Students travel to Arizona, New York, Alaska, Spain, France
The lives of students are often impacted by teachers and professors who have met and guided them from kindergarten to college graduation. Teachers form the learning experiences of students and influence their drive to excel.
“It takes a special person to want to teach, and you know if it’s meant to be,” Senior Elementary Education Major Kayla Traetow said.
At Gustavus, the abroad program exemplifies the Education Department’s mission statement by “preparing the 21st century teachers in understanding the complexity of learning and teaching that encompasses inclusion, equity, and justice.”
Students in the department have the opportunity to travel and student teach in another state or country.
This semester, students are teaching in Arizona, New York, and Spain.
Next semester, students have the option to travel to Nice, France or Barrow, Alaska, where six nursing majors are currently located.
Senior Grace Balfanz is currently in Sedona, Arizona student teaching sixth graders at Canyon Breeze Elementary; Mark Nissen, Samantha Meysenburg, and Kayla Traetow are some of the undergraduates who will experience student teaching in Barrow, Alaska next semester.
“This whole experience has secured my desire to teach,” Balfanz said.
Senior Jill Oxborough is in her third week at a private school in Staten Island.
“I chose to teach in NYC because I thought it was a great opportunity to gain experience in a new and completely different setting. I thought it would be interesting to see how schools are set up and organized in the biggest city in the U.S.,” Oxborough said.
Senior Kara Peterson is currently teaching in an early childhood program at the school. “ The students here seem much more academically inclined than the students we have taught in America. We are so used to ‘teaching to the test’ back home, and here everything is inquiry based, so there is more flexibility within teaching. I work with the Early Childhood, EC2, program here, which are four- year olds, and they are at the point where many kindergartners are in the springtime. The things we have learned in a short period of time has been great, and there is only more to come,” Peterson said.
Student teaching requires the undergraduate to observe and slowly start taking roles in the classroom during week one. During weeks two through four, the undergraduate gradually takes the teaching role and teaches the entire class. This requires planning every lesson for each day, and working with students who may have learning disabilities, while still being able to push those who are gifted.
“Teaching is a really great way to serve others and it’s a blast,” Nissen said.
Oxborough shares a smiliar sentiment.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher. I see children as people who we can learn a lot from. Their creativity and imaginations speaks wonders, and it is something that you might not necessarily get when working with adults. Also, just seeing students have an ‘aha!’ moment. There is nothing that beats that moment when you see a student all of a sudden come to a conclusion or an answer. It is by far one of the best feelings in the world,” Oxborough said.
Debra Sandquist is the Coordinator Teacher Education Field Placement and Admissions here at Gustavus. She has been involved in education for 30 years, working with Gustavus students from 1990-1997 and again in 2007 to the present. The students agreed that Sandquist has been a positive influence.
“We owe everything to Debra Sandquist,” Traetow said.
With the support and guidance of Debra Sandquist and the advisors in the Education Department, each student is guided through creating a concise schedule to provide them with opportunities and experiences while still graduating within three to four years.
The cultural experience gained from student teaching in either New York, Arizona, Alaska, Spain, or France gives education undergraduates a new outlook for when they enter the work force. Impacting children’s lives and being a positive role model is something each education major is striving for.