash, must overcome cultural barriers as they teach in a school that is not predominantly American in culture. Cooke’s elementary school mostly Hispanic.
“My kids have taught me, helped me, and impacted me more than they will ever know,” she said.
On the other hand, Keidash teaches in a community that is 95 percent Somali. She not only learns the Somali cultural norms, but also allows her students to become teachers as they teach her a few Somali words at the end of each day.
“Honestly, it has helped so much to reach out and let the kids know that if they learn what I have to teach, I will try my hardest to learn what they have to teach me about themselves. It’s sort of a reciprocation of the value of teaching and education that is so important for them to understand,” said Keidash.
In addition to learning through their new job experiences, the three alumni all state that there is never a dull moment at work.
Baker especially admitted that she enjoys figuring out what is going on inside of her students’ minds.
“A funny story that happened in my class was I asked what was special about this week (it was constitution week and we had been studying that) and I got multiple responses, but one student was dead serious and raised his hand and said, ‘it is national air conditioning appreciation week.’ I couldn’t help but laugh. Fourth graders have no filters,” said Baker.
All three graduates also feel that Wittenberg has prepared them fairly well for their first year in the real world, both in securing their jobs and the actual classroom experience.
The graduates credit the education department’s appreciation for other cultures, rigorous education program, and student teaching and field experience opportunities gave the graduates a taste of what was in store for them.
“Wittenberg really prepared me to be in a work environment with a variety of people and personalities. I’ve definitely been able to ‘bring my light’ to the sunshine state with my compassion, dedication, and willingness to bring forth new ideas to the table,” said Cooke.