Luther students get first-hand teaching experience at Spring Grove schools

Charlie Warner

Seven students from Luther College have spent the past few weeks getting a better perspective on a vocation they may decide to do for the rest of their working lives. 

During their J-term (mid-semester break) David Gorman, Elizabeth Hand, Aurora Schossow, Mercede Heinke, Kalista Farmer, Haley Miller and Riley Weston have been “shadowing” various teachers at Spring Grove elementary and high schools. They will be doing so during the month of January. This is a program that Luther College has incorporated for a number of years where students, considering majoring in education, observe and participate in the classrooms at various schools in the region.

The Luther students were asked to comment on their experiences at Spring Grove. The following are the responses this writer received:

David Gorman is in his junior year at Luther. His hometown is Marion, Iowa, and he is majoring in music education. 

 When asked why he decided to go into teaching, Gorman stated, “Education isn’t about a system, it’s about the people that are a part of it. Our education is where many children first make formal steps to understand the world around us. For me, my specialization is music. Music is a lens in which students may enhance their understanding of themselves, others and the world. I am pursuSEing education through music because I believe it is an essential piece of the puzzle for their cognitive and emotional development.” 

Gorman has spent the past three weeks working with Bethany Engen, who teaches elementary general music and secondary choir. He did a previous practicum at Postville, working with K-12 music as well. 

“Spring Grove has opened my eyes to the great opportunity smaller communities have when it comes to channeling meaningful relationships,” Gorman noted. “This is something that not every school can encapsulate, and it allows teachers and students to develop a high level of understanding and respect for one another. 

“I have not only learned much from my cooperating teacher and the other staff at Spring Grove, but I have learned so much from the students themselves,” Gorman continued. “Every day they demonstrate they are capable of accomplishing bigger and greater things when they come together and work as one. I love that aspect of community and teamwork that the music classroom provides. I am so excited to one day work with a group of kids just as responsible and hard working as them.”

Mercede Heinke is a freshman from Seymour, Wisconsin. She is still undecided about her major, but is looking into either a chemistry or math major with an education minor. 

She said she is considering education “because I love working with kids. When I was in high school I had the most amazing chemistry teacher that helped shape my perspective on the world. He taught me not only about chemistry but how to take life by the reins and be the best person I can be. If I pursue an education degree I want to follow in his footsteps in hopes of being there for students like he was for me.”

She has been observing Spring Grove’s math department shadowing both Kelsey Morken and Chris Strinmoen.

“The students at Spring Grove are exceptional people,” Heinke said. “The kindness and acceptance that they have shown me are incomparable and I am so thankful for the opportunity they have given me to be a part of this tight-knit, compassionate community. Through this experience, I have come to see that being a part of a school setting is truly unique. I have learned that school has a different impact on each student and being a part of their journey, even for a month, can be eye-opening.

“My experience at Spring Grove is all that I could have ever imagined,” Heinke added. “Coming into this month I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to pursue a degree in education, but every day I find myself leaning more and more towards becoming an educator. I would like to thank all of the teachers and administration for this wonderful opportunity, it has truly changed my perspective on teaching. Lastly, I would like to thank all of the students that I have had the pleasure to get to know this month. They have been such a great group to work with.”

Kalista Farmer is a first year student from Gypsum, Colorado. She is contemplating majoring in education.  

“I have always been impacted by teachers and the life lessons that they taught me,” she said as to why education. “I want to support, even just one kid, in the same way that I have been impacted.” 

Farmer has been working with first grade teacher Leanne Kingsley. She said that connecting with kids has been an eye-opening experience. 

“I have enjoyed every minute of this experience and it has helped me to decide that I want to pursue teaching in the future,” Farmer said. 

Haley Miller is an elementary education major from Iowa City. She has been working with fourth grade teacher Sarah Tollefsrud. When asked why she chose education, she replied, “I’ve always loved working with kids and want to give them a positive school experience.

“Teaching is different in every classroom and that’s what intrigues me,” Miller continued. “I can make it my own and personalize it to some extent. There are surprises with the kids, every day and I love it. I think being able to shadow at Spring Grove has helped me solidify my decision that I am on the right track.”

Weston Riley is a sophomore from La Crescent. He plans to major in history with a minor in education and to teach broad field social studies.

When asked why he wants to become a teacher, Riley replied, Some of my major role models, including my father and grandfather have been educators. When I attended middle and high school, I learned a lot more than just the subject matter. I also learned respect, responsibility, and caring from many of them, and as time went on I learned work ethic, organization, and time management. I would like to be the same kind of teacher who I had. The kind who understands students and can help them build a solid foundation of skills that will help them succeed throughout their lives.” 

Riley has worked with Al Lochner in the social studies department.

Riley was asked if there have been any eye-opening experiences during the past month. “In a way, nearly every experience has been eye opening, and there are lessons to be learned from all of them. One of my major experiences has been how much care the teachers genuinely have for each individual student.

“I went in expecting to learn a lot, and Spring Grove has given me a lot to learn,” Riley added. “After completing this experience, I feel even more strongly that despite still having a lot to learn, education is the path for me, and I plan to pursue it. 

“I would like to thank Spring Grove staff, faculty, administration, and students for allowing us to learn from their school and work with us in our learning paths,” Riley concluded.